July 28, 2014 – I recently attended a presentation given by best-selling author Dr. Roger Landry on his latest book Live Long, Die Short. An intriguing title to be sure, and a perspective that gave everyone in the audience a reason to pause and reevaluate the way they approach aging.
There are many who believe that the cost of providing health care to a burgeoning aging population is a societal catastrophe destined to happen. Dr. Roger Landry disagrees. “The problem with our society is not how many people are aging or health care costs,” he said. “The root problem is how our society looks at aging and how we still have impediments to people aging in a good way in our society.”
Dr. Landry, President of Masterpiece Living, a group of experts with an approach of helping adults age in a better way, and author of Live Long, Die Short: A Guide to Authentic Health and Successful Aging, said it’s up to each of us to decide how well we age. “Are you going to be the author of your story or is it going to be some antiquated, stereotypical and inaccurate view of what aging is?”
During a presentation to prospective residents for The Lutheran Village at MILLER’S GRANT in Ellicott City on June 17, Dr. Landry asserted that a cultural shift occurred with the industrial revolution, and now older adults are “pasturized” and marginalized because they can’t produce like younger generations. Now, he said, we become more isolated as we age and begin to lose friends, a spouse, and our work. This decline brings with it a high risk of dementia, heart disease, and cancer among other things.
He believes American culture has developed a stereotype of aging where we spend the first half of our lives becoming our best, and the second half in a process of decline. But, he also believes it is possible to deviate from that course and stay at a high level of living and vitality. For those who flourish as they age, the end, when it comes, comes quickly – they live long and die short.
According to Dr. Landry, people who take the ‘high road’ to aging have three things in common:
- “These people refuse to rust out,” he said. “They continue to challenge themselves physically and intellectually.”
- They refuse to be victims. Everyone inherits some type of risk for something, but what you do about it is up to you.
- They are continually engaged in life. They have a network of friends, are part of a community and having meaning and purpose.
So what are the important factors in determining which route you take? In a word – lifestyle. Staying physically and mentally active, maintaining a healthy diet, having purpose, and being part of a strong social network affect how we age. And, it’s never too late to make a lifestyle adjustment. Dr. Landry challenges older adults to embrace his ten tips to successful aging:
- Use It or Lose It – Continue to develop physically, intellectually, socially and spiritually to keep your mind and body sharp.
- Keep Moving – Physical activity builds resiliency and leads to better health.
- Challenge Your Brain – Our brains continue to develop across a lifetime if we exercise them.
- Stay Connected – We thrive on interacting with others on a regular basis.
- Lower Your Risks – Work with your physician to eliminate or decrease the potential for developing diseases you may be at risk for.
- Never “Act Your Age” – What would you do if you knew you could not fail? Don’t ever believe you’re too old to try new things.
- Wherever You Are, Be There – Make time for quiet moments of reflection and things that help you de-stress, whether it’s getting out in nature, meditation, yoga or practicing a craft. Reducing stress also reduces your risk for disease.
- Find Your Purpose – Explore volunteering and engaging in meaningful activities.
- Have Children in Your Life – Children remind us of the magnificent circle of life, and our part in it. They keep us youthful.
- Laugh to a Better Life – Laughter enhances your immune system and overall wellbeing. Laugh your way to better health.
To change any aspect of lifestyle, start small to build competence and confidence. Set smaller, more realistic goals instead of a large, unattainable one. For example: get a pedometer and walk 1,000 steps a day. When that goal is achieved, set a more challenging, but attainable, goal.
“Life has curve balls. If you live in a place where you are surrounded by like-minded people, where you have a lifestyle that has allowed you to have more resilience and you are connected and have a social support system, the more likely you are to take that curve ball and knock it out of the park.”
Copyright © 2014 Lisa Albin