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Chess pieces on a chessboard surround the white king piece which has been knocked over.
Photo by Felix Mittermeier on Unsplash

I recently turned 67. 

Birthdays are typically a cause for celebration, but growing old in prison is not always the best for morale. Prison causes extreme stress and anxiety, among other complications, especially for an older individual like myself. Father Time constantly dwells at the back of my mind, telling me my time will soon come. 

Throughout my 67 years, I have been put through the ringer. Before I was sent to prison, my immune system decided to shut down and rewarded me with Stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Along with that, I received an 18-years-to-life prison sentence. The combination of my medical condition and prison time aged me both physically and mentally.

Fortunately, I have discovered a variety of ways to help my aging body. I have committed myself to a daily exercise regimen, including weight training, calisthenics and jogging. Aging is inevitable, but, through proper exercise and nutrition, you may enhance your longevity. There are no guarantees, but it can’t hurt to try.

In addition to exercising the body, I recommend that those who are 60 years and older exercise the mind. Reading, jigsaw and crossword puzzles, and board games — especially chess — can help you maintain an alert and focused brain and keep you in command of your faculties. 

Another mental health tip: Don’t allow yourself to become withdrawn, as incarceration can trigger mental illness. While finding a friend or confidant may be difficult (prison does not afford a vast amount of quality options), it is imperative to talk with others who have a positive outlook. 

Above all, seek a higher power. Although it might not work for everyone, attending a religious worship group can have many benefits; same with the community afforded by such self-help groups as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.

Being incarcerated does not mean you have to imprison yourself. There are many forms of physical and mental escape that can help you cope with aging. We cannot defeat the aging process, but we can come to better understand ourselves. 

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Lloyd Friedland is a writer and artist incarcerated in New York.