RETIREMENT COACHING – DEBBIE DRINKARD GROVUM – “You have to read this article,” my husband announced as we sat on our lanai reading the Sunday paper. The article described a 94-year-old woman who was still competing and setting records in track and field competitions. Her inspiring story of staying active and engaged well into later life sparked a conversation in our home that morning about what we are doing to stay healthy and active.
We are lucky to live in an area where we are surrounded by examples of people living vibrantly in the second half of life. Sarasota County, Florida has the unique distinction of being the oldest large county in American. From articles about the latest developments in aging well to stories about active older adults living purposefully and contributing to the social good, we continually get the message that aging can be a time of opportunity, wisdom and contribution.
Although those who do not live in areas with large numbers of older adults engaged in positive aging may need to look harder to seek role models, examples of older adults committed to lives of engagement, purpose and health are increasing. The pay-off for seeking positive aging role models and information is great.
Numerous research studies have shown how powerfully our environment and the people around us affect our health and happiness. One of the longest studies, the Framingham Heart Study, discovered that good habits can be “contagious”. Although designed to understand the roots of heart disease, social scientists Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler used the information to demonstrate how friends and family affect our health in areas such as obesity, happiness, loneliness, drinking and smoking.
Both creating a health-promoting environment and focusing on the positive aspects of our environment facilitate good physical and mental health. In Eight Weeks to Optimum Health, Dr. Andrew Weil recommends improving health by making environmental changes such as interacting with nature each day and taking a one-day “news fast.” Robert Emmons’ book Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier provides scientific evidence that gratitude yields health benefits.
- How does your physical environment support your health?
- How do your friends and family support your health?
- What changes would you like to make in your environment?
- What is one environmental change you can make in the next week?