Fresh perspectives on aging

Progress in life need never end.

A ten-year study involving thousands of older people explored a number of aging-related issues. Some surprisingly upbeat findings were published in its summary. The Los Angeles Times said the study "debunks a number of myths including the common belief that genetics are destiny, and physical and mental deterioration are coded into our genes. In fact, say the authors, the influence of genetics shrinks with the years while lifestyle choices become increasingly important in shaping the quality of later life" (May 18,1998). Among the most important lifestyle changes they recommend: engaging in activities and cultivating new friends.

Anything that pushes back limits and discloses more of man's capacity is worth noting—especially when the commonsense medicine of good activities and good friends is promoted in the process. It's fair to add, though, that Job's insight in the Bible still stands strong: "The spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life" (Job 33:4). Talk about shrinking the influence of genetics! As this Scriptural perception becomes our own—as we glimpse something of our actual spiritual origin—inbred limitations turn out to be not so inbred after all. Ingrained bad habits and their ill effects turn out to be not irreversibly embedded.

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