Aging

Aging

How Travel Opens Up Your Life

How Travel Opens Up Your Life

Few people need to be persuaded to travel. But, for those who don’t feel the excitement that comes from exploring new places at home and abroad, they might be missing real opportunities to grow. I know, as a life-long traveler, it’s done wonders for me.

First, travel promotes sharper thinking. Everyone knows that to keep one’s mind sharp means to exercise it regularly. For this, many run out to get crossword puzzle and/or Sudoku books, play trivia games, or seek to learn a foreign language—all excellent ideas. Similarly, traveling as a hobby produces mind-enhancing experiences. Think about it—when you travel, so many things are new: the landscape, architecture, environment, culture, religion, food, currency and language—all calling to you to experience, explore and learn. By definition, traveling necessitates planning, attentiveness and self-sufficiency, which engage your mind.
Second, travel necessitates physical activity. Yes, there are ways to travel without increased exercise, but what’s the fun of that? When planning your trip, include some physical activity. For example, sign up for walking tours and bike rides, try water sports, fishing, hiking or just go venture out on your own by foot. This is the best kind of exercise because it’s masked in fun and discovery!
Third, travel relieves stress. Imagine that! Travel gives you the opportunity to move away from day-to-day activities and responsibilities and just relax.
Fourth, travel broadens your perspective. I saved this one for last because it’s the benefit that will have the greatest impact on your life. The one lesson I’ve learned from travel is that people don’t know when they’re living with narrow-minded points-of-view until they see evidence of conflicting perspectives. Invariably, travel brings this to light. The best part is that whether you agree with the new perspective or not, you’ve experienced it and can take it into consideration.

These are four benefits that should tempt you to plan your next trip. Whether it’s overseas or over to another town, take advantage of the benefits of leaving your comfort zone and go travel!

Ten Tips for Living Audaciously

Ten Tips for Living Audaciously

To become a centenarian, here are 10 tips that promote longevity and healthy living.

Get rid of the phrase, “I am too old” for this or that. It’s a self-imposed limitation rather than a mindset of being open to new learning, skills and opportunities at any age.
Find a reason to get up in the morning. Pursue your purpose. Your life matters!
Connect with something higher than yourself. Fate and spirituality enhance our lives.
Be more optimistic. Look on the bright side. Focus on solutions, not problems.
Get moving. Pick physical activities that you can do. Make movement a habit. You will feel better physically and mentally.
Stay fueled. Be mindful of your food choices. Make informed decisions about nutrition and quantity of intake. Most experts agree that a Mediterranean-type diet is best. It’s chock full of lean protein, fresh fruits and vegetables.
Create your own personal Blue Zones. Blue Zones are geographical areas around the world where individuals live significantly longer than in other areas. Some reasons why include lower stress rates among residents, their sense of gratitude and their ability to live in the present.
Don’t do it alone. Connect with others, especially those who share your beliefs and also have a desire to become a centenarian.
Believe in yourself. If you don’t who will? Become the person you want to be, and experience the rewards.
Seize the day. Live life today. The past is gone. The future might never be.

The Joy of Music, Movement and Dance

The Joy of Music, Movement and Dance

According to a University of Oxford study, there are many social and health benefits to dance. Even for people who believe they have “two left feet”, dancing helps people feel closer to and more connected to others. (Tom Barnes, https://mic.com, 11/4/15).

As we age, it’s true that some people have more limited mobility, yet just listening to the music provides an alternate way of participating in this very social activity. Clap your hands and sing along with the music, and allow the associated memories to contribute to a positive experience.

If you doubt benefits of music and dance, just think about the popularity of shows like “Dancing with the Stars” or “So You Think You Can Dance”. Even “armchair dancers” will tell you that their experience lifts their spirits and lessens depression.

While music and dance might not be for everyone, movement is still important. Follow these simple tips for keeping active and providing your body and soul with the stimulation it needs to thrive.

Make a commitment to move a little more every day. Whether it’s walking in the house, going to the gym, hiking or engaging in sports, make movement a habit.
Develop a buddy system. Find a friend, relative or neighbor who will support and encourage you to move more, and you can do the same for that person.
When possible, walk don’t ride. In malls, hotels, office buildings or other two-story (or higher) facilities, avoid escalators and elevators. Walk instead.

Look for new ways to move. If you were a tennis player and can no longer play, consider swimming. Develop other interests and take pride in doing what you can do. Focus on the “ability” not the “disability”.

Healthy Aging

Healthy Aging

There is no magical way to halt or reverse the aging process completely, but there are steps each of us can take. The first is to admit you are getting older. We all are. So stop fighting it. Embrace it. Own it. Even love it. While it’s true that there could be some  physical, and cognitive challenges that come with age, “age” is just a number. So modify your perception and adopt an attitude that proclaims, “I can and will live long and well, just like other chronologically-gifted centenarians.” I will do it, and so can you.

In the process, make a commitment to yourself, recognizing you may not be young anymore but you are still capable of growing. That belief is essential and one thing that all generations have in common. At any and every age, we only continue to thrive as we seek to improve and evolve into more well-rounded people. Whatever changes, no matter how small, you make that positively alter your outlook, your skills, your physical being or other aspects of living, will help benefit your self-esteem and enable you to become a little stronger every day as you strive to achieve the status of chronologically-gifted—dying healthy as a supercentenarian.

To begin the process of healthy aging, embark on a journey of adjusting your attitude by considering these four suggestions.

Think hard about why you want to live longer. Adopt a purpose.
Make a list of things you think you’re getting “too old for”. As you evolve, you will look at this list differently and process it with more optimism.
Make a list of things you’re not ready to give up. Be age inappropriate in spite what the ‘ageist’ society wants you to believe. Be adventurous; start something novel! It is never too late. This is a much more enjoyable exercise. List everything that comes to mind when you think of the stuff that makes life worth living. Be specific.
Fall in love with yourself again. This is not about narcissism. It’s about developing a healthy sense of self-love, wrinkles and all, and recognize you are the person who has a lot to offer.

Regardless of your chronological age, there are meaningful opportunities to participate in life. Seek them out. Defy  the “nay-sayers”. Embrace the aging process. Don’t fight it! I plan to reach the ripe age of 123. And you can too.

The Quest for Immortality

The Quest for Immortality

Did you know… Scientists have been fascinated with the quest for immortality for centuries. In the last decade, however, there have been new discoveries that may contribute significantly to extending life. One study that might have some implications for humans comes from research on jellyfish. It seems that adult jellyfish can transform themselves through a process called trans-differentiation, which involves converting one type of cell into another and back into a juvenile form. (Discover Magazine, May 2015).

In addition, there is a lot of interest in cloning and stem cell research. In a 2014 article in Nature News, author, Monya Baker, reported “two research groups have independently produced human embryonic stem-cell lines from embryos cloned from adult cells.” Their success, she says, “could reinvigorate efforts to use such cells to make patient-specific replacement tissues for degenerative diseases.” This process is expected to expand into other areas in the future.

But the interest in mortality is not without its philosophical, ethical and theological questions. To address some of those issues, the University of California, Riverside, is involved in a research project called, “The Immortality Project”. According to an article in The Press-Enterprise, May 27, 2015, researchers are studying and hope to answer questions that include:

“Whether and in what form(s) persons survive or could survive bodily death
Whether and to what extent persons’ beliefs about immortality influence their behavior, attitudes and character
Why and how persons are (at least pre-reflectively) disposed to believe in post-mortem survival
Whether it is in some areas irrational to desire immortality.”

As the average life span of humans increases, scientists and other researchers continue to investigate diet, drugs, genetics, medical advancements, lifestyle choices and other factors that impact physical, mental and emotional health that defy the aging process.

Playing Games Keeps the Brain Young

Playing Games Keeps the Brain Young

Did you know… Mental activity prolongs the youthfulness of the brain. People who play games like bridge, Sudoku, chess and board games and do crossword puzzles and other brain teasers tend to ward off dementia longer than those who don’t. The same is true for individuals who engage in other forms of intellectual activity such as reading, listening to the radio, going to lectures, and visiting museums.

The basis for this phenomenon comes from the ongoing stimulation of the hippocampus. It is the part of the brain that is responsible for memory. Playing games increases blood flow to this area and creates new nerve activity. In this manner, the brain stays younger longer.

In the end, mental activity is not only fun but good for you too. Remember the adage, “if you don’t use it, you lose it”… It applies to the aging process. In this context, focus on fun, knowing that playing games and engaging in other intellectual pursuits represent the mental activity that can become a life-extension habit worth developing.

The Path to Longevity

The Path to Longevity

Did you know… according to the U.S. government’s Administration on Aging:

The population age of those 65 and over numbered 46.2 million in 2014, which is a 28% increase since 2004.
Persons reaching age 65 have an average life expectancy of an additional 19.3 years.
In 2014, there were more than 72,000 people in the U.S. who were 100 years or older.
The 85+ population is projected to triple from 6.2 million in 2014 to 14.6 million in 2014 and is projected to more than double to 98 million by 2060.

These are staggering numbers, and it’s why I share them with my audiences when I talk about longevity.

But knowing the statistics is not enough. We need to ask why is it that some people become centennials and super-centennials (those who are 110+) and others don’t? One of the contributing factors is the development of self-worth. Personal worth generally emanates from a passion that reaches deep into the very core of our being. It’s what drives us to do whatever it takes to preserve our ability to be a player in the world and not merely a passive observer on the way out of it.

Passion, in turn, is rooted in conscientiousness and service to others. Conscientious people seek the fulfillment of accomplishment through hard work. They take pride in the things they do and are internally motivated to succeed in that which they set their mind to. Conscientiousness is a personality trait that requires a level of maturity and emotional intelligence. It is the opposite of the “entitled” perspective or the belief that because you’ve reached a certain age, you have earned the right to retire. That mindset is the kiss of death.

The alternative is to begin your journey towards becoming chronologically-gifted with some serious, thoughtful consideration of what your purpose is (or will be) for your remaining years. Think of your life the way a marathoner thinks about the 26.2 miles ahead of him/her. It requires conscious training to hold out against the odds, seek like-minded companions, and always keep the goal in the forefront of your mind.

Losing a Spouse

Losing a Spouse

There’s no way around it. At some point, one person in a marriage is going to outlive the other. Sometimes, death is sudden. At other times, spouses watch their significant others decline physically, mentally and spiritually for extended periods. Regardless of the circumstances, these are difficult times, but for those who have advance knowledge of a pending death, there can be very loving times where couples can share memories, express their love for one another, provide comfort and say their good-byes.

However when death comes, many people initially react with unemotional detachment and only later allow themselves to experience and express grief.

In her 1969 book, “On Death and Dying,” Elizabeth Kubler-Ross proposed five stages of grief: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. While most people go through these phases, they don’t do it in the same way, at the same time. Talk to anyone who has lost a spouse. They often express there are days that they think they’re finished with the tears, the depression and the loneliness, and then all of a sudden those emotions come back again. In other words, healing from the loss of a spouse is not a linear process. Others can help but they can’t go through the process for you. In fact, coping with loss is highly personal.

The aloneness is something most people will continue to feel for a long timebut there are steps you can take to comfort and heal the soul.

Stay busy with activities that are meaningful to you. Whether it’s participating in special interest or religious groups, seeing friends, spending more time with family, traveling, etc., activity has a healing property to it.
Be affectionate with others. Getting and giving hugs are important.
Engage in new routines around the house. If you’re a night person, try going to sleep earlier and waking earlier. If you’re accustomed to spending time in one room, explore the other rooms. Make changes that will make your home comfortable to you.

In the end, remember it’s your life. You can choose to be happy or sad. You can choose to engage or isolate yourself. Think about what your spouse would want for you and remember each day, you can make a different decision about overcoming the loneliness of losing a spouse.

With time, you will learn to be open again, to engage and find a new partner with whom to share your life. Believe in yourself and know that you can create a life filled with joy, meaning and connection!

Two Simple Concepts About Aging

Two Simple Concepts About Aging

There are many complex theories about aging—so many that thinking, reading and processing your beliefs can be overwhelming and, sometimes even demotivating. However, in my opinion, we can identify two principles that are essential for living the lifestyle of the chronologically gifted. They are: 1) get moving and 2) stay fueled.

That’s it. It’s pretty simple. People who want to live longer and better lives simply find ways to keep active and eat well. That’s not a surprise, and it’s not magic. People who are active are naturally healthier than those who are not. The truth is, we weren’t created to live sedentary lives. So what can you do to become more active? There are many opportunities, whether it’s walking more, going to the gym, dancing, shopping… anything that gets you up and around. To do this requires a shift in your daily routines and a mindset adjustment. Exercise and activity should not be considered drudgery. Think about it in terms of helping your body to get stronger, more fit and more flexible. Your workouts can be low intensity, but it’s important for them to be consistent and regular. There’s no need to train like a marathon runner. Instead, have fun. Set goals. Start with a pedometer and see how many steps you take in a day. Then make a commitment to increase your activity and the resulting steps daily. As you experience success, you will find that you are happier and that you look forward to the day’s activities knowing they will contribute to your progress toward a meaningful fitness goal and a longer life.

Once you get moving, staying fueled is the second principle involved in healthy aging. Notice the terminology. We didn’t say go on a diet. Diets are punitive and make people feel deprived. For the most part, they don’t work. A better approach is to use the information we have about food and nutrition to our advantage. Here are five simple ideas to implement so that your body experiences the maximum fuel it needs to keep you energized all day.

Eat small amounts frequently throughout the day. Don’t skip meals.
Enjoy lots of fresh fruit, fresh vegetables and whole grains.
Include a lot of variety in your meal planning in terms of texture and color.
Stay hydrated throughout the day. Water is best but green tea and other liquids have value too.

Don’t deny yourself the “bad” foods you love. Just eat them in moderation. Eating should not involve guilt.

Healthy Aging Begins with Attitude

Healthy Aging Begins with Attitude

We’re all aging. There’s no way around it. By the time I write this blog and you read it, we’ve aged by hours, days, weeks and maybe longer. So what? While there is no magical way to halt or reverse the aging process, we do have control over our attitude about aging. As Dr. Andrew Weil counsels, “The denial of aging and the attempt to fight it are counterproductive.”

So stop right now and admit it. You’re getting older. No need to fight it. Embrace it. Own it and even love it.

What are the advantages of aging you ask? You can stop pretending. You can accept yourself for who you are and make conscious choices about living in the moment. Aging doesn’t mean you’ve stopped growing. You are a work in process—acquiring knowledge, improving skills, deepening relationships, doing for others, all while leaving a robust legacy for those who are important to you.

Remember, no matter what your age is, there will always be people younger and older than you are. Keep that in mind. When you get up in the morning, challenge yourself to create your day so that when you go to sleep at night you will be able to answer the questions, “What did I think, say or do that helped me make the world a better place?” It’s not that hard. As Nike says, “Just do it.”

Facts About Aging

Facts About Aging

The aging population around the world is increasing at an unprecedented pace, and the numbers are astounding. According to the World Health Organization: (http://www.who.int/aging/about/facts/en/)

Between 2000 and 2050, the proportion of the world’s population over 60 years old will double from about 11% to 22%.
The absolute number of people aged 60 years and over is expected to increase from 605 million to 2 billion over the same period.
The number of people aged 80 years or older will have almost quadrupled between 2000 and 2050 to 395 million.

Other interesting statistics include:

 The number of 55+ is the fastest growing population in the United States and around the world.
There are more than 53,000 centenarians (persons that live to be 100 and beyond) in the United States, and more than 316,000 worldwide. Japan, according the a United Nations survey, has the highest number of this age group and will continue to lead the way in the foreseeable future.

The lesson for all of us is: Older is not old. Views have changed in recent years. Longevity in the 21st century is not what it was just a few decades ago. We are in the midst of an “Aging Revolution” that forces us to confront our beliefs and behaviors about the past, present and future. There’s no doubt about it. Living longer comes with challenges and opportunities. Let this be a time to face them with humor, grace, practicality, confidence and openness to what is yet to come.

Misconceptions About Aging

Misconceptions About Aging

It’s time to challenge ourselves about what we think about getting older. In previous eras, people thought about the “sunset” years as a time of declining physical and mental health, a period where purpose and connection dwindle, and isolation and depression take over one’s existence. However, that needn’t be the case. Chronological age does not correlate with functional age. There can be a vast difference. Research indicates even late in life, the potential exists for physical, mental and social growth and development. Yesterday’s 65 is today’s 55.

Believe it or not, we are in control of our own aging process. Think about the people in your life. Do you know two 70 year olds whose chronological age is the same but whose outlook, energy and productivity are very different? There are some individuals who sink into depression and become victims to their own self-limiting beliefs. Yet many studies show seniors are among the happiest age group. It’s really a matter of attitude. Loneliness can be another problem for seniors but those who plan activities with family and friends, participate at a senior center, attend a place of worship, go to cultural and entertainment events and continue to learn and study overcome social isolation.

Some other myths about aging include fear of dementia, loss of creativity, the ability to contribute in a positive way and loss of libido. Yet all of these fears can be lessened through personal choice. It’s time to embrace aging by making the decision to live in the here and now, seize the moment, and engage in stretch activities. It’s this mindset that creates individuals who are more productive, who will live longer, and who enjoy more meaningful lives.

What Does “Old” Really Mean?

What Does “Old” Really Mean?

Ask a handful of people to describe what comes to mind when they hear the word “old.” You might be surprised at the variety of answers you would receive. That’s because “old” is a word that carries a surprising mixture of connotations, not all of which are negative. Sure, there are definitely those who would associate “old” with words like “obsolete” or “weak”. Or you might hear common phrases like “past her prime” and the always-popular “over the hill”. Such expressions indicate how readily our culture relegates the latter years of life to a period of steady decline—not only in physiological health but also in social prominence, personal originality and cultural relevance.

One of the most renown doctors in the field of natural health and wellness, Dr. Andrew Weil, asks the question, “Does the worth of human life diminish with age?”, and his response is that unfortunately in many circles, it does. With this kind of mindset, is it any wonder that many seniors react to the prospect of aging with dread and despair? In other words, instead of gearing up, they give up.

Fortunately, this is not the only perception of aging. In some circles, the message about aging is more positive. Elders are seen as wise, mature, seasoned and experience. They are respected and revered. Growing old does not mean you will become senile, nor does it mean that you will become unproductive, unengaged or inflexible. Just how you age is a personal decision. Be mindful of that and reap the rewards of a healthy mixture of acceptance and enthusiasm.

Blue Zones: What’s It All About?

Blue Zones: What’s It All About?

According to Wikipedia, Blue Zones represent “a concept used to identify a demographic and/or geographic area of the world where people live measurably longer lives. The concept grew out of demographic work done by Gianni Pes and Michel Poulain, who identified Sardinia’s Nuoro province as the region with the highest concentration of male centenarians.”

Dan Buettner, author of “The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest”, identified five regions where this phenomenon is true. They are: Sadinia’s Nuoro province, the islands of Okinawa, Japan, Loma Linda, California, Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica and Icaria in Greece.

The people who live in these Blue Zones share common lifestyle characteristics that seem to have a positive impact on longevity. Those characteristics include:

Making family a priority and putting family ahead of other life concerns
Not smoking as much as other populations
Eating a vegetarian (or semi-vegetarian) diet including a higher consumption of legumes.
Being more physically active (these folks are not couch potatoes).
Having a higher degree of social engagement. In these regions, people are not isolated and they are integrated into their communities.

In addition, people who live in Blue Zones seem to have a greater sense of purpose. They have a reason for getting up in the morning. In Okinawa, this concept is called “ikigai”, which has to do with knowing one’s self, including expectations and hopes. It’s the self-confidence that comes from doing what you love, knowing what your passions are, what your mission in life is, how you are going to make a contribution to the world. It has very little to do with one’s economic status in life but rather comes from a mental or spiritual place.

As a child during the Holocaust, staying alive against great odds was one of my greatest challenges. As a result, I learned to stare into the face of death with defiance. That approach led me to celebrate life with a passion and zest for knowledge. My quest introduced me to the Blue Zone principles, which I have been following for more than 40 years. I’ve made a conscious effort to take care of my mind through lifelong learning, honor my body through regular exercise and vegetarian diet and participate in Tikun Olam (repairing the world through inspirational speaking and community involvement). In this way, I have every intention of experiencing the longevity goals of Blue Zone individuals and achieving super-centennial status. AMEN.

On Life After Death

On Life After Death

I don’t know about reincarnation. I don’t try to explain the phenomenon if it exists. I know there is an energy that survives life. Nothing is lost in this universe. We come into this life; we go back into the earth. We become fertilizer for growth of other life forms. As far as the spirit is concerned, perhaps it is an electrical phenomenon. Perhaps it is a form of light which goes forth and does its thing. So be it.

I don’t know about an afterlife. Psychiatrist, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross wrote a lot about near-death, death and dying. During her life she worked with 20,000 people who had been declared clinically dead and who later returned to life. In part, these experiences are what led her to believe in the afterlife. While there are many skeptics in the medical and scientific community who believe her studies did not follow rigorous standards, there are some who support her scientific understandings.

I believe like a computer we shut down when we die. Some people who have “died” and “come back to life” report seeing lights, detachment from the body, feelings of levitation, serenity, security, peace, warmth, a tunnel and so forth. That’s not unusual. I recall hearing about a little boy in Israel. As the story goes, before he learned to read, he knew the Bible from cover to cover and could explain the Talmud. The question is: How in the world is that possible? Rather than believing he is a reincarnation of another person, perhaps DNA is passed down through generations and that boy had a memory of knowledge from his ancestors. We know traits are inherited. We are genetically programmed. Who knows? Such accounts definitely give one pause to think.