Aging is Not For Sissies
~Bette Davis, and later stolen by or attributed to Betty White
There are potentially more, but I’ve included 10 common denominators of the healthiest oldest of our population. The collection comes from Dan Buettner’s Blue Zones, Dr. Peter Martin’s primary research in Japan for six months last year, and my own work with clients – some of whom were still working with me at 91.
So, you want to be 100? And still enjoying life? Here’s what to do.
1. Find food to eat that agrees with you and leave trends and RDA’s behind. Not all centenarian’s ate low fat, avoided red meat, or ate all their broccoli. Most ate a variety of foods without ever stuffing themselves. They weren’t big on indulging or on depriving.
2. Find movement that keeps you active most of the day. Don’t forfeit your manual labor even if you can afford to hire it out. Don’t always give in to modern conveniences. From little things like stirring and chopping yourself to big things like mowing the lawn or cleaning the house, being active in small ways is far better than coming to a center for exercise for an hour.
3. Get a life. Start contributing to something bigger than you. If you have a family that may be it. If you don’t have a family or they aren’t close, you can adopt one. Volunteer. Knit caps for newborns at hospitals. Make mittens for those who don’t have any. Go read to the kids at school. If what you do also engages either your brain or your body even better.
4. If you aren’t active all day most days yes, you do need exercise. Once upon a time it wasn’t so. In our daily lives both at work and at home now, however, it’s necessary to make sure that you’re moving at least 150 minutes a week and ideally 225 or more.
5. Weight the Odds in Your Favor with Strength Training. This one can fall into 5, 6, 7…
- lifting weights will help you have more lean muscle and less body fat
- lifting weights will reduce the stress on joints not only by optimizing your healthy weight, but by strengthening muscles around joints and therefore taking the stress off the joint itself
- lifting weights will help enhance your posture often putting curves back in the right places and helping you stand and sit up straight
8. Sleep better than a baby. The oldest of the old with good cognitive skills, guard their sleep. As is true of many older adults they don’t sleep as long as they used to but still manage a quality sleep in bed at night.
9. Stick with the Routine. Older adults aren’t rigid necessarily, but they do keep a regular routine. They may no longer have a job but still get up at the same time daily. They take their exercise and their meals at the same time. They get the mail at the same time. Whether this is the circadian rhythm that’s so important to us as parents when we want a baby to get on a regular schedule, or it actually works and comes back to to basics as we age, a consistent routine is a good sign if you’re wanting to age well.
10. Connect with others. Beyond contributing, feeling loved and a social connection with biological or adopted family is crucial. Daily touch is ideal, but if not, daily connection by telephone or by internet is the next best thing.
11. Yes, a bonus… is what I hope you’ll agree is the obvious: avoid smoking and excessive alcohol.