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Living Longer, Living Stronger: Anti-aging wisdom for all generations

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As a species, we are living longer than ever before and the figures for Canada reflect global trends. Governments are worried, health care professionals are starting to feel the effects of an aging population and many others are concerned about the consequences of aging. What happens when a population lives longer than previous generations? What effect will it have on the country, the economy and the healthcare system?

Statistics Canada’s latest figures show a life expectancy of 83 for females and 79 for males—men have always lagged behind women in longevity. In 1980, Canadian women could expect to live on average to age 79, in 1970 the figure was 76 and in 1960, it was 74. In 1950, the average life expectancy for women was 71, in 1940 it was 66 and in 1920 the number was 61. 

Over the course of about 90 years, a woman’s life expectancy in Canada has increased by an astonishing 22 years. Men aren’t far behind at 20 years. Longevity in Canada differs very slightly by province with Ontario and British Columbia holding top spots and Newfoundland and Labrador coming in last place.

Living longer may sound like a positive thing, but if those extended years are miserable, pain-filled, present physical challenges and lack a respectable quality of life, some would argue what point is there to living into our 90s, 100s and beyond if we struggle to sustain a manageable quality of life.

Living a long, healthy, wholesome life is key to maintaining a happy and fulfilled existence well into old age. There are many reasons contributing to longer life expectancy figures, including improved medical care and knowledge, education, better nutrition and so on. When we know better, we tend to do better. 

Typically, what we do in our 20s, 30s and 40s can affect how we age and how we manage our health through our 70s, 80s and 90s. Treat your body well and it should repay you in later life. Call it an insurance policy. Abuse it too often and it may let you down when you least expect it.

Life expectancy from birth has increased dramatically since 1900 in Canada where women could once expect to live to just 50 years of age and men to only 47 years. While life expectancy has undergone dramatic change in the past century, living longer is one thing, living longer in good health is quite another. 

While longevity is often linked to good genes, our DNA is just one small factor in the healthy aging equation. Since we can’t change our DNA, our sex or our age, focus should be on those factors where we have control such as exercise, nutrition and maintaining regular check-ups with a physician or health care provider.  

In Ontario, there are programs in place for women to have regular pap tests and mammograms, and for men, prostate cancer checks. Regular colon cancer checks for both male and females are also recommended as we age. These preventative measures are designed to catch the worst types of cancers early. 

Detecting serious disease in its early stages can mean the difference between life and death—or at least a significantly decreased quality of life living with and managing a serious illness. Early detection in such cases is paramount. 

None of us know what is around the corner when it comes to our health. There is no crystal ball. Sometimes it can just be simply luck. A key component to living well is prevention. It’s far easier to prevent disease than it is to treat it or live with it. 

Along with early detection and prevention, comes moderation. ‘Moderation in everything’ used to be something parents and grandparents would preach to younger generations.

Until recently, smoking and lung cancer were big killers. We live in an age where studies abound on how sitting is the new smoking. It is said loneliness is a modern epidemic. We live in a world where retirement is no longer guaranteed or an automatic requirement. We live in a time where at age 60 or 65, we are no longer put out to pasture where retirees begin a life of slippers and rocking chair once they receive their long service award.

Older generations can teach us a lot about aging dos and don’ts. Ask an older person about their secret to longevity and they may proudly say they never smoked or they remained tee-total—some gleefully insist a tot of whisky is their secret. Others will say having family around makes a difference. Some will say laughter is important. A few will state they kept moving their old bodies even when it hurt to do so. Others will say they did the daily crossword to keep their mind sharp.

Recent studies remind us how loneliness is now the biggest killer of older adults. Social activities, getting involved and staying active is essential. Intimate connections may help us live longer and stronger, but social relationships work just as well. As human beings, we need face-to-face connections and interaction, especially as we age.

Whether baby boomer, Gen Xer, octogenarian or millennial, it’s never too early or too late to begin living and aging well. Treat life as an insurance policy: the more you put in and the longer you contribute, the more you get out of it when you need it the most.   

The secret to longevity, the new anti-aging, might be to never stop moving, never stop learning, never stop doing. The ‘use it or lose it’ philosophy still holds true in the 21st century. Aging well means acting smart, but life without a little a fun, daring to step outside your comfort zone, or taking a giant leap of faith from time-to-time is just plain dull. Get out and enjoy every day to the fullest because life should be a blast at any age.

 

Originally Published: April 26, 2018

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Sharon Harrison, Contributor

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Sharon Harrison is a writer, editor and former intellectual property administrator and consultant. Whether editorialist, columnist or freelance reporter, Sharon is a storyteller, photographer, researcher and contributor to many lifestyle publications and media outlets including Grapevine, The Link, The Wellington Times and Countylive. When not hunting for the next interesting story or capturing the perfect photograph, Sharon has a penchant for nutrition and healthy living — and dark chocolate. A foodie, life-long gardener and art lover with a curiosity for mosaics, her inspiration for life comes from the picturesque beauty of Prince Edward County.



Togetherness and Mealtimes: Sharing the connection of family and food

Healthy Living Now | healthy living | healthy living Ontario | healthy living Canada | wellness | wellness Ontario | wellness Canada | fitness | fitness Ontario | fitness Canada | healthy eating | healthy eating Ontario | healthy eating Canada | mindfulness | mindfulness Ontario | mindfulness Canada | lifestyle | Ontario lifestyle | Canadian lifestyle | family | Ontario family | Ontario family magazine | Canadian family |  David Suzuki | Dr. Natasha Turner, N.D. | Dr. Oz  | living green | green living | green living Ontario | green living Canada | green living magazine | family strategies | family strategies Ontario | family strategies Canada | products new & now | healthy products | healthy products Ontario | healthy products Canada | lifestyle products | lifestyle products Ontario | lifestyle products Canada | healthy living products | Ontario healthy living products | Canadian healthy living products |  beauty | beauty products | Ontario beauty | Ontario beauty products | Canadian beauty | Canadian beauty products | fashion | fashion products | Ontario fashion | Ontario fashion products | Canadian fashion | Canadian fashion products | home | home products | Ontario home | Ontario home products | Canadian home | Canadian home products  | Family | Nutrition |   Winter 2017/2018 | Togetherness and Mealtimes: Sharing the Connection of Family and Food | Sharon Harrison

Winter is a time for comfort food and home-cooked meals. The oven can be turned on once again, its warmth appreciated rather than riled. Delicious scents emanate from the kitchen as homes fill with familiar smells that simply make us feel good. The blustery and chilly days of winter often keep us indoors.

It may be a memory from a grandmother, a favourite chocolate brownie recipe or a pot of aromatic tomato and basil soup that ensures we gravitate to the kitchen; it’s about familiarity, feeling connected and the comforts of home.

Big stock pots of soup made from the bounty of fall simmer on stove tops, stews slowly bubble, cakes and cookies turn golden as they bake.

Crisps and crumbles made from the abundance of apples gathered in the fall can be baked, stored in the freezer and consumed all winter long, preserving the memory of a fun apple-picking day at the orchard.

Delicious baked spaghetti squash can be appreciated through winter; butternut squash adds substance to soups and stews. Winter eating can be healthy; vegetables collected in the fall are packed with nutrients and vitamins and many will store for weeks or months.

The importance of eating together cannot be underestimated. There is something very special about sitting down together with family and friends to share a meal, no matter how small or insignificant the offerings.

The warmth of a kitchen in winter, the gathering of familiar faces sees people gravitate to simmering soups, warming casseroles or bubbling sweet fruit pies.

Some families seldom experience the joy of sitting at a table with others to eat a meal together. Kids eat alone in bedrooms, while they are using the computer or perched in front of a television screen. It’s a learned behaviour. Once upon a time, families would sit together at the table for all meals.

The 21st century saw a move away from this most basic and important ritual as family members proceeded to eat different meals on different schedules. Life got busy, schedules became chaotic and technology came along invading our lives like never before as families simply drifted apart. Twenty-first century life has become disjointed and in our so-called connected world, families have become disconnected.

Eating alone all the time isn’t good for us. Eating together is therapeutic, even if it’s only for one meal a day. Eating at a table with others gives us a chance to talk to one another, discuss the day or the latest world event, share anxieties or celebrate something special. It’s quality bonding time. People need conversation and face- to-face communication. It’s a small but extraordinarily effective thing: getting back to basics, carving out meaningful slots of time to spend with family during mealtimes.

Family dinners build relationships and it is recognized that kids do better in school as a result.

Studies show that children who do not eat meals with family members are more likely to encounter absenteeism issues at school. They are also more likely to be overweight. Those who did eat meals with family showed in studies to be better off academically, were less likely to use drugs or alcohol and generally chose more healthy food choices.

Food doesn’t have to glamorous or fancy: even the simplest meal choices eaten together can have enormous benefits enhancing our quality of life.

In her book “A Book of Mediterranean Food”, Elizabeth David wrote in 1950 about how we eat rather than what we eat.

Many countries around the world embrace the act of meal preparation as a family where eating together is a ritual, something not to be rushed, but savoured and enjoyed. Even the poorest people living in the poorest countries globally make and consume food together no matter what the food is or how much (or little) they have to work with. Mealtimes in some cultures are respected and sacred as food is prepared and consumed in a slow, mindful and meaningful manner.

The experience of sitting down together at a table doesn’t have to include the formality of a linen tablecloth, fine china or fancy flatware. Enjoying food with others is about laughing together and the act of sharing time with others, immersing one’s self in conversation, exchanging the stories of the day.

Eating together can make us feel relaxed and content and is often associated with positive feelings and pleasant memories. It’s a universal experience. It’s even known to lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels and can help improve digestion. It has also been linked to reducing the likelihood of chronic disease, thereby increasing longevity.

“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art,” said 17th- century writer François de La Rochefoucauld. You just have to be motivated and willing to change old habits.

Sitting together at the kitchen table, a mother can bond with a child; a brother with a sister. It’s a learning experience for the child as new behaviors are observed. Go one step further and drag the kids along to the local farmers’ market. Get them to check out the produce with you and allow them to help with selection. Allow them to participate in the process and work in the kitchen preparing the meal. It is well documented that kids who are exposed to all elements of food preparation carry it with them through to adulthood. And while not necessarily a scientific fact, it’s often said that couples who eat together, stay together.

Passing skills onto the next generation, instilling a passion for cooking and the benefits that come with sharing mealtimes is vital. Restoring family traditions and having little ones make new traditions is the true essence of family life. Memories of grandma’s chocolate chip cookies or dad’s slightly-burned macaroni and cheese should be preserved and carried through the generations.

Eating together is about securing connections, developing social skills, establishing new traditions as old recipes are preserved and new ones are created. We all have to eat, so why not do it together and make mealtimes more meaningful.

Eat simply and eat together.
— Elizabeth David (1913-1992)

 

Originally Published: December 4, 2017

Author opinion disclosure.jpg

about the author.jpg
Photo 2017-05-20, 2 52 18 PM.jpg

Sharon Harrison, Contributor

+ Read Bio

Sharon Harrison is a writer, editor and former intellectual property administrator and consultant. Whether editorialist, columnist or freelance reporter, Sharon is a storyteller, photographer, researcher and contributor to many lifestyle publications and media outlets including Grapevine, The Link, The Wellington Times and Countylive. When not hunting for the next interesting story or capturing the perfect photograph, Sharon has a penchant for nutrition and healthy living — and dark chocolate. A foodie, life-long gardener and art lover with a curiosity for mosaics, her inspiration for life comes from the picturesque beauty of Prince Edward County.