Many of us grew up with grandparents who seemed old when they were really only middle age. Today, in the year 2013, those of us into anti-aging medicine consider the 60’s age group as we once used to think of the 40’s age group – getting older but still youthful and full of life. In fact, the concept of “ageism” is more and more being taken off the table as we see people in their 80s and 90s running and winning marathons, operating businesses or working in other ways. Thousands of people around the world now live to be 100 and over!
Inspire Future Generations: Stay Active, Healthy and Self-Reliant
With my clients, I’ve found that the healthiest older people are those who put the effort into maintaining a healthy lifestyle when they were younger. People who grew up in households watching grandparents and parents who were more active and living healthy lifestyles usually maintained that kind of lifestyle as well.
However, if you didn’t experience this type of role model, it doesn’t mean it’s too late for you to make changes to improve your health. Even if you’re in your 50’s or over, there’s still time to get yourself in better shape. Not only will you increase your chances of staying healthier the older you get, but you’ll inspire your own kids, and even your grandkids, to become more active and healthier themselves.
A recent research study out of UT Southwestern University Cooper Institute has shown that if you’re in shape by your middle-age years (45-65), you’ll be much healthier as you get older. Their study showed that people who increased their fitness levels by only 20% had a significant reduction in risk of developing the debilitating diseases of older age like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, osteoarthritis, and even cancer.
It’s not all about physical fitness – it’s mental and spiritual fitness too. Good health involves your ability to take an active role in what happens as you age and not believe that your well-being is all up to fate or chance. Researchers say that being self-reliant and having a healthy sense of reality – even a little on the pessimistic side – will actually help you live longer and in better health. Surprising, I know, but it’s true. Here’s why…
People who are a little more pessimistic about life tend to take better care of themselves. That doesn’t mean becoming a “gloomy Gus” either. It just means that if you have more realistic expectations about how to stay healthier and active as you get older, you’re more likely to be more responsible about your health, safety and life choices. Unlike being too optimistic and casting the fate of your older years to the wind, you’ll take the necessary steps – like getting optimal nutrition, proper exercise, rest and keeping socially engaged –to enhance the quality of your older years.
Studies out of Chicago’s Rush University support this as well. They show that, in a group of people in their 80’s, those who exercised regularly and had an active, fulfilling social life live longer. But they didn’t just live longer – they also lived better. They were more likely to stay out of a nursing home and far less likely to lose their memory.
I’ve seen it in my healthiest clients as well. They credit their own health and passion for life from their “good genes” – coming from a long line of self-reliant, active parents and grandparents. Become your kids/grandkids “go to” blueprint. Developing solid family relationships, built around healthy living, helps foster positive views, and behavior toward achieving a happy life as they age. Here’s some advice on how to do it:
1. Family fitness outings. Get your kids and grandkids (or maybe just the grandkids if their parents need a break) together for regular family fitness outings with you. Take a hike together, play fun and active “team” games like badminton, soccer, tennis. Teach your grandkids how to swim, ride bikes together, go to the gym, or how to do weight training and different types of aerobic exercise.
2. Get involved in their lives. Ask and learn about what your kids/grandkids are doing – school activities, hobbies, recreational time. Similarly, share what you’re doing in your life – the work you do or did, the music you like, books you read, movies you watch, hobbies you like to do. Introduce them to your older, active friends. Get together regularly and cook/eat healthy meals together. Be the family historian and tell them about their great grandparents, and other people in their family to give them a sense of continuity of who they are. Pass on your wisdom – tell them about your childhood and even some of the silly things you did growing up– even Grandma’s and Grandpa’s mistakes can be valuable learning lessons.
I think the best way you can ensure that your family’s future generations enjoy good health into their older years is to be the best role model that you can be. Teach your kids/grandkids to live a healthy, active and happy lifestyle by doing the same yourself.
The added benefit is that you’ll also continue to improve your own health and will be able to enjoy even more of your older years with your family as well.
Dale Brown, B.S., M.A., C.E.C.
Natural Health News
Live Longer, Be a Little More Pessimistic, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130227101929.htm
How to Be a Better Grandparent http://www.helpguide.org/mental/grandparenting.htm