Is there one thing that makes you age well? The answer is no – no one thing allows us women to age well. It’s a combination of things that you do that lead to a longer and happier life, and it’s probably not what you think. There are the obvious things like keeping your cholesterol and blood pressure down then there are the things that you probably don’t think about as much. What does it take to age well?
In the 1990s, gerontologists, that’s the study of aging, created a model to define successful aging:
It is that all there is to it though? Maybe it’s time to ditch the old school thinking and redefine aging well.
A 2017 study published in Gerontology did just that; they threw away the old model and focused more on managing the challenges that come with aging, what they referred to as “age-related stressors:”
To master age-related stressors, one must draw on both internal and external resources, according to these researchers. Internal resources might include:
By changing the meaning of aging well, they were able to create a new, modern model to define it:
I suppose the answer is it depends on who you ask. For most people, it’s likely a combination of these two models that work best. It is hard to deny the importance of avoiding disease or declining cognitive function. It is also hard to deny that how you see yourself and define aging well matters too.
You already know smoking is bad for you and that you need to eat right, so what else can you do to help you age well?
The earlier you start, the better. Behavioral scientist Joan Tucker, Ph.D. says curiosity and creativity are what make you feel younger Learning new things does more than wake up the neurons in your brain, it teaches you how to play again.
That mental exercise might also be the key to avoiding dementia and other brain-related illnesses.
Social interaction is what drives you to do all the other things you should like exercise and explore new hobbies. Making that connection with others keeps you interacting with life and what could be more important than that, really?
Depression is a growing concern for older people in this country. There are an estimated 6 million people in the U.S. over the age of 65 that are living with depression. Staying social is one way to manage those dark emotions.
It can’t be said enough how important exercise is for aging well. It does more than just keep you healthy. Exercise:
There are far more reasons to do it than not.
When it comes to exercise, the trick is to find something you enjoy. If you are not a jogger, going for a run each day is more of a chore than fun. Instead, find another activity that engages your mind and body at the same time like swimming, bike riding or yoga. If you pick an outdoor event, you can soak up some sunshine for extra vitamin D, too.
Not sure what to try? Golf is an excellent choice but lose that cart. A round of golf could keep you walking for hours.
The age of retirement is going up, in part, because there are people out there who love what they do. Retirement is just not for everyone. Focus on work and find a way to be passionate about it whether you are the CEO of a company or a home.
Walter Bortz, MD, author of Living Longer for Dummies calls aging a self-fulfilling prophecy. In other words, you are only as old as you think. Maintaining a healthy attitude about work, life and your age will keep you feeling young.
Along those same lines, don’t let other people define you. Television and the media tend to put aging in a box that can leave you feeling like you should be sitting in a rocking chair knitting.
Stay in control of how you see yourself. Do what you have to feel young whether it means getting a makeover or buying a new car. If you think old, you will feel old, according to Vincent Giampapa, MD, and coauthor of The Gene Makeover.
Finally, start embracing the idea of aging well. Take the time to do all those things you dreamed of like travel, play with grandkids and spend time with your partners.
Welcome to the generation of the super-ager. You got this.