Since the beginning of time, men and women have struggled to find the formula to beat the cycle of aging.
Explorers have searched for the Fountain of Youth, and cosmetic companies have developed lotions and treatments to reduce the signs of aging.
Psychologists have emphasized a focus on positive thoughts, and nutritionists have recommended certain foods and vitamins in our diets to reduce inflammation and to prevent chronic illnesses that may accelerate the aging process.
Researchers continue to develop medications to fight the effects of aging.
Some of these recommendations may have merit, while others lack statistical validity. Despite these efforts, the search for ways to stay young continues.
Scientists have taken this quest to reverse aging to a new level. An experiment carried out in California showed that researchers are able to reverse the aging process in mice, and trials in humans could start in 10 years.
Scientists from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California made older mice more youthful by using a technique that takes adult cells back to an embryonic status. As a result, mice looked younger and lived 30 percent longer than mice in the control group.
Since the beginning of time, civilizations have used various forms of cosmetics to enhance beauty and to promote good health.
Today, the cosmetic industry continues to develop creams, treatments and advice on ways to appear younger and increase longevity. However, many critics of the cosmetic industry continue to question these efforts by reinforcing the belief that aging is related to genetics and lifestyle.
In addition to the cosmetics industry, the health and wellness industry has reinforced the use of exercise to increase longevity, improve strength, enhance appearance, reduce chronic diseases and preserve cognitive ability.
Michael Roizen, the Cleveland Clinic’s chief wellness officer, author and speaker, has dedicated the past 20 years to study the science of longevity.
The possibility of living to 100 is greater than ever due to quality preventative care, enhanced research and new ways to manage previously deadly diseases.
Roizen claims that individuals can live to 120 with the quality of life of a 45-year-old if they make changes in lifestyle, including exercise, diet and maintaining a positive mood.
He also claims that within the next 15 years, people may be able to live until 150 or 160.
Even though critics, including the Gerontological Society of America and other aging experts, rebuke many of his claims, more people are becoming centenarians than ever before.
However, living longer does have some detractors.
Ethicist Ezekiel Emanuel, who is both a physician and Ph.D., argues that he doesn’t want to live past 75 years of age because he believes that quality of life is more important than quantity of life.
Another major concern shared by many seniors is maintaining cognitive vitality during the aging process. Even though cognitive changes may occur, including reduced speed of processing information, decline in memory and overall functioning, there are steps to take to enhance one’s cognition since cognitive decline is not inevitable for many seniors.
Activities, including being physical, continuing to learn, maintaining emotional connections and keeping a comprehensive preventive care program can all help cognitive functioning.
It can definitely be overwhelming and confusing as we age to know how to digest the abundance of theories, new products, diets and recommendations that inundate our lives. It is difficult to integrate the best approaches and changes that allow us to live a quality life as we age. But there are simple steps that we can take to enhance our quality and quantity of life.
Exercise is strongly encouraged, especially for older individuals, including strength training, which has been shown to reduce resting blood pressure and improve blood lipid profiles, blood glucose usage, bone density and balance. Exercise and movement is important for seniors especially in reducing falls, which often lead to other chronic health issues. Not living a sedentary lifestyle can significantly improve functional abilities in older adults.
Learning new things, reading, staying current on world events or simply playing computer games can help keep your mind active.
Socializing with others in person, via computer or telephone can help reduce isolation and many symptoms of depression.
Engage in a healthy diet and follow a preventive health program recommended by your physician.
Avoid the sun and/or use sunscreen to help reduce wrinkles and other signs of aging.
You can make a difference in the quality and quantity of your life. Think seriously about adopting all or some of the above recommendations. It will be exciting to see what the future brings, even without the Fountain of Youth.
Marcy Shoemaker, Psy.D, is a psychologist at Abramson Center.