If there’s one quality that’s consistent among those who age well and happily, I believe it’s resilience — the capacity to adapt and grow stronger in the face of adversity or stress. In observing my patients and research subjects, I see people follow 3 interrelated steps on a PATH to resilience:
This means taking charge of your own health and happiness by preventing illness and managing ongoing conditions that may develop. It also means learning to be a partner with your health care providers, sharing important decisions, and getting care that’s just right for you — not too little and not too much.
Accepting that change will come with age allows you to approach the future with a calm outlook. Research has shown that we generally seek more meaning, fulfillment, and purpose in our lives as we grow older. We want stronger relationships with friends and family. Many of us want to keep contributing to the world through work, volunteerism, and hobbies. And most of us want to stay as independent as possible.
Building mental, physical, and social reserves helps maintain your sense of well-being. Mental reserves come from building, protecting, and enhancing brain function. Physical reserves are the result of maintaining healthy bones, muscles, vision, hearing, and heart. And social reserves are built by planning to have the relationships and financial resources you need as you grow older.
By taking this PATH to enlightened aging, perhaps you’ll come to a place where you can relax and grow old knowing you are safe, comfortable, and well cared for.
Dr. Larson is vice president for research and health care innovation at Kaiser Permanente Washington and executive director of Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute. This article is excerpted from Enlightened Aging, a book by Dr. Larson and Joan DeClaire.
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