Our population is growing older at the fastest pace in history. These demographics, combined with increasing life span, make it necessary to re-evaluate how society thinks about and plans for old age. Based on groundbreaking scientific research of the longest-living people on Earth, a new book, “Happy to 102,” lays out all the factors that affect not only how long we live, but how well we live.
Kathy N. Johnson, a certified geriatric care manager, James H. Johnson, a licensed clinical psychologist and author, and Lily Sarafan, a corporate executive and advocate in the senior care industry, wrote this book, which looks well beyond caregivers and emphasizes not only proper nutrition and exercise, but also sociability, independence, mental challenge and sense of purpose.
“The mental side is absolutely key,” Sarafan said. “Maintaining healthy cognitive function will help you focus your lifestyle on longevity, not just life span.”
“Happy to 102” is very accessible to people of all ages. “In fact, the earlier you start taking control of your health, the less time your immune system will have to spend fighting disease in your later years,” Sarafan said. She added that even though there is a lot of push to eat right and exercise, many people still don’t fully understand the link between waist size and quality of life.
The book also does a great job of pointing out the benefits of in-home senior care as opposed to facility-based care. “Nine out of 10 seniors would rather live at home than anywhere else,” Sarafan said. “However, it all starts with the individual. Seniors need to learn and accept the best options out there.”
Forrest Scogin, chairman of the American Psychology Association’s Committee on Aging, said in the book there is a need to incorporate content on aging into all levels os schools’ curricula. A 2005 study by the School of Family and Consumer Sciences at Illinois State University reveals students’ negative attitudes toward older adults significantly decreased and their positive attitudes increased after taking a course on aging and family.
The book goes on to explain that empathy for seniors includes understanding that even simple daily tasks can become extremely difficult if you become frail. The consequences of a fall can be disastrous.
“This is why we urge everyone (young and old) to incorporate walking and stretching into their daily life so they can help the body maintain circulation, balance and bone density,” Sarafan said. Exercise not only helps the heart, bones and muscle, but it alleviates depression and can slow Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia by improving blood flow to the brain.
“Happy to 102” reminds readers that independent living does not necessarily mean doing everything yourself. It means being in control of how and when things are done. From birth to old age, we live and thrive in interdependent communities; there is no justifiable reason for modifying our lifestyle drastically just because we require some personal assistance in our later years.
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