In “Aging Well” George Vaillant reviewed the Harvard Longevity study, the longest study done to date on adult human development which has given us very clear age 50 predictors that lead to a joy- filled 3rd act. If you are not yet 50, you still have time to work on these values. If you are older than 50, you can look back and see what your future will hold. You may find these seven values are somewhat surprising.
Indicators for Healthy Aging
- The most important indicator is no heavy smoking. In two studies, the Harvard and the Inner City, smoking is the biggest culprit.
- No alcohol abuse. If you can look back and see at age 50 that your relationship with alcohol has been a balanced one you are in good company with those are healthy into their 70’s and 80’s. Abuse of alcohol and drugs means that your work, family and or relationships have been negatively impact by over use of these substances. You can find more information about this subject at http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/faqs.htm.
- A stable marriage at 50 is a very positive sign for healthy aging. This one sent me for a bit of a downward spin. I have been married twice and had no stable marriage at 50. I set George Valliant’s “Aging Well” book down to think about my situation. Yes, I was alone and I didn’t have a stable marriage at 50, but I had many long, stable and intimate friendships. I called some of those friends on the phone and they helped me up and out of that sinking feeling of failure. I also decided to try to make a change and move away from my single life. I began to take action by envisioning the feelings and sensations I wanted to experience in a relationship and then joined an on line dating service that very week.
- Some exercise. I loved the sound of “some” as I have decided that boot camp is just not for me. I tend to occupy the middle road when it comes to food and exercise. Surprisingly, this finding seems to prove my intuition was right.
- Not overweight. Like the “stable marriage” value, I have struggled with this one despite what I said in item 4. But in this last year I have lost the weight I put on after menopause and have kept it off. I am back to a little lower than my weight when I turned 50 well within the acceptable bmi (body mass index) range. Check out www.fitday.com to see what yours should be or go to www.mayoclinic.com to see what your ideal weight should be.
- For those in the Inner City study an additional value was added. This study followed a group of men from poor backgrounds. If they completed 12 years of education, combined with the other indicators, the odds were good that they would have a healthy and happy 3rd Act despite coming from difficult circumstances.
- The final value predictor is mature defenses. Our adolescent psychological defenses or coping mechanisms of projection, passive aggressive structures and disassociation, hopefully develop into the more complex responses of sublimation, humor and altruism. If people are able to grow out of immature defenses they are will be able to respond to life’s challenges with flexibility, humility and laughter.
Take a moment to access your own status using these predictors of healthy aging. Where do you need to make corrections and adjustments? And then for a special treat take a moment and watch this You Tube presentation sent to me by a client It is a remarkable example of choice making and balance.
If you would like some coaching support to make adjustments to better match these predictors, contact us at http://the3rdact.com/coaching/