Thursday, September 25, 2014

How do we age well?

One of my favorite classes I took at college was called Adult Development and Aging.  This class required that I would spend 10 hours serving the elderly in a nursing home.  I spent most of my time playing games with those of a feeble mind and body.  Even though this experience was both disturbing and sad to me, it made me realize that I would do everything in my power to take control of my life and learn to age better.

According to Walker, "Arguably the longest and most comprehensive study of human development ever undertaken is just revealing its final results: We are very much in control of our own aging." Walker states that "The Study of Adult Development at Harvard Medical School comprises three projects begun in the 1920s, '30s and '40s... in which 824 men and women [had] been followed from their teens into their 80s [and] over the decades were given psychological tests to evaluate their lives and feelings."

Dr. George E. Vaillant, the study's director, found that "good genes did not account for better aging." Vaillant also debates "that with aging comes decay."  The study showed that "when comparing a 30 year old brain to a 55 year old brain, the older one is better developed."  Also that, "advancing age impairs some motor skills, but maturation can make people sharper at emotional tasks."  Another interesting finding from Vaillant, is that "many people who aged well unconsciously reinterpreted early events in their lives in a more positive light as they grew older.  Those who clung to negative events were less happy adults.  Forever blaming others can impede maturity."

Below, Dr. Vaillant points out seven keys to aging well.  Vaillant states, "that these seven major factors, at 50, predict what life's outcome will be at 80."

1.)  NOT SMOKING OR QUITTING EARLY:  "Those who quit the habit before 50 were, at 70, as healthy as those who had not smoked."  Vaillant states that, "smoking is the most significant factor in terms of health."

2.)  THE ABILITY TO TAKE LIFE'S UPS AND DOWNS IN STRIDE:  "Those who learn early how to roll with the punches are much happier in their later years, despite real problems."  Vaillant said, "Life aint' easy.  Terrible things happen to everyone.  You have to keep your sense of humor, give something of yourself to others, make friends who are younger than you, learn new things and have fun."

3.)  ABSENCE OF ALCOHOL ABUSE:  "Abusing alcohol destroys both your physical and mental health [and] can destroy a marriage."

4.)  HEALTHY WEIGHT:  "Obesity is a risk factor for poor health in later life."

5.)  A SOLID MARRIAGE:  "A good marriage contributes to a long and happy life.  The study also found that, overall, marriages improved with time-if people were willing to work out the bumps. This is important for both physical and psychological health."

6.)  PHYSICAL ACTIVITY:  "The study specified that the Happy-Well usually did 'some exercise.'  The benefits of fitness also extended to mental health."

7.)  YEARS OF EDUCATION:  "The more years of school people have, the more they tend to age successfully.  People seek education because they believe it is possible to control the course of their lives."

The truth is that we don't know how long we're going to live in this life.  If we live to be in our 80s or 90s, we should want to live well.  We need to strive and do all we can to live a happy and healthy life.  Because of my religious beliefs, I do not smoke or drink alcohol.  I'm so grateful that I made the decision to stay completely away from these vices.  I have seen many suffer the abuses and pain that come along with these particular addictions.  We also have to be positive!  My kids think it's crazy at some of the things I have to laugh at so I don't lose my mind.  Just try and have fun in life instead of worrying about EVERYTHING!  Oh, and by the way, having a solid marriage does requires work!  It just seems like more and more married couples give up so easily.  Learn to love and forgive one another.  Just TRY IT!  Physical activity can lead to a healthy weight.  Go on walks or bike rides with your spouse or friends.  Doing some type of exercise is better than nothing!  Finally, whatever it takes, seek out to be educated.  Read good books, research topics that you find interesting, and take a free class at your local library.  Go to bed early and rise early. (I just had to throw that one in.)

Take control of your life and age well!

My favorite four generational picture!
Granny (my mom) Jenna (my daughter) Audrey (my grand daughter) and Me!