As a physician, I have seen people age well and I have seen people age poorly, people who look 60 when they’re 80, and people who look 80 when they’re 60. I’ve had patients who were on no medication at 90 and patients who were on a dozen at 50. I plan to be one of the people who age well.
“My philosophy is: eat well, move more, stay happy. Focus on eating healthy, staying active and staying positive, reducing stress and enjoying your life. It’s that simple.”
— Dr. Rhonda Collins
The Proof is in the Data
Here’s what the evidence shows about moderate physical activity in adults over the age of 65:
It lowers rates of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer and breast cancer
Older adults who participate in regular physical activity also exhibit higher levels of functional health
They lower their risk of falling by improving bone health and muscle strength
They demonstrate better cognitive function and experience less depression.
The World Health Organization recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity during the week, muscle strengthening activities on two days of the week, and for older adults with poor mobility, activities to enhance balance and prevent falls three days a week.
Physical activity includes walking, or other sports, planned exercise routines, as well as chores or games. You don’t need to run a marathon, and you don’t need to do something you don’t enjoy. You just have to move.
Practicing What I Prescribe
I would like to enter my senior years with a pattern of physical activity that I can continue. Two of the things I enjoy most in my life are scuba diving and traveling. Scuba diving is exhilarating and peaceful all at once; with so many things to see and the only thing I hear is the sound of my breathing. It’s like being in another world. It also speaks to my thrill-seeking nature. I have been on safari in Africa, swam with dolphins and stingrays in the Caribbean, and climbed volcanoes in the Galapagos. I have even jumped out of a plane!
I want to stay active, healthy and mobile with my cognition intact. I want to continue to travel and enjoy life well into my 80’s and beyond if that is my destiny. I know that nobody is immune to disease, but I will do everything in my power to reduce my risks. I am not going to use my age as an excuse to stop doing things. I am not going to focus on the things I can’t do; only on the things I can. And although I intend to remain active for as long as I can, I will also take time to stop and smell the roses, which is equally important for my mental and physical health.
A Shining Example
Here is a shining example of a positive attitude toward aging and the power of remaining active. Hazel McCallion, former mayor of Mississauga, Ontario, lived to 102 years old and never stopped living a full life of joy and relevance. She was re-elected to her role 12 times and expertly led her city through many ups and downs. She retired at 93 and played hockey into her 90s.
Over the years, she visited many retirement homes and long term care residences to listen to and inspire residents, their families and our entire leadership team.
She died in 2023, but one of the last things she wrote was this: “I don’t think I’ve stopped for one minute in the past 50 years, but now I’m stopping to smell the roses a bit more than I used to. I think if anything, it helps me appreciate that life doesn’t have to be as fast as it used to be.”