Posted by Kay Van Norman
Building financial security and maintaining health are consistently listed as top aging concerns for adults over 55. Most of us know creating a financial portfolio (make a plan, balance assets, make regular deposits) is important to ensure lifelong financial security. But what about your vitality? Do you have a plan? Have you considered what “assets” you need to support lifelong vitality?
Using the familiar structure of a financial portfolio, the Vitality Portfolio® strategy encourages you to create a practical roadmap for lifelong health:
- Make a Vitality Plan
- Balance Vitality Assets (function, core and wellness)
- Make Regular Deposits
Making a Plan
How long do you expect to live? I ask this question during keynote speeches and people always seem to have a number in their head. In future blog posts (Aging – It’s a Family Affair) we’ll explore how people come up with it, but for now consider your number — and more important, consider what you want to be able to do through your 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and 100’s! Making a vitality plan helps you set, track, and reach your goals.
Strength, mobility and endurance are “mission critical” assets for maintaining independence; yet optimizing function through physical activity is the most underused healthy aging strategy available today! It’s easy to disregard functional changes that happen gradually, so here’s some food for thought.
Statistics don’t motivate action unless they’re personally relevant. For example: Strength declines approximately 1-1 ½% per year after about age 30. That doesn’t sound like a lot until you do the math. If you’re not regularly challenging your strength – you’re losing it – on average about 60% by age 70 and 75% by age 80. Imagine going about your daily life carrying a backpack filled with your body weight (i.e. ½ the strength requires double the effort). Consider how difficult daily tasks would become and how many activities you would have to give up.
Physical frailty IS common and predictable with age, but it’s NOT due to age or inevitable! Studies show even 90+ year olds can prevent and reverse loss of muscle mass and strength with resistance training.
Take charge! If you get fatigued while walking – walk more! If you’re having trouble rising from a chair, do it more; every time you sit down, stand up and sit down 3 more times. See how many knee lifts you can do during TV commercial breaks or commit to standing up and sitting down 5-10 times during each commercial break.
To maintain the gift of mobility gently stretch and move your muscles and joints through every range of motion. Embrace cardiovascular exercise to help your heart, lungs, and blood vessels deliver oxygenated blood throughout the body. Endurance activities bathe your brain in oxygenated blood so are also closely linked to brain health! Get out and move briskly every day; walk, swim, dance, or even do seated exercises that elevate your heart rate – toe touches, heel presses, knee lifts, low kicks, marching in place all with arm swings.
Age is not a diagnosis so confront functional challenges with physical therapy intervention. Consciously invest in lifelong functional independence.
Core Assets: Ageless Thinking and Resilience
Attitudes and expectations directly impact aging. Engage Ageless Thinking by consciously rejecting negative expectations of aging. Activate Resilience by embracing adaptive strategies to overcome challenges – regardless of age.
Thirty years ago people with disabilities were often institutionalized with no expectations or opportunities; and outcomes were bleak. The disability movement changed attitudes and expectations and literally transformed lives. Now young people with profound disabilities are given resources, tools, and encouragement to overcome and live fully in spite of challenges, and they accomplish astonishing things!
Unfortunately, attitudes haven’t changed much for adults who face physical or cognitive disabilities later in life. They most often receive resources, tools, and support to cope with disabilities. There’s a profound difference in mindset between coping and overcoming – resulting in profoundly different outcomes. If you’re facing a challenge take age out of the equation, embrace adaptive strategies, and insist on pursuing the fullest recovery possible.
Visualize the six dimensions of health: physical, social, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and vocational as spokes on a wagon wheel. Consider how many deposits you regularly make into each dimension (spoke) and then draw your Wellness Wheel. Are some “spokes” large (carrying most of the load) while others barely exist? Are you missing an entire “spoke”? It takes conscious effort to balance wellness assets across the body, mind, and spirit.
Don’t leave your vitality to chance! Make a plan, balance your assets, and make regular deposits into lifelong vitality. Visit www.kayvannorman.com for a free downloadable Vitality Portfolio® tool-kit to get you started.