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What is healthy ageing?

There was a study from the 1980s that concluded there are three main factors to successful aging. 1) Being free of disability or disease; 2) having high cognitive and physical abilities, and 3) interacting with others in meaningful ways. But another definition of successful aging may involve the simple fact of reaching old age . . . because a lot of people, sometimes very successful people, don’t get there, due to bad habits, bad luck, or bad genes. So, I guess those of us who have made it to or seventies can congratulate ourselves. By one measure anyway, we are successful agers!

The three factors mentioned in the old study seem to be reasonable and are still relevant today. However, the additional point that simply reaching old age can be considered a measure of successful aging is also valid.

However, research has found that we do lose our ability to remember things. We cannot remember random numbers as easily as younger people. However, we are better at focusing on crucial information, and we do remember the important things. Cicero said, “I’ve never heard of an old man who forgot where he buried his treasure”, which reinforces the idea that memory loss may not be as significant as we think.

Diet and exercise are also important, don’t worry about specific miracle foods or extreme exercise routines, you can stay healthy by eating a standard healthy diet and walking. 

In terms of keeping our minds sharp, it’s not so much what we do as learning something new. Learning something new to keep the mind sharp is also important to healthy ageing.  If you’ve been doing crossword puzzles all your life, doing more crossword puzzles will not improve your mental facility. The secret is to learn something new — how to paint, how to play the piano, how to speak a foreign language. On the other hand, if you already play the piano, but don’t do crossword puzzles, then starting to do crossword puzzles could be helpful.

Reading improves social skills, which is important for staying healthy and alert. Reading keeps our minds sharp, regardless of how much we’ve been reading before. And curiously, even though reading is a solitary activity, somehow it also improves our social skills. And we all know that having an active social life helps us stay healthy and alert. So maybe joining a book club is the answer.

Originally Published on

I served as a teacher, a teacher on Call, a Department Head, a District Curriculum, Specialist, a Program Coordinator, and a Provincial Curriculum Coordinator over a forty year career. In addition, I was the Department Head for Curriculum and Instruction, as well as a professor both online and in person at the University of Phoenix (Canada) from 2000-2010.

I also worked with Special Needs students. I gave workshops on curriculum development and staff training before I fully retired

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