Successful aging goes beyond simply living longer; it encompasses various dimensions of well-being, including physical health, cognitive function, resilience, and social engagement. Some researchers define it as freedom from disease and disability, maintaining high cognitive and physical functioning levels, and adapting to losses.

We lose our loved ones. Our physical abilities start to fail, like hearing, eyesight, muscle strength, and agility of our joints. One old person shared that he viewed life as a book as he aged. When one chapter is over, he must move on to the next (Aging Well: Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life from the Landmark Harvard Study of Adult Development by George Vaillant).

Successful aging involves complex interactions between genes, the brain, the environment, attitudes, and beliefs. A longer life is made possible by the absence of harmful genes rather than the presence of good ones. While we do not have control over our genes and many other factors, we must focus on what we can modify.

Physical activity, good nutrition, and mental/cognitive activities can affect aging. A gene called APOE-4 (apolipoprotein E4) increases the risk of late-onset Alzheimer’s disease in the elderly. Greater educational achievement may dampen the effect of this gene on the risk of cognitive decline.

Engaging in activities can help improve the chances of successful aging. Some examples are working, volunteering, teaching, learning, pursuing music, singing, and watching movies. A higher sense of purpose in life, optimism, and a positive attitude toward aging are associated with longer lifespans. Yoga and meditation can be very helpful. Spirituality and religion play an important role for many.

The importance of staying physically active cannot be overstated. This can be as simple as walking 20 to 30 minutes at least a few times a week. Engaging in muscle strengthening and resistance training exercises at home or in a gym is important. Some may find interest in riding a bicycle, playing tennis, ping pong, and pickleball.

We are social animals. We saw a tremendous increase in anxiety, stress, and depression resulting from social isolation during the pandemic. It is important to maintain social interactions. Avoid isolation by finding ways to increase social interactions. Even a phone call or video call helps. If you like singing, consider participating in a karaoke group. You can attend concerts or a local baithak of classical performances.

It is equally important to eat healthy. Avoid overeating and limit your caloric intake. You can get guidance from your physician or nutritionist for tips on healthy eating habits.

In conclusion, successful aging is a multi-faceted journey that involves nurturing physical, cognitive, emotional, and social well-being. By taking proactive steps to prioritize health, engage in meaningful activities, foster social connections, and maintain a positive outlook, individuals can enhance their quality of life and embrace the opportunities and challenges that come with growing older. These will improve resilience and increase chances of bouncing back after a setback or a disappointment. Ultimately, successful aging is not just about adding years to life but about adding life to years.

We would love to hear from all who are on this journey. What has worked for you? Do you have any suggestions for others on how to achieve successful aging?

Vasudev Makhija, MD
Founder and President

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