The Goal is a Great Health Span

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At any time of your life you should review your present health status. If you are fit and well, and lack any evidence of disease or disability, and have a good social and personal life, and your brain is slick and functions well, that all should be good. But it might not remain so, if you pursue practices and lifestyles which are likely to increase your chance of disability or disease and potentially shorten your healthy life.

The term health span has been attributed to Galen, a second-century AD Greek physician, who followed Hippocrates by recording a wealth of observations on the lives of individuals. There’s little point in having a longer life if the last stages become a physical and mental purgatory. It’s far better to focus on the goal on having a longer, healthier life, one that you can enjoy, and in which you can contribute to the happiness of others. So an extended health span is a desirable goal, and that is a focus of this book.

With the extension of lifespan in recent decades, the world is open for the majority of older citizens to have time to do the things they never could before, to travel, to see new vistas, to acquire a pet they’ve always wanted and didn’t have the time, to enjoy grandchildren, to play bridge on a regular basis with friends, to embark on a new education of interest, long ago parked waiting for opportunity, to attend movies, download Netflix, to communicate with friends in other countries via Skype, and at the same time retain good health, where their failing joints are replaced, and they’re good to go again.

For the many who wish to continue working there are increasing opportunities as well, and the world needs these older workers. There has never been as wonderful an opportunity for living for older people as now. That is a profound lesson to anyone over the age of 60. Go for it!

If you manage life right, deciding how to fill the decades of feeling good – not just a few years but decades – should be an enjoyable exercise. Start new careers. Volunteer. Anything. Enjoy. Your choice, largely. And society needs you. The population of younger workers is shrinking relatively. So older people must be encouraged, and in some countries are being encouraged, to join the workforce.

Get it wrong, however, and all sorts of strife may follow. Luck plays a hand here if you develop a debilitating illness. But you can play a strong hand by improving your lifestyle and encouraging the development of a longer, healthier life with basic prevention behaviours. Most of these changes you can control. Let’s assume you have been diligent and largely dealt with any underlying diseases and have a positive lifestyle. Then, for most, the future decades are golden.

It’s up to you

It’s your life, your body, your family, and so body maintenance is up to you. Unless you are at a strict boarding school, health resort, monastery or intensely health-focused community, then relying on those around you for guidance and decisions on what you should do seems really to be a lazy default.

Your choice is to enjoy life to the full and ensure that you are able to make the most of it and make your own decisions.

Don’t worry if the life expectancy calculators suggest you won’t make 100. That age is getting crowded now and there’s plenty of living in the decades before that magic date to experience and enjoy.

From Ageing Well: How to Navigate Life’s Journey in Your Later Years by Dr Doug Wilson, published with permission of Calico Publishing.

$39.95 calicopublishing.co.nz

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