Five Common Mistakes That Can Keep You From Aging Well

By Teresa Amaral Beshwate, MPH

Science says that our future is largely dictated by the choices we make each day. In fact, 70% of how we age physically depends not on genetics, but on lifestyle choices – those daily actions that ideally add up to the results we want most. For most people that is to have a long and healthy life, lived on their terms and with high physical and cognitive ability.

Eleanor Roosevelt is quoted as saying, “One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes….And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.”

We may understand philosophically that our future is largely up to us, but in general, our actions don’t match up. Case in point, just 5 habits have been shown to add more than a decade of good years to life, yet only 8% of us are consistent with those five habits.

Here are five common mistakes that are likely to stand in the way of the future most of us want.

1.        Not knowing what your what, why and how. Define your ideal future in great detail. Are you fly fishing in Montana? Horseback riding in the Rockies? Gardening, volunteering, painting, woodworking, or spending time with those you love? Since no one rises to low expectations, it’s important to know what you want for yourself, why it is important to you and how you plan to get there. With this in mind you can renew motivation and take action daily.

2.       Letting ageist thoughts run amok (or any thoughts that don’t serve you). Our thoughts produce feelings, which prompt action which produces results, for better or worse. Anytime that old=bad thinking creeps in, you are at risk for allowing your quality and quantity of life to be reduced significantly. By choosing thoughts that serve you better, you can better shape your ideal future.

3.       Thinking you’re too old or it’s too late. Research shows that those who begin healthy behaviors at age 75 added quality years to their lifespan as compared to their same-age counterparts, and the same was true for 85-year olds. However, don’t fall into the trap of thinking there is plenty of time.  

4.      Thinking there is plenty of time. The sooner the better. Today is the best day to start, and the benefits could come as early as later today.  

5.       Bandwagoning In our society we tend to go big or go home. Being intentional about aging well is definitely more Camino de Santiago than 100-meter sprint. Achieving big goals simply means taking small intentional steps each day.

 So, by setting your intentions, controlling your thoughts, acting now and taking small steps, you will be well on your way to shaping your ideal future, on purpose. And I’m here for you should you need a little help along the way.

Teresa Beshwate