10 Tips to Live Long, Die Short

10 Tips to Live Long, Die Short

Editor’s Note: In honor of Father’s Day, I want to share some personal reflections about my father.

At 84 years young, my Dad epitomizes successful aging. To maintain his health and strength, Dad lifts weights and does Pilates several times a week. In the summer months, Dad enjoys regular golf outings with friends of all ages. On a beautiful summer day, he walks around Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis.

Father's Day 2015 with my Dad

Father’s Day 2015 with my Dad

For the past six years, Dad has participated in the pioneering work of Act on Alzheimer’s, a collaborative workgroup in Minnesota that is shaping local and national policy on caring for those with dementia. He believes that Act on Alzheimer’s is the most fulfilling work of his life. Contributing his executive leadership skills to a cause he deeply believes in has given him a tremendous sense of purpose.

Dad is always expanding his mind, using the Great Courses to study quantum physics, explore philosophy and other topics that stretch his brilliant intellect. Until recently, he volunteered as a tutor for students studying for their GED (high school graduation equivalent). I marveled when Dad hired an algebra and science tutor to refresh the knowledge he’d gained in high school so that he would be poised to respond to his student’s questions. He reads several books a week, with a bent towards history and great literature.

His friends are multi-generational. Through book clubs, community activities, a weekly men’s group, and lifelong friendships, Dad engages socially with people of varied interests and ages. While he regularly experiences the grief of friends dying in their late years, Dad is able to draw from the strength and support of his younger friends to remain engaged in his life, while coping with loss.

Living a vital, expansive, and healthy life can lead to a short death.

In his book Live Long, Die Short, Dr. Roger Landry explores strategies to shorten the duration of the physical decline that ultimately leads to death. He cites Dr. James Fries’ 1982 research regarding of the “compression of morbidity” that allows individuals to die short.

Those who live healthy, social, purposeful lives will more likely die short instead of suffering through a long, slow decline that most older adults anticipate, fear, and experience. According to research conducted by the MacArthur Study, Landry shares, “70 percent of the physical difference and 50% of the intellectual difference between those who age in the usual way and those who aged more successfully was due to lifestyle—the choices we make every day.”

10 tips to live long, die short.

Landry offers these 10 tips to experience successful aging, with the goal of living long and dying short.

  1. Use it or lose it. Rarely do we abruptly choose to stop living. Rather, aches and pains or occasional forgetfulness insidiously challenge our willingness to participate. Regularly using our minds, bodies and social skills to remain engaged in living requires intention.
  2. Keep moving. Our sedentary culture has lulled us into acquiescing to an inactive lifestyle, particularly for older adults. Physical activity is vital to maintaining strength, endurance and balance.
  3. Challenge your brain. My mother’s twenty-year journey of living with Alzheimer’s has heightened my passion for maintaining a fit mind. According to Landry, brain fitness is fostered by:
    • Physical activity
    • Mental stimulation
    • Stress control
    • Regular relaxation
    • Balanced nutrition
  4. Stay connected. Cultivating friendships that span multiple generations is key to maintaining a sense of connection that can mitigate the reality of same-aged friends passing away. Invest in relationships that energize you. Make new friends. And while face-to-face time is optimal, technology can be leveraged allowing you to stay connected when distance or circumstances require it.
  5. Lower your risks. A professional health assessment with your physician can help to identify risks. Making small changes can reap significant rewards to maintain your well-being. Furthermore, for older adults living alone, consider seeking professional assistance to review your home for problem areas, in order reduce the risk of falling.
  6. Never “act your age.” Consider experiencing adventure, no matter what your age. Be open to spontaneity. Refuse to settle into an attitude of old age.
  7. Wherever you are…be there. Being mindful and truly present in the moment are life skills to hone at any age. Meditation and prayer can be helpful to develop a quieter mind and manage stress.
  8. Find your purpose. At every age, human beings need to feel their life has purpose. Investing your God-given skills into activities and causes that stir your heart will strengthen your sense of belonging and affirm your value.
  9. Have children in your life. The joy of children inspires and delights. Seeing the world through the eyes of a child offers a refreshing perspective. And with children, you can rediscover the pleasure of play.
  10. Laugh to a better life. We all know laughter is good medicine. It evokes a smile and even twinkling eyes. When we laugh, we are telegraphing positive energy to the world and to ourselves.

Aging well requires thoughtful pursuit and an attitude of overcoming obstacles. My Dad has often said that getting old is not for the faint of heart. As evidenced in his lifestyle choices, Dad is committed to living with zest and zeal. He is a great role model for me and for his many friends.

By investing yourself in several or all of these tips, you will reap significant reward. Live long, die short. That is my goal. How about you?

QUESTION: What strategies have worked for you to live fully and remain engaged as you age? Will you please offer your suggestions by adding a comment and sharing this post via social media?

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