HOW LONG WOULD YOU LIKE TO LIVE? Pew Research recently surveyed American attitudes on living to 120 and beyond, and found that 69% of respondents, when asked how long they wanted to live, gave an age between 79 and 100 years.
The median ideal life span was 90, according to Pew.
“The key to achieving this ideal life span is to extend our ‘health span,’ or the period of life in which we enjoy optimal health,” says Colin Milner, CEO of the International Council on Active Aging, a professional organization that brings together the independent and assisted living, fitness, rehabilitation and wellness fields to dispel society’s myths about aging.
“For many people, the question is how,” Milner states. He offers the following “10 tips” to help individuals extend a healthy life, or embark on one, if they have yet to do so:
1. Expectations: If you’ve been following a healthy lifestyle, simply keep going. If you need to make changes, anticipate succeeding–and don’t let your age be a barrier. Research has shown that people who think positively about getting older may live as much as 7.5 years longer than those who view this stage of life negatively.
2. Enthusiasm: Few people are thrilled with every aspect of their lives, but many have at least one area–family, friends, work, hobbies—that they feel good about. Identify an activity or connection that sparks your enthusiasm and make it your lifeline. Try to extend that enthusiasm into other areas of your life.
3. Energy: Having the energy and motivation you need to age well are hallmarks of healthy living. If you feel fatigued all the time, don’t let apathy and lethargy drag you down. Get a checkup to determine the cause–and the solution.
4. Eating: Eating a balanced diet and attaining/maintaining a normal weight are keys to physical and mental health. If you need to lose weight or make changes in your diet, keep your expectations high–you can do it.
5. Exercise: Staying physically active fuels the body and mind. If you’re already exercising regularly, keep it up. If you’re getting started, know your skill level, set appropriate goals, progress at your own pace, and be consistent.
6. Engagement: Volunteering and other forms of civic and social engagement can play an important role in maintaining good health in later life. Research shows that volunteers have higher levels of well-being and life satisfaction than non-volunteers. “So get involved,” Milner urges. “It’s good for you.”
7. Emotions: Everyone feels down at times, but full-blown depression is a major cause of disability. If you’re feeling out of sorts for two weeks or more, talk to your doctor or take an online screening test. In many instances, exercising and eating right can help change your mood.
8. Education: Lifelong learning is important to an independent and fulfilling life. Start now to explore a new area of knowledge or learn a new type of physical activity. Your brain will thank you for it.
9. Effort: It takes energy and effort to change expectations and embark on new behaviors, but the results are worth it. Think about this effort as an investment in the life you want to live in the years to come–and reap the benefits of better health today.
10. Enjoyment: A healthy life generally is a joyous one. If you want to live a long life, “savor the process of being or becoming active, engaged, and truly alive,” Milner urges. “Focus on the overall picture and enjoy the journey.”
Says Milner, “There is no time like the present to take stock. Ask yourself, ‘How can I age well?’ Emphasize the positive and don’t let your age, or anyone, deter you from getting there,” he adds. “Remember, age truly is just a number.”
About the International Council on Active Aging
The International Council on Active Aging® is the professional association that leads, connects and defines the active-aging industry. ICAA supports professionals who develop wellness facilities, programs and services for adults over 50.
The association is focused on active aging–an approach to aging that helps older adults live as fully as possible within all dimensions of wellness–and provides its members with education, information, resources and tools.
As an active-aging educator and advocate, ICAA has advised numerous organizations and governmental bodies, including the US Administration on Aging, the National Institute on Aging (one of the US National Institutes of Health), the US Department of Health and Human Services, Canada’s Special Senate Committee on Aging, and the British Columbia ministries of Health, and Healthy Living and Sport.
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