It is a loss that our medical model has been so focused on illness rather than wellness. Until recently, there has been so much preoccupation with disease that little attention has been paid to the characteristics that enable people to lead long and healthy lives and to be energetic and independent in their elder years. As a result, few of us in the modern world are aware that there have been, and still are, entire cultures in which the majority of people live passionately and vibrantly to the end. Few of us realize that there are in fact societies of people who look forward to growing old, knowing they will be healthy, vital, and respected.
There are many people today who want to live in harmony with their bodies and the natural forces of life. You may be one of them. If so, it’s helpful to understand that you are not alone, and that you have elders from whom you can learn how to accomplish your goals. There are cultures whose ways have stood the test of time that can stand as teachers on the path of wellness and joy. There are whole populations of highly spirited, vigorous people who are healthy in their seventies, eighties, nineties, even healthy at a hundred. What’s more, they have a great deal in common, and their secrets have been corroborated and to a large extent explained by many of the latest ﬁndings in medical science. New research is showing that we have all the tools to live longer lives and to remain active, productive, and resourceful until the very end.
This is good and hopeful news. It offers us a much-needed paradigm of aging as a period of wisdom and vitality. Through these healthy cultures, we can ﬁnd a compelling vision of how to mature with pleasure, dignity, purpose, and love. We are being shown that something precious is possible—a far brighter future in which aging is enjoyable and desirable. And we are being shown the practical steps we can take to achieve it.
Aging, of course, is not something that begins on your sixty-ﬁfth birthday. Who you will become in your later years is shaped by all the choices you make, all the ways you care for yourself, how you manage your life, even how you think, from your earliest years, about your future. I wrote Healthy at 100 because I have seen too many people grow old in agony and bitterness while others grow old with vitality and beauty, and I know it is possible to age with far more vigor, happiness, and inner peace than is the norm in the Western world today.
What did you learn that surprised you?
No one familiar with my earlier work will be surprised that I am interested in how our diets and exercise can help us to live long and healthy lives. But they may be surprised by some of my ﬁndings, including the great emphasis I am now placing on strong social connections. I have learned that the quality of the relationships we have with other people makes a tremendous difference to our physical as well as emotional health. Loneliness, I discovered in my research, can kill you faster than cigarettes. And by the same token, intimate relationships that are authentic and life-afﬁrming can have enormous and even miraculous healing powers.
What can readers of Healthy at 100 expect to get out of the book?
In Healthy at 100 you will gain clarity about the various essential steps you can take to extend both your life span and your health span dramatically. Reading this book will not only help you add many years to your life, but also help make those added years — and indeed all your remaining years — ones in which you experience the blossoming of your ﬁnest and wisest self.