Strategies for Aging Well

We can have a great effect on our own aging, according to Paul Irving, Chairman of the Center for the Future of Aging at the Milken Institute, the think tank that studies older age. Living longer is now the norm and there are strategies to help make the most of these extra years. One of these strategies is embracing technology. FaceTime and other social media can help older adults feel less alone, research shows. Irving says, “I think a lot of work can be done to make the existing social networks more accommodating to older adults.” Leaning on family is another strategy. When asked to list up to five of their closest confidents, those who named more family members had a lower chance of dying in the next five years than those who didn’t report such strong family bonds. Unconditional love may play a part, since the same protective effect wasn’t seen for friendships. Your feelings about getting older might also determine how well you age; your feelings can even determine how well your brain holds up against Alzheimer’s. A team of researchers at Yale University found that when people who thought negatively about aging were simply primed to view it in a better light, they said they felt more positively about aging and even showed improvements in physical strength.

Lighten up, set goals, take risks, and expect the best. These are all additional influences on the aging process. Being outgoing and open to new experiences and laughing are keys to staying young in old age. Research shows that if you stick to goals, have a sense of purpose and are not overly neurotic then longevity could be in your future. Irving further states that “the assumption that you should only do one thing in your life makes no sense.” Be challenged by taking an online course, volunteering or finding something – anything new. Help yourself to greater recovery after illness, for example: after a heart attack. People with a positive outlook recover better than those who are more pessimistic. Recent studies show that a hopeful attitude is linked to other healthy behaviors, like quitting smoking or maintaining a healthy diet. Optimism is linked to fewer chronic illnesses, less depression, and even a stronger immune response to bugs like the flu. From Time, September 26, 2016, by Mandy Oaklander.

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