In examining this subject I have found myself wondering about the challenges that this complex issue of technology and its impact on our lives is having. The reality is that NO ONE really knows what the impact of technology and our way of life holds in store for any of us. We DO know there is going to be a “reckoning” and that if we remain seated and stressed then significantly negative consequences will surely emerge. These include ongoing chronic medical issues such as heart disease, diabetes, and mental disturbances of all kinds to name a few. Finally an unhealthy aging process where people of all ages will be treated for these and other conditions will become a daily part of life for families all over America.
President Clinton was quoted in the past as saying that “this may be the first generation of children to not outlive their parents”. Quite frankly that thought shocked me so I became even more convinced that there is much work to be done before that statement can be labeled as true. It is still a real possibility and it will take all of us to find he answers. My grandson of 12 has already been diagnosed with high cholesterol and high blood pressure and this is only the “tip of the iceberg”. What about all the other children? What will their futures be like? What can be done? That is the question I will be spending the rest of my time on earth attempting to define and understand.
In this Part III I will examine the sedentary society and its corresponding partner the obesity epidemic and suggest ways we can move forward without “sitting still” until a crisis emerges that forces us to make changes to address the issues that we may have prevented in the first place! I believe in the possible and although this challenge may seem impossible we have to keep trying and not just throw up our hands in despair and do nothing. Our younger generations are counting on us to find answers and also to encourage us to ASK the best questions in order to present solutions and not merely shallow “guesses” or suppositions. That would be totally wrong!
After my training sessions I go to a nearby McDonalds to read the paper and ponder and think – without any technology! Two examples are present in my mind of what I observe almost daily. The first one is of an elderly man who sits for hours staring at his phone and never speaking to anyone. He is always alone and he is there when I arrive – and when I leave. He is in my opinion in the “sitting and waiting to die” mode. I don’t know his circumstances but he appears to be alone in life. He is physically weak, overweight, always cold (he wears layers of clothes) and probably younger than me. Why he lives this way is a mystery to me but I DO know he is completely unaware of how his behavior is creating a future I am sure he would rather avoid!
The second one is the young man who brings his computer and sits for hours working on “whatever” while never looking up and “checking in” with his surroundings. He spends time checking websites and apparently without much purpose to his searches. The reality is that his computer appears to be his source of stimulation and while it can be a source of inspiration, a computer is not a companion. No real interaction occurs while he sits and stares at his computer. By the way, he is just one of many who do the same thing – especially on weekends. On many days there will multiple seating areas taken up with this same activity by as many as ten people.
These people are ALL “sitting their way to an early grave” and the only person who seems to notice this phenomenon is ME. Everyone, including the families with children, appear to be addicted to this form of behavior. I rarely see any people engaged in conversation and virtually NOBODY ever once looks at someone and smiles. This environment is not the one of my childhood on Maui or the times of my adulthood but it is the reality I observe everyday. Consequently, I live in a world where people no longer really interact with one another and the “quiet is deafening? This is not a world I know or feel I belong in except to say that I feel it is my job to say “WAKE UP” and MOVE!
THE OBESITY EPIDEMIC
This challenge exists but no one really knows why. Every diet in the world has not saved the world from its own gluttony. We are fatter and heavier than ever. When I was in college in the mid – late 60’s I saw virtually NO overweight or obese person. I walked everywhere on campus and exercised at the gym. I saw activity everywhere. The years following college saw more of the same. No technology – no obesity. The change came in the early 90’s. My daughter graduated from the Journalism School at USC in 1993. Her class was the last to use typewriters to write their stories. The school transitioned to computers and Lisa’s class was the last one to study her career specialty “the old fashioned way” that stories were told. News was reported with people being at the center of her universe – no twitter, Instagram, social media and all that has come to dominate our world.
From that moment on the world changed and with Steven Job’s invention of the cell phone a decade later the change became REAL and LASTING. We now live in a “seated world” where the only movement people get is when they get out their cars to do something that they CAN’T do from their cars. We line up at the drive through for banking, food and other services that keep us from walking. People even order at the drive through and now employees “walk” their order out to their cars. People SIT in their cars with the engine running eating their fries and burgers. I see this everyday also and it makes me wonder how their lives will turn out. Will they live lives of fulfillment and excitement and health or be in hospitals for “procedures” to keep them alive?
We are seeing huge increases in joint replacement surgeries on younger and younger people and because we are so inactive and heavy the issues will NOT go away without intervention and programs that address the underlying issues at the core. My answer as to why diets still are the main form of weight loss in this country is because a diet doesn’t require anything other than eating different food than we are accustomed to eating. Less than 5 percent of the people who stop dieting retain the loss – the rest gain the weight back – AND MORE!
The experts cannot agree on the solution(s) because the CAUSES are so complex. They cover a wide spectrum of possibilities from emotional, self esteem, physical, hormonal and so much more. This is why I recommend a comprehensive approach that encompasses examining all these areas in concert to arrive at an individualized approach than CAN work for EACH person in the population. However. the cost for this process may be prohibitive. There is no way we can know until we try new protocols beyond surgery, diets and drugs. I CAN say that if we do not address this issue it will cost the healthcare system billions – and possibly trillions – of dollars in the future. We just DON’T know at this point and if anyone says they THE answer – run the other way. Drugs and diets alone DON’T WORK!
I believe in the three basic principles of healthy aging. They encompass the mental, physical, and spiritual aspects of life itself. These paths can combine to bring us relief and the answers we need in order to solve this crisis. I believe technology will keep us seated and not moving as long as we remain “unconscious” to our choices, activities and days. I f we choose to keep our heads buried in our computers and continue to stare at our phones, then I don’t know what else to say except “good luck getting old”.
As my dear friend Edith Bird has said to me on numerous occasions: “Getting old is NOT for sissies”! Edith is 84 and works out four times a week doing cardio and weights and stretching. She has a wonderful soul and never makes excuses while being blessed with a wonderful heart and nature. I respect her and admire her. I tell her she is MY role model and we laugh and enjoy the time we spend together at the gym – and then we go our separate ways until the next time we see each other.
When she finally passes on (assuming I am still here), I will always hold her in my memory as someone who made a significant difference in my life. She will have left me the gift of hopefully inspiring someone else as I live out the remaining years of my journey through life. I want you to think about HOW you treat yourself and remember to think – and be – like Edith: Fearless, honest, and devoted to living each day to its fullest – with no regrets. This is the beginning to acquiring – and embodying wisdom – and that is finally after all the ONLY goal that really matters at the end of our lives!