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The next 30 years

How will you spend them?

Created date

August 23rd, 2010

It seems that just about every day we hear about new studies and recommendations designed to help us live longer and better. This is often accompanied by a steady stream of political commentary about health care legislation and reform. While this information can be helpful, it can also be overwhelming and confusing even for the most sophisticated among us. In this column, I will use a common-sense approach to untangle this web of complexity. Topics will range from the best ways to be well and stay well to how health care legislation impacts Medicare. We are living in the greatest time in human history. Just 100 years ago, life expectancy in the U.S. was 50 years. Remarkably enough, a baby born today will live to age 78 and 50% of women will live to 85. What a remarkable gift and opportunity! Thirty additional years to live and thrive added in just one century of human history! While we certainly know how to spend our first 50 years (focusing on school, work, and raising a family), we are much less certain about how to live the next 30. How can you get the most out of your second 30 years? It s not as complicated as you might think. No matter your age, feeling good and being well is achievable and has primarily to do with your physical and mental health. Although physical health is certainly important, it is truly remarkable what you can achieve with a positive attitude and social engagement with friends, family, or work. Even with significant physical limitations and disability, you can overcome obstacles to enjoy a high quality of life. Despite our cultural bias toward youth, studies show 80-year-olds are in fact happier than 20-year-olds. Happiness levels improve about 5% each decade of life despite some degree of physical decline even among our most fit seniors. In the coming months I will share perspective and insights into successful aging and dispel the myth that it can t be done. Your second phase of life can be your very best.