Medical and scientific advances have made it possible for us to live longer, healthier lives.
A recent article in The Economist1 reported the fact that Americans are living longer, healthier lives than their grandparents. “By the early 2000s the state of health of American men aged 69, as reported by themselves, was as good as that of 60-year-olds in the 1970s; 70 really does seem to be the new 60.” That’s good news for people who want to live, work and enjoy life for many decades.
The question becomes how do you age well? The answer is to stay engaged, interested and healthy. According to The Economist, many people want to live a long life but aren’t doing what it takes to achieve that. “In a survey of Americans conducted by researchers at Stanford University, 77% of respondents said they wanted to live to 100, but only 42% claimed to be making a real effort to get there.”
The lifestyle of a centenarian.
Follow these basic steps:
- Eat well. Good food is good fuel for your body. Eat whole, fresh foods, and whole grains. Eat fish, lean meat, and poultry. Make sure that your plate is two-thirds fresh fruits and vegetables and fill the rest in with protein and grains. Drink six to eight glasses of water a day and limit high fat, high sugar foods.
- Exercise. Find something you like to do and then do it at least 30 minutes a day. Staying active is the best way to remain healthy. Exercise pumps fresh oxygen and blood into the heart and the brain keeps joints loose and helps to prevent many diseases including heart disease. It can also help to lower blood pressure and reduce depression and anxiety.
- Stay social. Maintaining a network of friends keeps the mind healthy. Interacting with others keeps cognitive abilities like language and memory working effectively. Social connections are important for mood and avoiding depression, stress, and isolation.
- Keep your mind active. The mind is a muscle like any other in your body and it likes to work. When you learn new things your mind grows new connections to retain the information. Learn a new language, take up painting or learn to dance. Stand on one foot occasionally (do so carefully so you don’t fall), or eat with your less dominant hand.
The impact of work on aging.
Although continuing to work can be challenging in America where the workforce is still geared toward younger generations, organizations like the AARP are striving to change that. The Economist says the benefits of retaining older workers is well documented, even though adoption is not widespread. Employing older adults is not only effective for companies, who tend to boost organizational effectiveness and productivity, but also to older employees themselves.Those who work longer tend to stay healthier physically, emotionally and mentally. Getting up to go to work every morning provides a sense of purpose that can help to prevent anxiety and depression. Working also keeps the brain active and an active brain can help to prevent the onset of dementia.
The Economist reports “mixed teams perform better than single-generation ones. Companies that have taken this advice to heart, such as Deutsche Bank, report fewer mistakes and positive feedback between young and old.”
While the US catches up and realizes that retaining older workers is beneficial, there are other ways to remain employed.
- The AARP2 has a Virtual Career Network that helps place retired seniors in jobs of interest.
- Although you don’t receive a paycheck, volunteering is a type of work that allows you to do what you love and gain a sense of self-fulfillment and personal reward.
- Retired Brains3, a site that provides retirement advice for senior citizens, baby boomers and retirees including retirement planning, jobs after retirement and more, lists opportunities that range from seasonal jobs to jobs in law enforcement.
- SeniorJobBank lets you search for any job anywhere if you are over 50.
Living to 100 years old requires you to develop a longer plan for your professional career than you may have previously considered. These resources and much more like them can help you to reinvent yourself.
The impact of newly-discovered passions on aging.
Living to be a century old depends upon a sense of happiness and self-fulfillment. To find that you must do something you love. It doesn’t matter if you are 50 and like to kayak, 70 and love to knit, or 90 and have a newly discovered passion for painting, doing what you love matters. If you search the internet for “how to be happy”, you will find over 246 million results published by authors, magazines, newspapers, and blogs across the world. Generally speaking, the advice boils down to four things:
- Maintain close relationships.
- Practice being kind.
- Find gratitude and hope daily.
- Use your strengths.
These are simple things to do that do not involve accumulating wealth or traveling to exotic places. Healthy lifestyle choices not only impact your physical longevity, but also your mental longevity. New studies show why “SuperAgers” are less susceptible to experiencing dementia and more disposed to long-term brain health. It would appear that psychologists and psychiatrists agree that the key to happiness is found by looking internally not externally. It will help you to relieve stress and live a long and healthy life.