Want to live to the century mark? A growing number of seniors are doing just that, as advances in medicine and nutrition help more and more men and women reach the age of 100. A recent pair of articles sheds some light on some of the secrets of those people who not only age, but age well. However, their so-called secrets of staying strong and active through their 80s, 90s and beyond may not be exactly what you might expect. The shorthand version: how you eat may be less important than how you think.
The first article we want to spotlight is this one from the website of Time magazine. It claims to reveal the personality traits of men and women who remain alive and flourishing all the way to the century mark. “If you’re looking to live to 100,” says Time, “you may want to watch more than your diet. A study of people in remote Italian villages who lived past 90 found that they tended to have certain psychological traits in common, including stubbornness and resilience.” This study, published in a professional journal called International Psychogeriatrics, examined the mental and physical health of a group of Italian seniors in an area known for its abundance of active men and women 90 and older. Besides surveying the seniors, researchers also asked younger family members to describe the traits of their elders.
The results were quite revealing. “The younger adults tended to describe their older relatives as controlling, domineering and stubborn,” says the Time article. “But the 90- and 100-somethings also displayed qualities of resilience and adaptability to change.” One extremely old Italian man stated, “I have fought all my life and I am always ready for changes. I think changes bring life and give chances to grow.” The researchers noted that these seniors, born into wars and the Great Depression, have experienced extreme hardship during their lives, and yet they have learned that “in order to flourish, they have to be able to accept and recover from the things they can’t change, but also fight for the things they can.”
According to the Time report, the oldest adults in the survey shared other qualities people today might do well to emulate, “including positivity, a strong work ethic and close bonds with family, religion and the countryside.” In spite of their advanced age, these men and women weren’t just sitting back in their recliners: “Most of the older adults in the study were still active, working regularly in their homes and on their land. This gave them a purpose in life, wrote the study authors, even after they reached old age.”
Researchers uncovered an extremely interesting paradox when they compared both the physical health and the mental and emotional health of the older residents with a group of their younger family members, ages 51 to 75. As one would expect, the older adults were less healthy physically – however, they were in fact better off emotionally, displaying better mental well-being, greater self-confidence and stronger decision-making skills. Researchers referred to this as the paradox of aging: “Even as physical health deteriorated, mental health quality, at least for the people in the study, remained high. Things like happiness and satisfaction with life went up, and levels of depression and stress went down,” says the senior author of the survey. “It’s the opposite of what we might expect when we think about aging, but it shows that getting older is not all gloom and doom.” Here at AgingOptions we say a loud “Amen” to that.
Speaking of staying active while growing old, we found a second related article, this one from the website of the BBC, describing what the reporter called “the secrets of the superagers.” These active seniors, says the BBC, are living independently, remaining “robust in body and mind,” and maintaining a wide and varied social circle. Unfortunately, as the article implies, even though more and more seniors will live longer and longer, not many will enjoy that type of healthy, active lifestyle, instead spending much of their longer lifespan battling various chronic health problems.
Helping people live better as they live longer is of critical global importance, says the BBC report, because the number of people worldwide aged 65 and older is expected to triple between now and 2050, to about 1.5 billion senior men and women. In the United Kingdom alone, of the total population of 65 million, as many as one in eight are expected to reach age 100. So are there really “secrets” that the rest of us can glean from observing the so-called superagers? In spite of the intriguing headline on the BBC article, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of substance. These “secrets” sound pretty basic to us. To be a superager you’ll need to:
- Maintain a positive attitude
- Broaden your horizons as you grow older by learning new things and trying new experiences
- Stay socially connected through community activities and volunteerism
- Remember to exercise both the mind and the body.
Here at AgingOptions, no matter how long you expect to live, our advice to you is straightforward: have a plan in place for your future. Don’t make the tragic mistake of thinking the type of retirement life you’re hoping for will simply happen as if by magic. Yes, you need to maintain your physical and mental health, have a purpose in life, and stay connected to family and community, but you also need to ask yourself some profound questions. Do I have an adequate financial plan? Are my wishes going to be protected legally? Are my housing choices consistent with my health, my income, and my chosen lifestyle? Are my medical needs adequately covered? Is my family fully on board and supportive of my wishes? With a LifePlan from AgingOptions as your retirement blueprint, the answer to all these questions is a confident “yes.”
We invite you find out more by joining Rajiv Nagaich at a free LifePlanning Seminar early in the New Year. These information-packed sessions are extremely popular, and we assure you you’ll be very glad you came. Remember, there’s no obligation whatsoever. For information and online registration, click here; or feel free to call us during the week for assistance. Retirement can be a time of security and great satisfaction, if you’re properly prepared – and that means a LifePlan from AgingOptions.
(originally reported at www.time.com and www.bbc.com)