Tuesday, 6 May 2014

The Secret to Aging Well

When I worked in a hospital years ago, my reality was rather warped - I saw too much illness, and too many people with lives cut short or suffering for years. It was rare to see 'well seniors'. I once came upon a group of seniors having a ballroom dancing class in the park and stood in awe watching them. I was fascinated seeing people who had aged well and had 'spring in their step'. It was only once I stopped working in a hospital setting, that I realized how skewed my perceptions of health and illness were and, of aging. As time has passed, my work has taken me to the 'healthy side of aging'. Most retirement homes I have been in have many very active, content seniors who clearly live their lives to the fullest. Most seniors I meet these days seem to have redefined the meaning of what happens when we age and what 'retirement' means. Still, I am always on the lookout for heart-warming stories of what it means to 'Age Well'.

In today's Toronto Star, there is an article about a woman who lived until the age of 115. Imagine living in 3 centuries and the changes in the world that she witnessed! What is amazing is that her mind was sharp until the end, showing no signs of dementia. She didn't move into a retirement setting until she was 106. Hoping to gain some knowledge of how she survived in such good health for such a long lifetime, after her death in 2005, tests were done to look for clues. The belief is that her stem cells allowed her body to get rid of infections and problematic cells - essentially keeping her healthy. Amazingly she lived through a time when diseases killed many and medicine was not nearly as advanced so perhaps there is something to that. Clearly this woman defied the odds. I suppose though, that is the point. If something in her body specifically, allowed her to live so long and in such good health, what she had was quite rare - if indeed that is the full explanation for her longevity. As with so many things, maybe it was simply a combination of things - part good genes, part  healthy living and perhaps, a lot of luck. I suppose human beings will always be in search of the mythical 'fountain of youth' but knowing someone who lived until 115, doesn't mean that they hold the answer for all mankind. However, its nice to know that defying the odds is possible................

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