Dr Elizabeth Eckstrom’s new book, The Gift of Ageing, has (like Goldster) a pretty revolutionary approach to ageing. “I wanted to counter the notion that growing older is frailty and decline and losing people.” She says, live on zoom form Portland, Oregon. “Ageing can be something positive – we can learn and grow with meaning and purpose. I don’t want to underestimate how tough it can be but if you maintain a positive attitude you can have joy and purpose.”
A positive attitude to ageing is key according to Dr Elizabeth. “If you can see your future self as a vibrant and successful self, doing things you love, then this actually adds 7.5 years of life.” She explains. Planning is integral to this, looking to the future and planning a healthier diet and more exercise. The more self-mastery we have the more control we have over our future which is really valuable to the ageing process.
No surprises here (to Goldster readers) but diet and exercise are absolutely crucial too. “Even exercise between the ages of 35 and 55 helps brain function in your 70s and 80s,” reveals Dr Elizabeth. She recommends a combination of aerobic exercise (30 mins per day) strength training (30 mins, 3 days per week) and balance training such as Tai Chi (30 minutes, 3 times per week) as we are ageing.
As for nutrition, “ I recommend the Mediterranean diet, mostly plant based and low in sugar. It’s really good for preventing dementia, not only that, it reduces heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes – all of the things that tend to kill us. If we follow this diet we will have less of these chronic conditions.”
Educational attainment has been found to be very important as well. People were followed from childhood into their nineties and those with a better educational attainment had a higher cognitive function. “I recommend lifelong learning,” says Dr Elizabeth, “learning a new language or a musical instrument.”
Social engagement is also critical. “It is so important to stay engaged,” she continues, “older adults who volunteer with kids for example. It contributes to better mental health.”
Sleep is another factor, doing things to allow for good sleep, putting routines in place and having good sleep hygiene.
And finally Dr Elizabeth concludes that it’s not good to be on too much medication. And some medication can be harmful so be careful. “Benzodiazepines can cause dementia,” she advises.
“These are examples of some of the things we talk through in the book,” she tells Goldster. Ageing positively starts right here!