Monday, November 19, 2012

Living Well Into the Future (Part I)

Many articles today talk about how we can remain active and healthy into old age.  They cite maintaining social relationships, keeping physically fit and engaging our minds. Many older adults today still work—either part-time or full-time--or volunteer their time to noteworthy institutions and causes.  Diet and nutrition is also important.  And yet, from a physical perspective, as our world has become more crowded with technology, people and information; as our food comes from further away, often in cans and boxes, with labels that are often misleading; as our air and water are often polluted with toxins—how do we keep healthy as we age and what does this mean for each of us?

For many of the baby boomer generation, the government could be relied on to provide a safety net in a variety of ways.  The FDA had vigorous standards to help protect us from harmful medications.  Safety inspections were routinely carried out on our poultry and livestock before it was brought to market.  The EPA made sure we had clean air and water. The SEC was formed to protect investors against ill-contrived schemes and imprudence by individuals as well as banks and large firms. The government still provides a medical and financial safety net through Medicare and social security, but we know these will undergo changes in the coming years. 

Like many other posts in this blog, a big part of living and aging well is being aware, open and conscious and taking responsibility for ourselves.   We often know the best way to ______  (fill in the blank), but we don’t do it.  Do you reach for unhealthy foods to comfort yourself?  Have you had a medical issue you’ve tried to ignore?  Are you under constant stress at work?  Sometimes these situations are out of our control, but much of the time we can make different decisions about our jobs, our time, who we choose to be with, where we live, what we eat and what we choose to believe. 

For example, are you surrounded by people who are negative, complaining, and bring you down?  Being aware of how some people sap our energy while others make us feel joyful and engaged is a first step to determining whether we want these people in our social system.  If we really don’t but have little choice, we might be able to minimize the amount of time we spend with them, or include others whose company we enjoy during the next visit.

Aging well doesn't start at age 65 or 70.  It's part of the lifestyle we've created through our lives, and yet it can be changed at any time.  There are always the "big" issues, from the way our food is processed to the air we breathe.  But we can decide if we live near a coal plant or eat fast food on a regular basis.  Dealing with issues as they arise, taking an active role for our own well-being and educating ourselves about important topics will help us create a life we enjoy living today and "well" into the future.