From Well to Swell: The Seven Secrets of Successful Aging

By: Adriane G. Berg

CEO, Generation Bold

Why does falling in love make colors more vibrant, music more harmonic and send you dancing down the street? There is a scientific answer to those questions, as well as a social-cultural one. Endorphins and hormones affect our feeling of well-being. When our senses are heightened, we are more present to the beauty that surrounds us. That is why it is right to say that people in love “have chemistry.”

We can achieve this “lighter than air” feeling as we age, perhaps with greater ease than when we are younger, when we know the seven secrets of successful aging. The seven secrets are gleaned from research, interviews with leaders in the field of aging, and from personal experience.

Secret 1:  Trust

My first secret comes from a most credible source:  my mother. She had a catch phrase that seemed to turn everyone on: "My money is on you!" That one assurance was a declaration of trust and belief in the other guy that generated a profound response. It is almost impossible to have a successful old age if you have lost trust in your fellow man. And to the extent that your trust increases as you age, wellness grows as you smile at every baby, admire every young person, and embrace every chance to make a new friend.

Secret 2:  Sleep

Edie Wiener, a futurist and consultant to international corporations, holds retreats to re-imagine healthcare, which she calls “Swellness”. I discovered the second secret attending her retreat on sleep.  Susan Berks of the Sleep Studio tells us that sleep is not just a time for resting and healing. It is a purposeful time, that rejuvenates us mentally and physically. In areas where people live long, they tend to take naps in keeping with their own biologic clock. Susan explains that there was a time when people awoke around three in the morning, when sleep is at its lightest, got together, did work and then went back to sleep. It’s okay.

Secret 3:  Stop and Smell the Roses

From the Monell Center we learn that while taste is hardwired from the womb, our sense of smell develops after we are born, and is associated with the good and bad experiences of our life.

“Stop and smell the roses” is the third secret. If you associate roses with the love of a childhood garden you'll feel Swell. You can also smell the doughnuts and the coffee. My friend Wendy likes the smell of skunk because her mother liked it. She associates that odor with her mother’s laughter.

Secret 4:  Play

In Rochester, New York you will find the National Museum of Play, and uncover the fourth secret. When we are young we play to learn. When we are older, play is purposeful so long as you don't play for any purpose other than play itself. When we are about to retire, we worry about filling our time with something meaningful, leaving a legacy and making sense of our lives.  It wouldn’t hurt to lighten up. The more naturally play can come to you, the more Swell you will feel.

Secret 5:  Stay Connected

Secret number five is to stay connected.  A British study found that having 10 or more friends is associated with greater psychological well being, and measurable lower levels of chronic inflammation, a major cause of deterioration as we age.

Connectivity has an even Sweller companion, a feeling of belonging. The television sitcom, Cheers, posited a bar in Boston where everybody knew your name. When our children move away, and especially if we lose a spouse, we can fall into “isolating behaviors,” even avoiding social contact. In my e book for the VTech CareLine™ blog “Just Keep Talking: 3 Simple Steps to Getting and Staying Connected at Any Age, you’ll find resources and protocols to prevent that.

Secret 6:  Self-Care

How about exercise, good nutrition, and medication management? They all come under the sixth secret of self-care.

Sustainability has become a watchword in everything from tourism to environmental protection. Self-care is a type of sustainability of our own bodies, not just for our own successful aging, but also for the well-being of others as we are more productive, more contributing, and less expensive when we age Swell. And these good feelings counteract the depression that can be the worst byproduct of aging.

The landmark Rand Study at UCLA found 50% of all depressed people are over the age 65, and cost four times the amount in health care than the national average, and have a 58% greater chance of dying in the first year in an assisted living facility than those without depression.

Secret 7:  Embrace  Aging

And now for the seventh secret, embrace aging. Not accept it, not surrender to it; but embrace it.

Admittedly, that is quite a challenge given the ageism that surrounds us. But, let's look at it in a different way. We are fairly well-trained not to embrace any of our life stages. Little kids can't wait to be teenagers, teenagers want the freedom of adulthood, young adults seek to get settled, and settled adults say they have a midlife crisis. By the time it gets to us elders, enjoying any life stage seems an anomaly. 

If you want to feel Swell count the blessings of aging instead of sheep right before you take you nap, play or smell the roses.