If you had to make a mental picture of an older person who had aged well, what would they look like? Healthy? Of course! Accomplished and successful? Probably. Interesting and knowledgeable? More than likely.
Let me tell you about a lady who is my “successful aging” role model. Her name was Ellie.
My “Successfully Aging” Role Model
Ellie passed away suddenly at the age of 89, but right up to the day she died, she continued to live life to the fullest. Ellie was generally healthy and took exercise classes, walked and stayed active. Ellie loved to belly-dance and would perform on rare occasions for us. Ellie was charming and graceful, always a good one to have at a party. Ellie was a reader and writer of poems and wit, always a good conversationalist. But most striking was her happy heart. She would always present a smile and a positive energy that filled the room.
The Six Dimensions of Wellness
Being my inspiration, I would give Ellie an A+ on aging successfully! And how would I grade a person? In the science of aging, the “Six Dimensions of Wellness” are an industry standard used when evaluating this very topic. They were originally developed in 1975 by Dr. Bill Hettler, co-founder of the National Wellness Institute. Professionals in the Senior Wellness industry (and yes, this is an industry!) rely on these markers when planning and evaluating successful programming and outcomes with Seniors. Here is a “thumbnail” of The Six Dimensions of Wellness:
- Physical – Staying healthy through exercise and proper nutrition.
- Occupational – Personal enrichment through one’s work or volunteering.
- Social – Engagement with those around you and staying connected through family and friends.
- Spiritual – An appreciation for life through exploring personal values and beliefs, including religion.
- Emotional – Awareness and acceptance of one’s feelings, seeing your cup half full.
- Intellectual – Keeping your brain sharp through creative and stimulating mental activities.
Now, I suppose this is a somewhat clinical approach to the topic and by no means the final word. We have to recognize our own unique individual qualities - what Successful Aging means to one person may be very different for another.
A Conversation with Nancilee Wydra
Recently, I was happily introduced to a new Cornerstone member, Nancilee Wydra, who has been studying and reporting on this topic of “Aging Successfully.” She has developed her own website and approaches this topic with great humor and interesting antidotes but also with facts and research to back her claims. I posed several questions to her about Aging Successfully, and here is what she had to say:
What does Aging Successfully mean to you?
“Every stage of life seems to emphasize different things. In our twenties, success not only means morphing education into the choice of a career that we can be accomplished in, but also one that satisfies us on a deep level. At this later point in life, the horizon holds the opportunity to reconnect with yourself (often when one retires). Since you have added a great deal to your essence, successful aging means finding meaning and pleasure in moving in this direction and discovering all of your added value.”
Is there one aspect of Aging Successfully that you feel is the most important?
“Yes, optimism and having goals or purpose are central to being happy.”
If you had to summarize Aging Successfully in five words or less, what would that be?
“Celebrating the present.”
What advice would you give to an individual exploring this topic for themselves?
“Ask yourself what opportunities you have now that you didn’t have in the past. When you answer that question, you will be well on your way to Aging Successfully.
“Like the earth all things shift,
Celebrate change, if you get my drift.
It’s a central ingredient to being alive,
It’s up to you to embrace new ways to thrive.”
Lunch & Learn: Aging Successfully
To learn more about this topic, we invite you to join us for our next Lunch and Learn event “Aging Successfully” on Thursday, September 13th at 12:30 p.m. at the Cornerstone Event Center in New Hope. Nancilee Wydra will be our guest speaker. Check out her website: www.laughingalltheway.net
For more information, see our Seniors page of our Website, or to sign-up, contact Cornerstone Clubs.