We all age. Yet, the experience of aging is unique for each of us.
How can you know if the changes you notice are just a part of getting older or the start of a serious disease? Until recently, this seemingly simple question was baffling even to scientists and clinicians.
Then, a perfect storm of events happened…
In the late 1980’s, the study of aging was still preoccupied with disability and disease. The longest running study on human aging, the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA), was already underway to answer the question, “what is normal with aging?” Scientists were learning that many of the diseases associated with aging were not a normal part of the aging process—and that we all age differently as a result of our genes, our lifestyles, and our environments. Next, the MacArthur Foundation Study further revolutionized the way we view aging. The most extensive, comprehensive study on aging in America at the time, it revealed that much of the process is in our control and that we can age successfully by leveraging the psychological, social, cultural and spiritual contributions to aging. Longevity hotspots were being discovered around the globe where people living exceptionally long lives empirically reinforced these same findings. And, as life expectancy was increasing—nearly 30 years in the last century—the greater number of older adults were not only enabling the research behind healthy aging but they were demanding answers to how they could age better.
By 2011, when the first baby boomers turned 65 and officially entered old age, many myths about aging had already been dispelled—yet many questions still remained. I was in my eighteenth year since starting medical school and had been working with patients on preventing, treating, and in some cases even reversing common conditions previously thought to be an inevitable part of aging.
By rigorously applying the latest scientific findings, I had delved into answering the questions, “what is normal each decade with aging?” and more importantly, “what are the changing needs of your body?” Being a firm believer in the power of attitude in shaping life goals, relationships, and experiences, I naturally became interested in how mental outlook shapes and influences how we age. What I have learned, and continue to learn, is a much more positive and empowering approach to aging.
If you are interested in improving your aging experience, I hope that you follow me on this path that is my variation of the serenity prayer for you:
♦ Allow me to accept normal age-related changes (and do what I can to enrich the experience of aging)
♦ To have the courage to follow a lifestyle that changes my aging trajectory (so I can celebrate aging)
♦ And to have the confidence and wisdom to know the difference between inevitable and preventable aging.