How to ensure a happy old age
September 3, 2022 12:33 AM   Subscribe

Older Mefites enjoying a happy, healthy older age, please share your secrets with me.

I'm taking care of two elderly, sick relatives currently (ages: 67 and 88) and the whole question of health is weighing on my mind. They have diabetes, congestive heart failure, kidney disease and dementia.

It's gotten me thinking about my future, and what is in my power to ensure that I don't have the same issues at their age (should I reach it), as unlike them, I do not have younger relatives to take care of me.

I realise I don't have much control over this. But I want to think I may have a little, if I can make the right choices? So I was hoping to hear from older Mefites who are healthy and enjoying their lives, to hear about the choices you made to get to where you are.

Info about me:

I'm 40. Overweight. As far as I know, I am healthy. (Touch wood.) I do not smoke, do any drugs, I drink vanishingly rarely. I am very sociable but I am single and I feel lonely a lot. I am a very busy person, both with work and other commitments. I have a rewarding creative practice. I love eating. When I am happy, I overeat. When I am stressed, I can't eat at all. I TRY to cultivate a regular exercise regime. Some months are better than others. I am very conscious of my mental health and I try to educate myself, take responsibility, do the right things for myself; but in practice it is a constant struggle to do things like take time out for myself, not work myself to the ground, get enough sleep, eat when I am stressed out, etc. But again. The best I can say is that I try. All the time.

I have a lot of anxiety about doctors so I avoid them like the plague, if you will. I'm trying to get over that.
posted by unicorn chaser to Health & Fitness (26 answers total) 86 users marked this as a favorite
I'm 71, and there are no secrets. I wish I could pass them on to you. Sometimes people get sick relatively young and it's not their fault. It really isn't.

But I would say always be learning something new. Take up a sport you don't think you could possibly master. Fail at something, and then fail at something else. Live where there is public transportation and take it everywhere at random. In fact, just get the heck out of the house and start walking. Take an interest. Listen to new music. Explore new social media, then delete your Tweets and posts and cancel your accounts. Never let the phrase "things were better in the old days" pass your lips. Read something new, and when your eyes start to fail you, take up audiobooks. Sit on your front step. Fight with people on social media for the hell of it, but always encourage people who ask genuine questions. Reduce your costs as much as you can.

Accept that there will be loss, and be creative in how you adapt to it. It's not as bad as you think, getting old. You will still feel like the same person you always were, you just can't put your shoes on as easily and you have to sit down to put your trousers on.
posted by Peach at 1:28 AM on September 3, 2022 [76 favorites]

I'm 69 and in good health despite being overweight, diabetic, and autistic. I would say I am one of the happiest people I know.

Things that I think contribute to a good life:

• Exercise. I swim almost every day and do yardwork, even in a wheelchair. You should see me and my other wheelchair buddy drag race in the co-op's aisles.

• Work at something that gives you joy. I worked at the food co-op for 36 years and met thousands of good people. Volunteering is very satisfying too.

• Laugh and have fun. Smile a lot. I sing (badly) all the time and laugh at myself. I always laugh when someone refers to me as "elderly".

• Live frugally. Save enough for retirement. If you can contribute to an IRA or 401K it can make a big difference

• Live lightly on the environment. I buy very little, don't fly. Drive very little. I never had kids.

• Have a few really close friends and keep in close contact. Hanging out on MetaFilter is a big part of my social life.

• Stay interested. I am passionately interested in new music and spend hours finding and listening to music, almost as if it was my job. I was also a radio DJ for almost 20 years so I have a massive collection of reggae to listen to.

• Keep informed. I don't see well enough to read for long so now I listen to audiobooks all the time. I use the local library online services.

• Stay involved politically. Vote and write to your congress critters. Here in Texas they are mostly disgusting and cruel. I fuss at the bad ones and try to encourage the good few. I donate to a few political causes such as pro-choice, hospice, food bank, and the domestic violence shelter.

• Stay engaged in everyday activities. I'm happy when I'm alone because I have so many fun things to think about and do.

• Try to do something difficult, even if you fail. I am trying to play guitar after a 40 year hiatus. My hands are too small and weak but I still do it. My goal is to play well enough to play out on the porch and not scare people.

• Get enough sleep. Being retired gives me lots of opportunities to nap.

• Eat things you like that are good for you. I have been a vegetarian for over 50 years so am in relatively good shape despite inheriting diabetes. I don't drink or smoke. I do take vitamins.

• Have a pet. I have always adopted senior cats. They have been wonderful companions. I admit I dote on them. Am not a crazy old cat lady though; I usually don't have more than two.

• See the good side of things. People that haven't seen me in years often lament when seeing me in my wheelchair. I assure them that it's really great; I can go so many places without pain and I always have a comfortable place to sit.

As you can tell from my life, even health difficulties and limited finances can be overcome by keeping friendly, interested, and active. I wish much happiness to you.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 4:02 AM on September 3, 2022 [83 favorites]


Physically: Exercise daily for 20-30 minutes, enough to break a sweat -- whatever that level of exertion is for you. Eat sensibly, not too much sugar/refined carbs. Don't worry about your weight too much unless it inconveniences you. Go ahead and see a doctor when you wonder if you should see a doctor.

Emotionally: Make sure you have regular daily contact with friends who care about you and you care about. Social bonding gets more important the older we get. Pets are good, vital, even, but won't take the place of human connection. Volunteer with NGOs if you have the capacity. Humans are designed to help each other.

Mentally: Always be learning, trying something new, making something, creating something. Don't just consume content. Engage with the world on a peer-to-peer basis.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:07 AM on September 3, 2022 [10 favorites]

I know two retired seniors who are the exact same age and have very different lives.

She lives in a huge house full of hoarded junk in a driving neighbourhood; he lives in a small pleasant apartment in a walking neighborhood.

They both love walking and taking photos - but she is fearful of social media and fears new technologies (she won’t even zoom!), she adheres to a rigid weekly routine with an identical daily walk and takes photos of her own plants and the neighbours’ dog.
Whereas he posts a lot on social media - he actually makes daily content by taking a daily walk in different neighbourhoods (he drives to a new area daily to walk around) and then posting a little album about each walk, with about 10 photos a day with a few facts about the architecture, local history, and plants he encounters.

She hasn’t travelled since the 1990s. He goes on seniors’ cruises (alone sometimes!) And posts lots of photos.

They both have the same hobbies and they walk and photograph the same amount - but he shares his finds so everyone feels they know him and how he’s doing because of these frequent small dispatches. Plus he does his walks in lots of new places, and uses new tech (iPad, facebook) to share them. He also goes out with friends a lot and posts a few photos from each event.

I would say he is much happier and has kept his social net tighter because he shares himself more with the world. Not to be macabre but his funeral will be packed, because he keeps himself pleasantly in everyone’s mind simply by sharing his passions.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 5:09 AM on September 3, 2022 [16 favorites]

I wholeheartedly endorse everything a humble nudibranch said above. I'm 63, and overweight (although no other health issues). I'm a never-smoker, and I've not had a drink in nearly 24 years (I can't drink safely, so that's my reason).

I'll add the following.

- stretch and bend, and stay as flexible as possible. Take the stairs where you can. Walk if it's less than a mile or two. Wear a step counter and do those 10,000 steps a day.

- lift weights, even just filled gallon jugs, for strength and tone.

- keep your balance. I do this exercise every day when I brush my teeth before bed - stand on one leg for 30 seconds, then the other, then repeat. Then I not only get in my balancing exercise, I also do the 2-minute brushing the dentist recommends.

- sunblock, every single day, even in winter.

- a daily multivitamin, probiotic and d-mannose (to prevent UTIs).

- I have been vegan for nearly five years and have noted an improvement in my health. I no longer get heartburn, my digestion is good, and my psoriasis has calmed down (although not gone completely).

- do not smoke.

- recognise what is an ailment and what is an illness. Ailments are often things that can be resolved through a lifestyle change. Knees and ankles hurt? The doc will prescribe anti-inflammatories, but if losing weight and exercising more stops your knees and ankles hurting, do that instead. Heartburn all the time? Is your diet causing it? Particularly with the American system which is so pharma-driven, once you get onto the treadmill of taking daily medication, then extra medication to treat the side effects of the first medication, it's hard to get off. To be clear, I'm not saying 'stop taking your meds' but think about whether there are underlying reasons for any health issues that you might be able to address yourself by a lifestyle change.

- be yourself, do what makes you happy, and be kind to yourself and to others.
posted by essexjan at 5:13 AM on September 3, 2022 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Find a primary care doctor who is near you and whom you personally like. Someone you enjoy seeing. Maybe someone whose office is near a coffee shop you like, or a park, or literally anything else to provide positive regard that will make you stop avoiding the doctor. Even posting this question was a form of doctor avoidance, because you are asking people to tell you health tips so you can continue justifying that you are healthy despite not having routine medical care.

You are at an age when many people are developing (or have developed) common chronic health conditions that can be completely asymptomatic, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. At age 40 you can start treating these conditions with medication and lifestyle tweaks that will prevent or drastically slow the development of complications; if you wait until later, you might be forced to go to the doctor because you will be symptomatic from complications of these problems, many of which are not reversible.

Source: I am a doctor. I cannot tell you how many of my patients with really terrible problems in their 60s and 70s say, "I don't understand how this is happening, I've always been so healthy, I've never needed to see a doctor my whole life!" There are many medical problems that we cannot prevent but there are some really common ones that we have incredibly effective treatments for; don't hold yourself back from the opportunity to benefit from those because of fear.
posted by telegraph at 5:17 AM on September 3, 2022 [35 favorites]

Just posting to amplify telegraph’s post above mine. I’m in my early 40s and, while I haven’t always been diligent about going to doctors, I have become more consistent in the last 5 years or so. So, as a result, I know I have somewhat high blood pressure. My doctor gave me some time to see if I could control it with diet (I’m overweight), but I wasn’t able to get it down sufficiently. So, I’m on a, basically, zero side effect medication to control it and it’s fine. It’s an asymptomatic condition that I wouldn’t even have been aware of without going to the doctor, but something under control because I did. I’m still trying to see if I can bring my blood pressure down with diet and exercise (talk about things that get harder in your 40s!), but I rest easier knowing I’m not doing damage to my body in the mean time. So, please, find a primary care doctor today and make an appointment to see them regularly.
posted by Betelgeuse at 6:00 AM on September 3, 2022 [6 favorites]

I'm close in age to you. My attitude is that we have more control then we sometimes think over our health and aging. Yes, you do need to recognize that accidents, genetics, and environment will impact your health, but don't let that discourage you. And I should say explicitly that there is nothing wrong with looking at an elderly relative or friend and thinking, "I need to work to avoid having their quality of life at their age." My grandfather died at 73 but spent the last twenty-five years of his life in very poor health, after spending years refusing to take care of himself. I'm determined not to let that happen to me.

I don't have too much to add to many of these excellent suggestions except to say that following some type of intentional diet, sleep and exercise plan is necessary to age well. I won't recommend a specific plan for either as there are thousands out there and the choice can be contentious, but I don't think you can really extend out your quality of life as you age without some type of conscious focus on these areas.

For me, I am not vegetarian but make an effort to eat whole foods in reasonable quantities in a small window of time each day without snacking, trying my best to avoid processed and refined foods (sticking to the outside aisles of the grocery store). I take a supplement every day and stick to drinking water, some milk, green tea, and black coffee. I don't smoke, drink, or do drugs. I track my weight but have never had any issues around my weight level, so YMMV.

Exercise: the one non-negotiable is stretching twice every single day and walking 4-5 km with the dog, which has done wonders for my flexibility and joint pain. I lift weights three days and do cardio (running in the summer, exercise bike in the winter) another three days, taking one day completely off. I find anecdotally that most people who exercise regularly neglect lifting in favor of cardio - I have had elderly people say that a lifetime of building strength in their legs, glutes, and core has done wonders as they age, so don't neglect it.

Sleep - try your very best to get 7-9 hours of good sleep every night; if you have to blow money on something, get a really good quality mattress, pillow, and bedsheets. Keep your phone out of your room and do your best to go to bed and get up at the same time every day, weekdays or not.

Do your best to be your best advocate and not beat yourself up; if you are truly dissatisfied with your current state, use it to fuel your drive to change, you're going to fall down and screw up on the plan, but every little bit counts.

Best of luck on your health journey.
posted by fortitude25 at 6:03 AM on September 3, 2022 [3 favorites]

I turned 60 this year, so I guess I have to admit I'm old now. I'm healthy and pretty happy and I feel like the biggest reason for that (besides getting lucky with my genes, which honestly may be the main factor) is that I've always been active and spent a lot of time outside. For most of my adult life I've either had a job that required me to be outside or a dog that needed daily outdoor exercise, or both. And there are a lot of things I enjoy doing that take me outdoors and keep me active - hiking, skiing, gardening, birding.
posted by Redstart at 6:14 AM on September 3, 2022 [3 favorites]

• See the good side of things. People that haven't seen me in years often lament when seeing me in my wheelchair. I assure them that it's really great; I can go so many places without pain and I always have a comfortable place to sit.

I'm only 56—-a youngster for this conversation—-but I have become disabled in recent years, and I would say that one major factor that has helped me cope is being willing to use adaptive gear. I know so many people for whom walking causes significant pain, but they don't want to use a rollator, a wheelchair, or a mobility scooter, because of pride, or embarrassment, or the idea that continuing to walk as long as possible is the way to maintain health.

I have a friend who just turned 80, who has post-polio syndrome. They walked with forearm crutches for many, many years, but in recent years have begun using a mobility scooter. In a recent conversation, they told me that they had learned that it would likely have been better for them to switch much, much earlier, that the wear-and-tear of walking with forearm crutches had likely made their condition worse. I don't recall the details, only their kind of rueful acceptance that it might have been better had they pushed themself less.

My disability is such that for some things, like getting around the house, I walk. I walk when doing errands that won't require a lot of standing or long walks, usually with my cane. I walked into the medical supply place the other day to pick up my new wheelchair! I use the manual wheelchair for modest distances, like visits to a doctor whose office is deep in a large building, or for longer trips if I have a companion who can push me if I get worn out. I use my scooter most when traveling, such as at conferences where I'll be moving around a lot.

It all depends on my energy level, and how careful I need/want to be to preserve energy. Using one of my tools before I've exhausted myself or am in a lot of pain means I can keep going a lot longer. A couple of years ago, I read something about staying "inside your energy envelope," and it made so much sense to me, and I think about it when planning my time. My well-being is best if I don't push myself to my limit, but leave a little buffer. Pushing to my limit, while worth it every now and then for something I really want to do, can trigger flare-ups and/or require rest and recovery days.

I think the calculation is very similar to when I was temporarily able-bodied, and making decisions about whether to walk, bike, take a bus, or drive.

It is possible to start using mobility aids and also continue to work on your fitness and well-being. It doesn't mean just "giving up." I'm working on my upper arm strength and aerobic fitness because these things empower me to use my manual chair more often.

I also second telegraph. It can be hard to find a good doctor, but when you do, you can get treatments and tests that let you preserve your well-being. For instance, I'm in the pre-diabetic range for fasting blood sugar. I test it every morning so I have a record; some mornings I'm in the "normal" range and some I'm just a bit over the upper limit of that. I've modified my diet to improve it, but it also means that I have data to bring when I see my doctor next, so we can talk about whether I need medication, and it means I'll catch it quickly if my blood sugar goes into the diabetic range.

I think I'd say that, based on my own history, how much physical well-being you take into old age is only somewhat in your control. I became ill with a disease that has contributed to my disability at a time in my late 40s when I was working out so consistently that I was stronger and had more stamina and aerobic fitness than I'd had since my teens, when I did long-distance bike touring. But one day, like an asteroid hitting my planet, boom! That part of my life was over.

But you can cultivate a mindset. I'm naturally optimistic and have always taken a lot of pleasure in small things. When I was practically bedridden for three and a half years, this served me very well. But it's possible to develop this thinking skill, I think. a humble nudibranch's post really exemplifies this; take it to heart.
posted by Well I never at 6:17 AM on September 3, 2022 [16 favorites]

I am 59. One thing I haven't seen mentioned in the great advice above is to take care of your teeth: dental visits, brushing, and flossing or water pik or both. I have few of my own teeth left, but I do have longstanding gum problems.

I'd also like to echo the advice above not just to exercise, but to do different types: balance, cardio, strength and flexibility/mobility. There are some things you can do that serve different purposes. Such as, mentioned above, combining walking with photos and exploring and socializing. Or I sometimes combine walking with weights.

As far as cultivating a support network, apart from any potential or not with family or friends in general, consider being part of some type of established group, whether a faith community (if that makes sense for you), cohousing, or even a hobby or volunteer or political network. (Neighbors also have potential, but I think neighborhood ties are weaker than when I grew up.)
posted by NotLost at 6:43 AM on September 3, 2022 [6 favorites]

Chiming back in to say that as NotLost says, community--especially a community of varying ages--is important because most of your old friends are going to die, and I am not joking. My spouse is in hospice right now. His sister is dead, his brother is dying, and everyone in my wedding pictures has died. My impossible father, on the other hand, is still alive at 93. But I have friends and acquaintances of every possible age because I'm active in a couple of large communities.

One more thing: For a comfortable old age, stop worrying about eating or weight. I discovered that secret the last few years because I finally decided I was going to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, as much as I wanted. I was sick of worrying about it. Therefore my weight stopped fluctuating and my clothes still fit. It turns out that when I am not in a cycle of virtuous self-denial versus wild rebellion, I don't gain weight. I have a friend about my age who has kept her slight figure rigorously, and she has osteoporosis and other health problems, and she's frail. I may have a thick middle, but I'm physically active and my blood work comes back pretty good - "prediabetic" means I'm 71, I found out.
posted by Peach at 7:25 AM on September 3, 2022 [9 favorites]

I'd strongly recommend reading The Blue Zones, Dan Buettner's study of the communities in the world that have the most centenarians. What is clear in this book is that it's not just about living to 100 - in all of these areas, there's an expectation that people will continue living well into old age. People tend to get hung up on the dietary aspects and think that's all that matters (diet varies quite a bit, though people in all of these places consume a lot of vegetables and not a lot of meat), but the book also focuses on other aspects of life, including activity, community, and purpose.

I am 63 and was diagnosed with cancer that's not considered curable at 57, so do recognize that there's an element of luck involved. I went vegan a year after diagnosis and wish I had done that years earlier (it solved a number of pesky health problems and also put my diet more in line with my ethical beliefs). Even though there are no known causes for my cancer, on my online support board, there are a whole lot of people dealing with health problems that are lifestyle related in addition to the cancer, and that can hurt their responses to treatment as well as quality of life. So even if life throws you something like cancer, taking care of your health in every way possible is still going to make that easier.
posted by FencingGal at 8:12 AM on September 3, 2022 [4 favorites]

I'm 67. On top of the excellent advice already offered, remember that you're not as young as you used to be. If you get the flu or something, go to the doctor. You will not be able to tough it out as well as you could when you were younger, and there is a greater potential for awful things like pneumonia to happen. Stop climbing up on chairs and use a proper stepstool to reach things on high shelves; your balance and your reflexes aren't as good as they were when you were younger, and you really don't want to take a tumble. Falls can be deadly or, more likely, the beginning of a series of crises with broken bones, mobility issues, etc. Don't push yourself as hard as you once did when exercising or playing sports; your recovery will be slower and the potential for serious injury is greater.
posted by DrGail at 9:04 AM on September 3, 2022 [5 favorites]

60s. I'm single, financially sort of secure, do my best to manage depression. Older women have almost no social capital, so build as many friendships and connections as you can. Getting together with people you used to work with once a year, being in touch with the few high school friends you like that you've found on facebook, the cousin you especially like, etc. Even low-key friendships are supportive. It gets more difficult to make friendships, partly because a lot of people do less as they age.

Join a dance class, or a gym, or do whatever possible to build exercise into your life. Take the stairs, rake the leaves, park at the far end of parking lots, it's only an extra 2 minutes of walking, but it all helps. Exercise has been removed from our lives, and it's critical for staying healthy, probably far more than weight.

Take adult ed. classes, join a book group, singing group, D&D group, maker space. Keeping your mind challenged and active and exercising creativity is just great for your mind and body. Keep reading, listening to music, writing.

Reduce sugar consumption as much as you can. I gave up soda, and still drink sweetened tea, but not as much.

It's a great question; thanks for asking it. All of this advice is amazing. As one ages, one loses some physical capability, some doors close, people I grew up with are dying and that is going to be a constant. Protect whatever brings you joy or even a smile.
posted by theora55 at 9:18 AM on September 3, 2022 [10 favorites]

I am 70. My health issues include asthma, high blood pressure and osteoarthritis. I’ve been doing hatha yoga since 1972 and credit that with helping me to recover from a total hip replacement, which led to a spinal and pelvic misalignment. I lift weights 3x a week, go for a 40 minute walk every day and have reduced portion sizes in everything I eat, which has helped me inadvertently to lose weight, resulting in less wear on my joints. I feel very fortunate in that I have been able to convince my PCP, Medicare and my horrible Medicare Advantage provider to allow me to go for physical therapy sessions. These sessions have taught me that my core muscles are basically mush, and that I can train them to help me overcome the increasing pain associated with standing and walking. Some days are worse than others, but I’m feeling hopeful that I will be able to continue to be mobile as I move into the next decade. Echoing what others have said, I've been able to finally get enough sleep since my retirement 5 years ago and that's made a big difference in my feelings of wellness.
posted by Lynsey at 9:19 AM on September 3, 2022 [3 favorites]

Almost 69. Difficult to respond to this without veering into "Vonnegut" (sunscreen) or Desiderata territory ('Go placidly amid the haste') but some advice I'd give is, regarding exercise, take the stairs; and stop driving everywhere!

Stay interested. I am passionately interested in new music and spend hours finding and listening to music

Agree, although I'd clarify 'new to me' rather than new. Remember Sturgeon's Law, and ignore the present; mine the past (so easy now!) and push contemporary culture out of your life.
posted by Rash at 12:10 PM on September 3, 2022 [5 favorites]

Save your money. A big part of being able to age comfortably is being able to buy extra services and health care, including travel for specialist care. This is true for everyone, but especially for those who can't expect to rely on family help. Take seriously the idea that your health is only somewhat within your control, and plan for a future in which you may have an expensive chronic health issue.
posted by HotToddy at 12:22 PM on September 3, 2022 [4 favorites]

68. I so align with a humble nudibranch ! I am also so lucky to be in love with the partner of my dreams. She keeps me young and makes me more sensible. I think...
posted by HarrysDad at 3:43 PM on September 3, 2022 [1 favorite]

Get a bicycle, join a club. It's fitness and fun without much joint strain from weight. Bike clubs attract empathetic people so it's also good for the soul. THE BEST insurance against future ailments is losing weight, full stop. It doesn't extinguish genetic predispositions of course, but many problems/diseases that may arise in 20-40 years will either be directly caused by, or have been made worse, by being overweight.
posted by peacay at 5:53 PM on September 3, 2022 [5 favorites]

To add to what peacay says, hip flexor strength (or weakness) is a major determining factor in quality of life and remaining independent in later years.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:38 PM on September 3, 2022 [2 favorites]

Possibly related to what computech_appolloniajames wrote:
faster gait, longer life (yes, oversimplified)
posted by birdsquared at 9:06 PM on September 3, 2022 [2 favorites]

Take up doing something that you can get better at. Doesn't matter what it is, whatever it is you should enjoy it enough to do it regularly, usually several times a week for ten minutes or more, and then after a year or so, be able to point to how much you have improved.

Take up stretching and doing posture exercises. Try and turn these exercises into an absent-minded habit, like what you do when on hold, or while waiting for your housemate to be finished in the bathroom so you can go in, or what you do while waiting for the microwave or the kettle to boil.

Get down into a squat, or down on the floor every day, so that you stay easily able to get back up again and can continue to pick up things you drop. Pet the cat, or wipe up spills with paper towel, or pick up things from the floor, not by bending over but by getting down.

Keep track of all the new things that you are exposed to and are incorporating into your life. As you get older all your old standbys will start to disappear. The brands of food will be gone, the music will disappear, species of plants will vanish, styles of clothing that worked for you - so much will change and vanish. When you feel that surge of loss and feel like you have outlived your generation, you want to be able to easily recall all the new, convenient, functional, fun, lyrical, relaxing and delicious things that have come into your life since you were a kid or young adult. If you ever went back into the past you would miss all the new stuff you have now. You'll be much happier if for every type of cookie that is taken off the market, you can think of a new cookie that they sell now, that you also enjoy.

It's easy to forget things from your youth that were not good. For example in my life, I remember that before microwaves we used to heat food up by wrapping it in foil and using the oven which was miserable in the summer, and that once upon a time people did not clean up after their dogs so if kids went to the park they almost always walked in dog dirt, and people were encouraged to smoke in restaurants, and if you were gay you were afraid of being found out and fired, or given an eviction notice, or arrested. Keep track of things that are improving and remember how new they are.

Make a habit of taking stairs when you can and if you live in a home with stairs, go up and down them at least twice a day. This can make a major difference to your health.

Remember the longer you live the wiser you get, and live up the promise of old age wisdom. Years ago when you were going through puberty, you probably tried to act your age and be grown up and responsible and mature about things. Keep doing that. You do understand people better the older you get, you do get a better sense of proportion about things, and you do get a better sense of cause and effect.

Life is far too short to waste it on being impatient and cranky. When you are forced to wait keep in mind that you only have a short time to live and your attitude is what will make a ten minute wait at the department of motor vehicles either misery, or a calming pause to rest and reflect in.
posted by Jane the Brown at 9:30 PM on September 3, 2022 [9 favorites]

I think one of the best things you can do is go for walks on a regular basis.

But, is 67 elderly? I hope not, because I'll be 67 in less than 2 months! I have a nice road bike and I cycle 25 miles a few times per week, I run a couple of miles once or twice per week, and I swim a mile twice a week - I do these things because, to me, they are super fun! I eat anything I want (although that has some limitations because I've had acid reflux since I was 21) but I take care to try to eat reasonably balanced and to not overeat, because being height/weight proportionate makes me feel spry and nimble, which is really important to me ... I really like being able to bop up a flight of stairs, easily get out of a chair, and easily get up off the floor. (Note: I should probably eat more vegetables.)

I see a dentist regularly and I stay up to date on all the recommended vaccinations. These days, I wear an N95 mask in public. I've always washed my hands a lot.

On the other hand, how aging hits a person can be a crap-shoot. Even in spite of doing the best you can, health issues can still strike. You just never know. That's just a part of aging.
posted by SageTrail at 9:45 AM on September 4, 2022 [5 favorites]

I'm just a baby for this thread but I have many friends who are considerably older than me. One thing I'm a fan of, if you're in the US: the Senior Games. They're kinda cheesy but on the other hand I have a state record and will bring it up and any possible opportunity (like this one). So far I've competed only in the sport I was already doing, but I've decided to try to medal in two additional sports next year -- ones I've never done anything at all in. I like the structure that learning new sports gives to my workouts.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:41 PM on September 6, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: All amazing answers and I'm so grateful to you all for sharing your experiences. But I marked telegraph's answer as best because, yeah. How can I ensure a healthy old age if I don't even have a baseline? I had a full health check today, results in a few days. As a doctor avoider of epic proportions this was a HUGE DEAL for me. Yes, I feel anxious... But I hope that having the information allows me to build a plan that is tailor-made to address my needs.
posted by unicorn chaser at 4:49 AM on September 7, 2022 [4 favorites]

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