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Searching for the Fountain of Youth

Jan 29, 2017, 3:38 p.m.

• Be a lifelong learner – find enjoyable, satisfying projects or enroll in established programs. Taking up new mental challenges such as digital photography or quilting may help cognitive vitality. New studies show that mentally-challenging leisure activities can actually change brain function and restore levels of brain function;

• Focus on healthy eating (which has significant, measurable effects on aging outcomes). Don’t skip breakfast, keep healthy snacks readily available and rid your house of junk food. Don’t skimp on water. Recent research suggests that vitamin D is engaged with longevity genes. Older adults may be particularly prone to vitamin D deficiency. One study recommended a universal supplementation of vitamin D between 800 to1000 IU daily for adults.

• Exercise has been called the true Fountain of Youth. A daily walk or other consistent exercise practices are good for the body and also stimulates brain) health. Even very short bouts of exercise make a difference!

• Stay socially connected – the quality of social connection is one of the most reliable predictors of well-being in older individuals. Carr recommends joining formal community groups as a way of ensuring sustained connection as we age. “Embedding yourself in formal organizations like church, volunteer programs or book clubs can be a great way to cultivate relationships,” she said.

• Consider practicing mindful meditation, and/or take yoga or a Tai Chi class. “These practices reestablish calm in the brain and body. And make adequate sleep a priority.”

• Plan financially – it’s never too early to begin making financial arrangements for later life. '

As a final note, research shows having a purpose in life is associated with longer life. “Second acts” in life can reinvigorate you and give you a reason to greet each day with anticipation,” says Oliver Harris, who wrote his first novel after working for more than four decades as an attorney.

“In my case, I was able to incorporate elements from my original career in law into my encore career as a writer,” says Harris, who put his knowledge of crime and corruption to use in his novel JoJo.

Here are his tips to reinvent yourself late in life:

Realize that purpose is important. After years of routine, it’s easy to operate on auto pilot as you perform the tasks of your daily life. But when people reinvent themselves, purpose and a passion for life can be reignited.

Find what excites you. Harris says he always wanted to write, so it was not surprising that pounding out a novel could become a passion for him. What are you passionate about? Is it something you may have dreamed of as a child but put aside for more practical pursuits?

Don’t convince yourself that it’s too late. If your dream will take you seven years to achieve, you’ll be the same age in seven years whether you pursue the dream or not! Don’t allow a number like your age to determine your aging experience. Actively embrace it; approach aging with gusto, purpose and passion.

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S. Jay Olshansky, PhD

S. Jay Olshansky, PhD, a leading researcher on aging and longevity, believes that interventions to modify aging will be the new protocol for health promotion and disease prevention in the coming century. He bases his own protocol for longevity on healthy eating and daily exercise. “For me, it is all about routines,” he says. “I have the same exact breakfast every morning: a handful of nuts, one ounce of my favorite cheese, a fig or date, and some kind of fruit. I eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day to avoid blood sugar spikes and drops. It works for me.” He also exercises daily (short bursts up to five times every day!) and goes to the doctor for regular checkups (which he likens to taking your car in routinely for an oil change). “If something goes wrong, you catch it early and you fix it.” Dr. Olshansky is a professor at the University of Illinois. His books include The Quest for Immortality: Science at the Frontiers of Aging and A Measured Breath of Life.

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