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  • BY DR CARLA JOHNSTON

Strategies for Healthy Aging and Longevity

It's never too late or too early to examine old ideas and stereotypes about Aging and Longevity critically!


What is the first thing that comes to mind when considering Aging and Longevity? What is the image in your mind's eye? Merriam-Webster defines aging as the process of growing old and longevity as the long duration of an individual's life and the length of a life. More importantly, how are you defining them? For yourself, family, colleagues, friends, clients, patients? For most, the term 'getting older or aging' often depends upon who is being asked and at what age/stage they are in their lives. But remember, you have the power to redefine these terms for yourself, shaping your own unique aging journey.


For many, the image is often of someone who is moving slower, challenged with illness, managing multiple medications for aches and pains, and thinks/talks primarily about the past. Those sixty and older are past middle age, articulating that the best years are behind them, careers are ending, and they need to transition to retirement and learn to adapt to a slower pace of life. Sound familiar?

woman getting older
Healthy aging? Is that a real thing?

The traditional view of Aging, often associated with slowing down and reminiscing about the past, is evolving. Many are choosing to Age Dynamically, embracing this next phase with excitement and vigor, seeing it as a time of new beginnings rather than simply endings. Challenges continue for all of us as we move through life, particularly as we age. Adapting to challenges and adopting an attitude of willingness to be observers and beginners can make the difference between unhappiness and enjoyment. How we prepare for our unique journey based on our life experiences, our vision for the future, and how life shows up leads us toward frustration or success. What we choose to focus on matters. Is it cultivating and embracing the spirit of curiosity or succumbing only to the thoughts of 'what was?'


Strategies for focusing on aging health, wellness, and longevity go beyond simply managing disease and medications. While necessary for those experiencing a condition or challenged with a diagnosis, they are only a part of the picture—a puzzle piece, if you will. The beauty is that we get to DECIDE what the puzzle pieces are and what the final image will look like.


Let's look at my three key strategies for Healthy Aging and Longevity.


The first strategy is the concept of NOURISHMENT.

My definition of NOURISHMENT was expanded from nutrition. As a clinical nutritionist, herbalist, and coach, my experience led me to enlarge the concept of nutrition to one of nourishment. Nutrition primarily addresses what is on the meal plate, and nourishment expands that to include "what's on life's plate." My idea of NOURISHMENT includes health status, nutrition, age, genetic/family history, environment, physical movement, sleep, social connections, and life’s purpose. One's overall life has a significant impact on the ability to shift behavior, embrace change, and navigate possibilities. Embracing NOURISHMENT is often necessary to strengthen resiliency, adaptability, connectedness, happiness, and a sense of purpose. These influence and support the mind, body, and spirit and are frequently left out of the traditional aging health conversations.


Most would agree that nutrition and physical activity are essential for health at any age. As we age, however, these are critical indicators of how well the body can adapt and remain active. Nutrition, hydration, and physical movement all support digestion, brain health, cardiovascular health, immunity, and all critical processes and organs in our bodies. This is well-researched, understood, and well-known. What isn't is the influence and importance of social connections and life purpose. Feeling connected to family, friends, and community allows us to grow in relationships. As I continue to discover in research, life's purpose goes beyond "what we do" and includes "who we are." Tapping into and cultivating life's purpose has physiological, spiritual, emotional, mental, and biological benefits. From lowering blood pressure to increased benefits to improvements in sleep, flexibility in movement, improved nutrition choices, and mindfulness are all positively impacted, to name just a few.


The second strategy is embracing the ABCs of Health, Aging, and Longevity.

My concept of the ABCs is Always Be Curious. As I approach my sixty-second revolution around the sun, I am typically cautious of the word 'always.' However, it is used intentionally and purposefully in this strategy. Always being curious allows for continued exploration and contemplation of possibilities. It encourages one to challenge old ideas, habits, convictions, and experiences.


Curiosity encourages us to explore new adventures, dreams, and experiences joyfully. Getting older doesn't always mean that all dreams go unrealized or that goals are predestined to be unfulfilled. At seventy, can one decide to take on a new challenge? Of course! The question that I often ask is, who is cheering her on? Are those surrounding her encouraging or pointing out all the pitfalls and obstacles?


What if we all decided that, no matter our age or the age of those surrounding us, we would listen with open ears and hearts and keep our reservations to ourselves until we are asked? What if we were just as curious as how it would turn out? How might that be a lesson for all of us? What a wonderful learning experience! We curiously support the curiously aging woman—sign me up!


The third strategy is to embrace and be AGING out loud! There is wisdom and grace in aging in purpose, in unapologetically and dynamically traversing your years. After all, it is your decision whether you don't want to work on just finishing your decades-old bucket list—you may wish to add new items or even start a new list!

Some wish to fight to age, rail against getting older, desiring to win the 'battle' of grey hair and wrinkles, which is one way to approach getting older. And that is certainly a choice, a way to move through the years. There are plenty of products, services, and experts to ensure you have plenty of options to update, change, look, and feel younger.


Growing numbers of women have decided that age and birthdays don't dictate behaviors and goals. Today, many women are choosing to shift stereotypes and expectations. Starting businesses, learning new hobbies, volunteering in new endeavors to effect positive change in the world, and supporting other women who wish to live another dream are ubiquitous. Thankfully, it is easy to spot them as they continue to be models for aging IN purpose.


No matter your age, we are technically 'getting older with each new day.' We get to DECIDE what that looks and feels like. Not all days are glorious or rosy; that is true for all of us. What we can do is support one another as we go, no matter the choices of how each of us wishes to travel our journey. Reaching out for resources when needed allows us to continue to grow, learn, adapt, and succeed.


Let's break some stereotypes and support the new face of Aging. Let's shift from being consolers to Cheerleaders! Let's allow for new explorations, support dreams, and acknowledge one's path into new decades. The face of getting older is changing. This is no longer your mother's or grandmother's aging—now, it is a time of possibility and excitement!


What is the call to action? If you are a younger woman, how are you supporting and encouraging the dreams of older women? Are you focused on outward appearances rather than inner wisdom and beauty? If you are an aging woman, how are you living out loud? How are you designing and visioning your life? In what ways are you including those around you?


We can come full circle now; I will ask my original questions: What comes to mind when you think of Aging and Longevity now? How will you define these terms or perhaps redefine them? The choice is yours.


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Meet the expert:

Dr. Carla Johnston with Her Nation Magazine
Dr. Carla Johnston | Board-Certified Clinical Nutritionist

Dr. Carla Johnston is a board-certified clinical nutritionist, certified health coach, practitioner, author, and speaker focused on expanding the conversation on Women and Dynamically Aging. Carla has earned her Doctorate in Clinical Nutrition, an M.S. in Herbal Medicine, and an M.A. in Applied Sociology.


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