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The Art of Aging Well

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Promote healthy longevity with these tips on creating an engaging and meaningful life

In 1900 if you lived to the age of 47 you were old. Today life expectancy has almost doubled to the age of 89. The probability that you will live to a ripe old age is better than ever before in human history. As life expectancy increases, there is much to consider to ensure that you age well and happily.

More people than ever before have access to clean air and water, healthy food and housing, immediately increasing overall mortality rates substantially. In addition, personal awareness and knowledge about self-care has been gaining momentum and revolutionizing and empowering us to improve our health at any age. Add a sense of engagement, curiosity about life and people, activities, or practices that one finds fulfilling and you have the rough outlines of what it takes to attain healthy longevity. And yet, we don’t really discuss what is required to age well.

We live in a society that embraces youth culture and ignores issues related to aging even though we live in a society that is aging. We ignore the prospect of aging until we are confronted with physical ailments. Aging is something that someone else does. That is until we begin to listen to the myths about being older and the limitations inherent in aging and find ourselves acting old and falling into habits that make us slow down. This scenario is not inevitable and it doesn’t need to be this way.

The need to be present and care for and balance the body, mind, and spirit throughout life is a lesson ideally learned when we are young. However, it is most commonly learned after life has taught us a lesson or two. After it has gotten our attention and convinced us of the fact that our time is limited on this earth and we learn, each in our own way, that we do, and will, run out of time. Some of us learn this earlier than others, some never do.

To age well each of us needs to embark on a journey that requires full engagement and effort. The results we enjoy correlate directly to the effort that we expend. When it comes to aging, we can either mysteriously arrive one day at the doorstep of old age or we can gently point ourselves in the direction of the future by living in a way that will have us in touch with our physical, emotional, and spiritual health right now. This is the path that Dr. Mark E. Williams lays before us in his book The Art and Science of Aging Well: A Physician’s Guide to a Healthy Body, Mind, and Spirit.

It Is Never Too Late to Age Well

Regardless of how you have lived your life or how old you are, you can impact how you age beginning today. Here are some useful tips for healthy longevity that you can use to elevate and expand your efforts.

Appreciate where you are in body, mind, and spirit. Start where you are and do an inventory of how you feel physically and emotionally.

What needs attention and care? Be realistic and create a list of ways that you can impact your overall wellbeing. Begin with the following:

  • How healthy are you?
  • What are you thinking about?
  • What are your worries?

Write them down, get them out of your head and onto paper, then look to see what can be done to begin to resolve one of them. The answer could be getting more sleep, exercising, giving up processed foods, having a difficult conversation with a family member, or dealing with sadness and depression. Start small. Simply attend to one thing. Write down what you are going to do the next day and then actually do it. Build on your success each day and in a week or two or three look back and see what you have gained by doing one or two things differently in your life. Learn how to age well by incorporating one of these lifestyle changes.

Challenge, Stimulate, Manage and Nurture Yourself

In the interest of developing a holistic and joyous life, challenge your body, stimulate your intellect, manage your emotions, and nurture your spirit. Start with what is easy and expand. But also stick with the activities that you love. Hiking with friends, being socially or politically active, being creative, learning something new, and tending to and developing new friendships are all beneficial for aging well.

Challenge Your Body

Challenge yourself to eat healthy and nourishing foods every day. Concentrate on eating vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and healthy proteins. Go beyond what you are comfortable doing every now and again. Show yourself that you are capable of more physically than you think you are. Care for your body, tend to it and use it. If you don’t already, find an exercise that you enjoy that is encouraging, gentle and a bit of challenge. Keep moving.

Stimulate Your Intellect 

Stay engaged and stimulated intellectually. Make your interests a priority. Many of us have interests that we have left behind and miss. Perhaps now is a wonderful time to revisit any pursuits that have fallen victim to a busy lifestyle. Learning something new and being curious is one of the simple ways to live a joyful and involved life.

Manage Your Emotions

Being happy doesn’t mean that life is perfect. It means you’ve decided to see beyond the issues that are hanging around. It also doesn’t mean that you ignore them either. It means that you hold your problem lightly and with compassion. Be gentle with yourself and find support for what is difficult. Know that there are others who are navigating the same issues that you are and that you are not alone.

Nurture your spirit

What feeds your spirit? Do it. Is it a walk in nature? Listening to beautiful music? Meditation? Prayer? Sitting with a dear friend or family member? Reading?

Spend some time each day tending to your spirit. It makes everything else easier.

Here is one final thought. While balance is important, engage in what is fun and easy for you. I don’t believe that any of this need be hard. It should be challenging and exciting but none of this will work if it becomes part of an overwhelming and difficult to-do list. Start where you are and try to incorporate one thing that you suspect might make your day happier and fuller.

About The Author

Audrey Meinertzhagen

As a Volunteer Caregiver to the Zen Hospice Project and a Course Manager at the CareGivers Project, Audrey is passionate about improving the standards of care for older adults and educating caregivers on the principles of mindfulness and self-care.

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