In this fragment, Athenaeus give his reflections on the kind of person we should strive to be in old age if we want to remain healthy. Works on "dietetics" (Περὶ ὑγιεινῆς διαίτης) or lifestyle were common in the ancient world; but, Athenaeus pushes the field quite far into all areas of human life. Here, he speaks to the physical, psychological, and social aspects of old-age and he advocates for changes in lifestyle that will best preserve the health of both mind and body. In this respect, his advice sounds remarkably modern.
Athenaeus of Attalia On Healthy Regimen in Old Age
"Old age requires a more exact regimen and additional aids. For the psychic and physical capacities [ψυχικαί τε καὶ φυσικαὶ δυνάμεις] which hold us together and preserve us lose their strength, their functions are brought to an end, and the body wrinkles and becomes malnourished, loose and dry. Whenever, therefore, the capacity which keeps the body straight, which offers resistance against the things that cause us injury from outside , and which fights against certain spermatic principles and natural necessities [κατά τινας σπερματικοὺς λόγους καὶ φυσικὰς ἀνάγκας], should give way under foot [i.e., decline], the body is easily affected and easily injured, requiring [only] a small cause and chance influence for harm.
"At the start, then, from an early age, one should also take precautions for the time of old age. For as those who wear out their cloak in the summer spend the winter in tatters, so those who, in their youth, neglect their bodily strength suffer the clothes of old age with great difficulty. And at this age especially, one should strive after gentleness and magnanimity, since such a person is not burdensome to everyone, but is longed for by all and cared for with goodwill and sympathy. Endeavour to have people living with you who are pleasing and not irksome, with whom it is the sweetest custom to engage in desirable conversation. And spend time in delightful places, and, in general, always live in good cheer. But, if this is not possible, for the most part, [give yourself time] to be at leisure. And be engaged in the care of oneself rather than [caring] for others, so that, of the urgent symptoms in each season that have to do with the care of the body, none should be deemed worthy of postponing. For, as having grown weary in the course of time, old age requires more rest.
"Best is the old age of those who carry-on in culture and rational studies, because of their diligence and the self-control of this way of life, because of the tranquility of their soul, and because they are always at leisure and find relief in their own works and the works of their predecessors. For what better companion might a man of reason discover for himself, or with what might he occupy himself that is even more pleasant, if he has given up the study of such great people? How great is the joy and how much the elation a soul receives, inquiring together with the predecessors of philosophy and medicine, and with the other champions of universal learning, and frequently trying one’s hand in [these inquiries] alongside them?"
τοῖς δὲ παρακμάζουσιν ἁρμόζει δίαιτα ὑφειμένη καὶ ψυχῆς καὶ σώματος, τά τε γυμνάσια, ὁποῖά ποτε ἂν ᾖ, κατὰ λόγον ἀεὶ τούτων ὑφαιρετέον, τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτῶν μειουμένης. καὶ τὰς τροφὰς ἐκ προσαγωγῆς συσταλτέον, τῆς ἕξεως αὐτῶν ἀρχὴν ψύξεως λαμβανούσης. τὸ δὲ γῆρας ἀκριβεστέρας μὲν διαίτης, περισσοτέρας δ’ ἐπικουρίας δεόμενον τυγχάνει· αἱ γὰρ συνέχουσαι καὶ διασῴζουσαι ἡμᾶς ψυχικαί τε καὶ φυσικαὶ δυνάμεις μαραίνονται, καὶ τὰ τούτων ἔργα καταλύονται, καὶ τὸ σῶμα ῥακοῦται καὶ ἄτροφον καὶ χαῦνον καὶ ξηρὸν γίνεται. ὅταν οὖν ἡ μὲν διευθύνουσα τὸ σῶμα δύναμις καὶ τοῖς ἔξωθεν λυμαινομένοις ἡμῖν ἀντερείδουσα καὶ μαχομένη κατά τινας σπερματικοὺς λόγους καὶ φυσικὰς ἀνάγκας ὑπὸ πόδας χωρῇ, τὸ δὲ σῶμα εὐπαθὲς ὑπάρχον καὶ εὐαδίκητον, μικρᾶς αἰτίας χρεία καὶ ῥοπῆς τῆς τυχούσης πρὸς βλάβην.
ἄνωθεν μὲν οὖν ἀπὸ τῆς πρώτης ἡλικίας καὶ προνοητέον τοῦ γήρως χρόνῳ· ὡς γὰρ οἱ τὴν χλαῖναν ἐν τῷ θέρει κατατρίψαντες ἐν τῷ τρίβωνι τὸν χειμῶνα διάγουσιν, οὕτως οἱ ἐν τῇ νεότητι τὴν ῥώμην καταλύσαντες τὸν τοῦ γήρως χιτῶνα σφόδρα δυσκόλως φέρουσιν. ζηλωτέον δ’ ἐν τῇδε τῇ ἡλικίᾳ μάλιστα πραότητι καὶ μεγαλοψυχίᾳ· ὁ γὰρ τοιοῦτος ἀβαρὴς καὶ ποθεινὸς παρὰ πᾶσι καὶ ἐπιμελείας τυγχάνων μετ’ εὐνοίας τινὸς καὶ συμπαθείας. σπουδάζειν δὲ καὶ τοὺς συζῶντας ἔχειν εὐαρεστουμένους καὶ μὴ ὀχληρούς, μεθ’ ὧν ὡς ἥδιστα εἰώθει καὶ ὁμιλιῶν ἐνάρχεσθαι ποθεινῶν καὶ ἐν τόποις ἐπιτερπεστέροις διατρίβειν καὶ καθόλου ζῆν μετ’ εὐθυμίας τὸν ἅπαντα χρόνον· εἰ δὲ μή γε, τὸν πλεῖστον ἑαυτὸν σχολάζειν καὶ πρὸς τὴν ἑαυτοῦ μᾶλλον ἢ πρὸς τὴν ἑτέρων ἀσχολεῖσθαι θεραπείαν, ἵνα μηδὲν ὑπερθέσεως ἠξιῶται τῶν καθ’ ἕκαστον καιρὸν κατεπειγόντων πρὸς τὴν τοῦ σώματος ἐπιμέλειαν· τὸ γὰρ γῆρας ὥσπερ κεκοπιακὸς ἐν τῷ προεληλυθότι χρόνῳ ἀναπαύσεως δεῖται περισσοτέρας.
ἄριστον δὲ γῆρας τῶν ἐν παιδείᾳ καὶ μαθήσει λογικῇ διαφερόντων, διά τε τὴν προσοχὴν καὶ τὴν νῆψιν τῆς διαίτης καὶ διὰ τὴν τῆς ψυχῆς εὐστάθειαν καὶ διὰ τὸ σχολάζειν ἀεὶ καὶ προσαναπαύεσθαι τοῖς τε ἑαυτῶν καὶ τοῖς τῶν προγενεστέρων πόνοις· τίνα γὰρ εὕροι νοῦν ἔχων ἀνὴρ συνομιλητὴν ἑαυτοῦ βελτίονα, ἢ τίσιν ἂν ἥδιστα συνδιατρίβοι παρεὶς τὰς τοιαύτας καὶ τηλικούτων ἀνδρῶν πραγματείας; πηλίκον δὲ χάρμα καὶ πόσον ἔπαρμα ψυχὴ λαμβάνει, συζητοῦσα τοῖς προγενεστέροις τῶν φιλοσόφων τε καὶ ἰατρῶν καὶ τοῖς ἄλλοις τοῖς προϊσταμένοις τῶν ἐγκυκλίων μαθημάτων καὶ παρεγχειροῦσα τούτοις πολλάκις;
Athenaeus of Attalia, ap. Oribasius, libri incerti 39 (CMG VI 2,2 140,9-141,9 Raeder)