On May 11, the Daily Breeze held its eleventh Successful Aging Expo at the Torrance Marriott Hotel. The theme was “Through the Generations,” acknowledging that successful aging is a lifetime pursuit. The exhibit hall was packed and bustling with 40 exhibitors and 1500 attendees.
This was the eleventh time I spoke at the expo. My topics for this year was “Game Changers in Aging: What it Means to Me.” We had a full-house of engaged individuals ranging from about 55 to 95 years.
This week I would like to share some brief highlights of my talk.
Game changers that influence the aging experience come from many disciplines, practices and policies that include the neurosciences, pharmacology, nutrition, exercise, transportation, livable communities and more.
Here are three of the game changers that I addressed that are happening around us, influencing the aging experience: Longevity, Information and Movements.
Longevity: In 1900, life expectancy was 47 years; in 2017 it was 78.6 years. That means in the past 100 years we have gained 30 years of life expectancy, which is considered transformational. With a bit of luck, healthy lifestyles and some genetic predisposition, at age 65 men can expect to live an average of about 18 years; women 20 years. Currently, about 15 percent of our population is 65 years and older. In 2030, that percent is projected to reach 19 percent, meaning almost one in five people will be 65 and older – a statistic similar to that of Florida.
Information: We are exposed to a great deal of relevant, reliable and valid information that can affect how we live our lives. Here are just two examples.
Based on a study by John Rowe and Robert Kahn, MD, 1000 successful agers revealed three common characteristics. They avoided disease and disability by eliminating risk factors such as smoking, obesity and lack of exercise; they were physically and mentally active and were engaged in productive or meaningful activities. These give us clues of lifestyle choices that have an impact on how we age.
Dan Buettner’s Blue Zones project does the same. He and colleagues studied the characteristics of centenarians in five geographic areas. He called these characteristics the Power 9 ® which are nine lifestyles and habits that will help us live long and healthy lives. Here are a few: Move naturally, which does not necessitate going to a gym; we just have to walk. Have a sense of purpose; eat a plant-based diet; downshift, which might include prayers, meditation or taking a nap; stop eating when you are 80 percent full and drink a moderate amount of red wine. Go to www.bluezones.com/2016/11/power-9/ for a complete description.
Movements: Today’s movements and organizations reflect the changing needs and aspirations of older adults. Encore.org is a nonprofit think tank in Northern California focusing on the 50-plus population. Some see older adults as a problem; Encore.org sees them as a solution. Encore.org supports encore careers that embrace purpose, passion, sometimes a paycheck and giving back for the greater good. Their Gen to Gen initiative is designed to mobilize one million adults over 50 to help young people thrive, uniting all ages to create a better future.
Then there is the movement to combat ageism. Activist and author Ashton Applewhite has written the book “A Manifesto Against Ageism” that traces her journey from apprehensive boomer to a pro-aging radical and in the process debunks myth after myth about late life. She says we need to own ageism and consequently mobilized a national movement to fight it. AARP has jumped in with the book written by AARP CEO Joanne Jenkins on “Disrupt Aging.”
At the end of my presentation, I asked our group to find a partner and talk about an aspect of the presentation they thought was interesting, applicable to their lives or even was a surprise. After a noisy discussion, a man stood up, took the microphone and identified what he thought was missing from my talk. Okay, this might be a cliffhanger.
Stay tuned for the next column.