published Saturday, August 23rd, 2014

Mohney: Growing older but keeping yourself young

By Nell Mohney

Celia is a casual friend who lives in Baltimore. She was a participant in a seminar I led 25 years ago. She is a tall, willowy blond who, when I first met her, looked to be 50 to 55 years old; later I learned that her actual age is 74.

Not only physically attractive, Celia is also mentally alert and totally engaging as a personality. In addition, her husband, Hal, is physically trim and actively involved in life.

Because of our similar interests in the role of women in today's world, Celia and I have corresponded occasionally. Last year, she was in Chattanooga for a meeting, and I couldn't believe what I was seeing. She doesn't look a day older than when I saw her so long ago.

"You must have found the fountain of youth," I said excitedly, as I greeted her.

As we talked, I learned that there has been no plastic surgery. She credits the following for her youthful appearance: a Mediterranean diet, which is full of fruits and vegetables; one hour of physical exercise three days a week; at least seven to eight hours of sleep nightly; a feeling of productivity (she is a middle-school teacher); a loving family; a determination to develop positive attitudes; and a strong, Christian faith.

I was amazed as she told me of her life before her healthy, happy lifestyle. She had grown up in a dysfunctional, physically abusive family. She was obese, insecure, negative and cynical.

"What in the world happened to cause such a drastic change?" I asked. Her reply was immediate.

"I met a new teacher in our school who was all I wanted to be and wasn't. She became my friend and mentor," she said.

The transformation took several years, but began with church attendance (a first for Celia) and moved to a new hairstyle and improved social skills.

"My friend died two years ago," said Celia sadly, "but made me aware of how one person can make a difference. I want to be able to help someone else find the life they were meant to lead."

Contact Nell Mohney at nellwmohney@comcast.net.

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