Studies show that lifestyle decisions—quitting smoking, managing diet, exercising, staying active and involved—are vastly more important than one’s genetic inheritance in determining how long one lives as a functioning, independent individual. The “good news” of SUCCESSFUL AGING is “dump the old myths and take action now.” John W. Rowe, president of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, and Robert L. Kahn, professor emeritus of psychology and public health at the University of Michigan, have amassed and analyzed hundreds of studies. Defining successful aging as enjoying a low risk of disease and disease-related disability, maintaining high mental and physical function, continuing an active engagement with life, and avoiding unproven “remedies,” they show how and why growing old, really old, is for most an attainable goal.
Lifestyle determines almost entirely how successfully we age. We can grow old not just “gracefully” but happily, productively, and successfully. Rowe and Kahn argue that the mind-body connection becomes increasingly powerful as we age. Weight training, even for the very old, not only tones muscles and maintains bone mass in the elderly, it alleviates depression, creating a positive, can-do attitude that adds bounce to one’s step and years of good quality life.
Clearly written and readable, everyone should read and ponder this script for successful aging. Since an increasing percentage of the American population is now living into their eighties and nineties, it behooves us to learn our lines. We can significantly decrease our “determined risk” from genetic factors by taking action now to control obesity, quit smoking, become and stay physically active with both aerobic and resistance exercise, stay involved with people, and understand that staying mentally sharp is the rule, not the exception, for the elderly.