Do this ONE thing for a longer, healthier life

Longer, healthier lives already exist. However, we don’t necessarily all age well with few pains and no concern about our physical or mental wellbeing.  In fact, physical and cognitive decline are a significant worry for many as I wrote about here.

Now, we could wait for the miracle anti-ageing pill being researched and tested by Dr David Sinclair at Harvard University, however, it’s ten or more years away. And whilst billionaires such as Paul Allen and Sergey Brin co-founders of Microsoft and Google respectively, invest millions in anti-ageing research, there’s nothing available that will make a difference to our lives today.

Our lives are longer today than at any other time in history thanks to progress in medicine and healthcare. Although some seek to defy the natural physical processes of ageing with Botox, plastic surgery, or beauty products, others simply aspire to age well. The idea of occupying our bodies into decline via a nursing home to death appeals to … well, no one actually.

However, there is one thing that we can all do today that makes a significant difference to how we age.

That one thing?

Weight-bearing exercise.

The benefits

Of course some exercise is better than none. However, research undertaken by exercise physiologist Dr Tim Henwood with older adults, including one study that involved residents of an aged care facility with an average age of 86 years old, found that there were numerous advantages associated with a tailored weight bearing exercise program.

Benefits revealed in Dr Henwood’s research included:

  1. Improvement in overall health and wellbeing;
  2. Enhanced sleep;
  3. Reduced symptoms of disease associated with physical and/or mental decline;
  4. Better bone density;
  5. Reduced falls; and,
  6. Greater general strength and ability to be independent.

With falls a leading cause of injury for those aged over 65 years, it’s worthwhile considering what activities can reduce the likelihood of these occurring. Weight-bearing exercise is one proven way to make a difference and have an impact on falls prevention.

However, there’s another advantage. Social relationships and connection.

Bonus of weight-bearing exercise

Loneliness is a significant issue for people as they age and is now being equated to smoking 15 cigarettes a day. By undertaking a weight bearing exercise program with an exercise physiologist or suitably qualified personal trainer at a gym or facility that knows and understands older bodies, a person is able to informally meet and connect with others.

Another advantage of a gym is the opportunity to meet and speak with people of all ages. To build relationships inter-generationally.

3 tips for selecting a trainer and gym

When embarking on a new weight-bearing exercise program there are 3 essential factors to consider:

1.What qualifications do the exercise physiologists (EP) or personal trainers (PT) have to train older people? Ask.

Whilst working with a young, enthusiastic, optimistic young, good looking man/woman might appeal, if they don’t have the right training they could cause minor injuries such as strains or pains that are inconvenient and mean you can’t exercise at all for a period of time. This type of experience could also reduce your interest or desire to continue.

2. Who does the EP or PT currently work with who is older? Ask for references and speak to some existing clients.

3. What initial testing do they do to design the program? Is it free or does it cost money? How much?

4. How do they manage, monitor, and develop your program? If finances are a consideration, you could ask for a new program once a month. In between sessions you could work independently either at the gym or at home.

In the early stages you may not be lifting the types of weights these ladies seem to do with relative ease. Sometimes specific exercises utilise our own body weight and that’s challenging enough. Over time, who knows? We might become a weight-lifting champion.

In the meantime, it’s just about starting.

Make an enquiry.

Speak to friends.

Go to a gym.

Make it a social occasion and a regular part of the week. It really is one of the best things we can do to enable us to age well.

Note: If in doubt, seek medical advice prior to undertaking physical activity if you have health issues or any concerns about your ability to do this type of exercise

Image credit: Photo by Parvana Praveen on Unsplash

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5 things worse then dying

5 things more scary than dying 

It’s reasonably well-known that many people fear public speaking more than they fear dying.  However, as we age, a number of other fears enter our consciousness beyond the sense of foreboding, dread, or denial that can occur as we age.

A bonus of ageing is that we commonly celebrate another decade passing.  Whether that celebration involve a party, an adventure, or a quiet dinner at home with a loved one or friends. We’ve lived another 10 years!  However, the celebrations are usually for the life we’ve lived, not the life before us.

Who celebrates a 50th, 60th, 70th or 80th birthday because of what they’ve experienced and because of your enthusiasm for the next decade? Compare this feeling to the experience of celebrating an 18th or 21st.  Generally, these birthdays are celebrated as a milestone because they represent a turning point in our life.  A time when we can look forward to new and exciting experiences and adventures.  What can we possibly look forward to in our 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and beyond?  Isn’t this a time when “it’s all downhill from here”?

No.

Well, it doesn’t have to be.

As this well known quote so succinctly states

“If it’s going to be.  It’s up to me.”   

With lifespans longer than at any other time in history, it’s time to re-think how we look forward to, think, and plan for our later years.

5 things scarier than dying

In a recent survey of baby boomers conducted by Three Sisters Group, we discovered that this age group found these 5 things more scary than dying:

1. Physical and/or cognitive decline

2. Nursing homes

3. Retirement villages

4. Loneliness

5. Being like our parents

The question is:  If we’re afraid of these things, what are we doing about it?

The reality is, physical exercise combined with good diet and a healthy lifestyle (not smoking, low alcohol intake) are the two things most likely to make the biggest difference to our lives.  Furthermore, just these two ideas could influence whether or not a nursing home becomes a reality or simply an unfounded fear.

There’s so much to look forward to as we become older.  In fact, one study (1) has shown that our life satisfaction in our 60’s and beyond is equivalent to when we were teenagers!  As a friend shared with me, being physically active and not playing the age card are essential to enjoying our later life.  And Jane Goodall simply doesn’t think about ageing.

Of course planning everything in our life isn’t necessary either.  It’s really about our level of enthusiasm for what we’re doing and what might happen in the future.  I’ll never forget my grandmother telling me that she always carried her passport with her wherever she was in Australia just in case a friend called asking her if she’d like to go overseas with them.

And if you’re wondering … there was a time she spontaneously went on a cruise and asked her friend in Perth to pack her bag for her and she’d meet her in Sydney at the cruise ship (she was in Darwin) .  Unfortunately she did end up in a nursing home – despite her best efforts to live a very full life. At least she maximised her able years to the best of her ability.

 

Source:

(1) Qu, L., & de Vsus, D. (2015). Life satisfaction across life course transitions (Australian Family Trends No.8). Melbourne: Australian Insitute of Family Studies.

 

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Over 50 paradox

The 5 paradoxes of ageing & stereotypes

Ageing is the opposite of the term WYSIWYG: ‘what you see is what you get’. What you see is not what you get. Often there’s a chasm between outdated stereotypes of the over 50’s and their actual lived reality.

Invariably, when we think of an older person we see grey hair, wrinkles, and a stack of stereotypes often associated with ageing. For example, people over 50 are often considered less capable with their technology use, less fit or able, or someone with a poor memory, or simply “past it” when it comes to working or being employable. In fact, being over 50 is often associated with loss: loss of hearing; loss of eyesight; and, loss of memory.

The reality of the over 50’s

People over 50 are fit, healthy, technology literate, and keen to maintain some type of either full-time or part-time employment. In a study we recently conducted comprising in-depth interviews, small group discussions, and a survey of 500 baby boomers technology was generally not an issue – particularly for the younger baby boomers (between 50-65 years).  In fact this generation use technology for news, movies, staying in touch with friends (they’re big Facebook users), emails, games, and messaging. However, there are paradoxes.

5 paradoxes of ageing

Our study,  revealed these paradoxes:

  1. Whilst we might see a person with grey hair and wrinkles, according to our survey, baby boomers consider themselves at least 3 years younger than their actual age. In conversations with this age group they often say that they feel 10-25 years younger!
  2. On working … the paradox is that baby boomers often want to work, however, they want greater flexibility (potentially part time), and potentially less responsibility.
  3. The greatest paradoxes exist in the area of health. For example, over two-thirds of respondents rated their health as good/excellent. Yet, the majority also suggested that they were slowing down and experiencing poorer eyesight.
  4. Over half of our sample reported arthritis and aching knees. Similarly about half of this sample stated that they experienced forgetfulness and were concerned about dementia/Alzheimer’s.

“The only thing I hate about getting older is that your health starts to deteriorate, and that to me is the most important thing – having good health.” (Female, 50-64)

  1. Nearly everyone in considers diet and exercise as essential for healthy ageing, yet:
  • Only 20% of respondents had a fitness monitor (representing a huge opportunity for                                       the fitness monitor market);
  • None indicated that they undertook resistance training or did weight-bearing exercise                                  (crucial to healthy ageing, particularly for bone density and strength).

Forget the age stereotypes

The lived experience of a baby boomer is generally quite different to perceptions. The opportunity lies in delivering products and services that meet the needs of the over 50’s. However, when it comes to marketing don’t sell to ‘old people’.  Outdated stereotypical views of the over 50’s limits thinking and stifles creativity (e.g. Cliched images of silver-haired couples on a yacht or a couple strolling hand-in-hand on a white sandy beach are over-used, corny and misleading).

This age-group is varied and interesting. Don’t miss the opportunity.

If you’d like to know or understand more, please drop us a note at livinginsights@threesistersgroup.com.au with your details.  We’ll get in touch to arrange a time for a discussion about your challenges in reaching this significant market segment. We’re committed to changing ageing. We look forward to speaking with you.

 

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Retirement: Recreation or Re-creation?

Around 500,000 Australians will retire this year. What are you looking forward to in retirement? Maybe some travel? Catching up on reading all those books you always planned to get through? More time on the golf course?

With lifespans longer than at any other time in history, the reality is, if we retire at 65, or even earlier at 55 or 60, travel, reading, and leisure doesn’t necessarily sustain us for a healthy, happy later life of up to 20+ years.

Recreation plays a big part in the hopes and dreams of the pre-retired. However, the aftermath of an extended European vacation or a move to the countryside, can present retirees with a host of new emotional challenges they hadn’t anticipated.

 

Post-retirement blues?

The unexpected loss of purpose that can strike retirees is often a challenge. The euphoria of the daily grind of work now replaced with the lack of stimulation, interaction with colleagues – of all ages, and relatively mundane routine with friends of the same age or older. A sense of emptiness that can ensue as a result of being an empty nester and simply remaining at home with you and your partner can be both confronting and testing.

Those who choose a sea change, tree change or downsize from a house to an apartment, or move to over 55’s living or a retirement village, have a new set of challenges associated with becoming established in a new community as this couple discovered.

So what’s retirement then if not travel, relaxation, and not working (yay!)?

Retirement is more than recreation.  It’s a time for re-creation.

 

The Third Phase

Whether lonely or bored or neither, retirement is a time for recreating ourselves and maximising this Third Phase of life.

Volunteering and being involved with community activities are essential for healthy ageing, as is physical exercise and healthy eating. Expanding existing interests such as joining a book club (from being a casual book-reader) and resurrecting past hobbies (I’m finally going to restore that old bike that’s been sitting in the garage…and go riding again) are a great place to start. However, discovering new interests (I’m going to take up French lessons), hobbies (tai-chi, University of the 3rd Age, piano playing, dancing), and even re-training (go back to uni as this 93-year-old did, or qualify as a personal trainer or yoga teacher) are all possibilities for our re-creation.

 

Re-creation & dementia

Dementia is the single greatest cause of disability in older Australians (aged 65 years or older)[1]. Throwing yourself into completely new hobbies, interests, and learning not only keeps you busy, but by forcing the brain to learn new things, it staves off cognitive decline. It is imperative that a concerted effort be made to keep the brain stimulated with active learning and ‘doing’, otherwise we raise our likelihood of becoming part of the dementia epidemic.

So … with potentially 20 or 30 years (or more) of life to live after retirement, how will you re-create yourself when you retire? What are your plans?

Let me know. I’d love to hear from you.

 

This article is part of a series by Three Sisters Group on changing attitudes to marketing to the over-50s. It calls attention to the need to challenge our stereotypes about getting older and seeks to build understanding about how attitudes to ageing impact all aspects of our lives – from research, to workplace practices, marketing activity, community services, planning and housing.

[1] 1 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2012) Dementia in Australia.

 
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Eric’s 5 tips for happily ageing

Eric’s a good friend. He turns 80 this year. He’s lively, fun, interesting and an inspiration for ageing well. He’s not a doddering ‘old man’ and looks significantly younger than his actual age. When I asked him recently what he thought was the secret to ageing well, this is what he told me …

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