Healthy To A Hundred: Heidi Huynh of Ascend Therapy Services On 5 Things You Need To Live A Long, Healthy, & Happy Life

An Interview With Savio P. Clemente

Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine
Published in
16 min readAug 31, 2022


Proper fuel for the body — nutrition, hydration, and sleep.

Each spring every living thing in my yard, weeds included, get the rain and sunshine they need to experience rocket growth. Rain and sunshine. This is their fuel. What do we need as humans to stay strong and well fueled? Three very important components are our nutrition, hydration, and sleep.

The term Blue Zones has been used to describe places where people live long and healthy lives. What exactly does it take to live a long and healthy life? What is the science and the secret behind longevity and life extension? In this series, we are talking to medical experts, wellness experts, and longevity experts to share “5 Things You Need To Live A Long, Healthy, & Happy Life”. As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Heidi Huynh.

Heidi has experience working with aging adults as an Occupational Therapist in many settings including skilled nursing, memory care, assisted living, independent living, and their own homes. Her focus is to assist those she works with in maximizing their independence and safety so they can continue to spend time doing what they love. She has recently taken her prior experience and became an entrepreneur, creating a mobile outpatient occupational therapy practice and providing online resources to better reach the greater community. If interested, you can find those online resources at

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?

I have always been passionate about having fun and experiencing life to its fullest. Having encountered great experiences in my life, I have for a long time desired to help others experience meaningful moments as well. While attending Western Washington University I majored in Therapeutic Recreation and had my first opportunity to work with older adults in a skilled nursing facility with the activities department. After graduation, I became the activity director in that same facility, and for two years I created opportunities for the residents to express creativity, engage in socialization, and have fun.

While I absolutely loved that job, as I applied to occupational therapy school, I honestly thought that I would eventually work with kids, and held that belief throughout my time receiving my master’s degree in that program. After obtaining my occupational therapy license, the job that brought me back home to the pacific north west from Texas where I went to school was once again in a skilled nursing facility, and once again I loved it. Over time I realized that allowing people to thrive in their later stages of life though working with them is exactly where I am meant to be.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

I have many interesting stories from my time as an Occupational Therapist (OT) that I would love to share, but this is the one that stands out most clearly. We had a resident come to the skilled nursing facility following hospitalization for a fractured hip, but he was also battling a nasty lung infection along with other complications. This gentleman was weak, feeling no hope for a better future, and had little motivation to participate in therapy or other activities. He was a very prestigious fellow and did not own any sweatpants. Not wanting to wear slacks in his condition he used not having pants as an excuse to not get out of bed.

Knowing there was more in him than he’d let show, I brought him a pair of sweatpants and he no longer had an excuse. We got him up and he worked with the therapy team, building his confidence along with his strength. As his motivation climbed as well, he prepared for his return home, which in the community we were in was in the same building. Because of this I was able to continue to work with him once he returned home, getting him not only back to completing daily tasks, but to completing activities of enjoyment as well, such as working in his pea patch.

I took away many lessons from my experience working with this man. One, is the power of mindset and personal motivation. It wasn’t until he allowed himself to believe in himself that he began to make progress. The other is to never give up, and that it is never too late. This guy was not looking too hot when he first came to us, but you would barely recognize him walking around the community just a few months later. With dedication and hard work, you can achieve much more than you can imagine.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I can not even begin to list all of the people who have supported me along my journey to becoming who I am today, and I am grateful for all of them. My husband has always encouraged me to reach outside my comfort zone and has supported me along our cross country moves to make my education a possibility. My business coaches have taught me to reach further than what I knew existed to create new opportunities for those I want to serve. My previous co-workers gave me the courage and belief in myself that I have what it takes to provide therapy services in a new way through entrepreneurship. My two young children have given me a purpose for changing the way things have been done, and creating a life in which I can serve others as well as be flexible to be there for them as they grow. Last but not least, experiencing the loss of independence and function that my grandma unfortunately went through in her last year of life, is what has given me the drive to break down barriers for others, and the purpose of sharing new opportunities with others, to bring independence to those who may otherwise not know of its possibility.

You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Optimism: I have always been an optimistic person, and enjoy looking ‘on the bright side of life’. I can pass this optimism over to the people I work with, and help them to believe in the positive opportunity that lays before them.

Enthusiastic: I am very passionate, excited, and enthusiastic about my work and helping others to thrive in their current stage of life. I enjoy what I do, and it shows through my excitement as I talk about it. This excitement allows others to believe in my purpose and my work as well.

Determination: I am determined to finish what I start, even if it becomes more complicated or takes much longer than anticipated. I won’t fail, because I don’t allow myself the opportunity to give up. The finished product may not look exactly like the initial plan, but I will do what it takes to accomplish the task.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of our interview about health and longevity. To begin, can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fields of health, wellness, and longevity? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?

As an Occupational Therapist, I am a trained problem solver. I take situations that have become difficult due to illness or injury, and create a solution to help someone thrive with as much independence as possible. I have learned through both formal education and experience about health conditions, wellness opportunities, and actions to take to live life fully. My area of expertise includes safety, alternate techniques, and modifications that lead to greater longevity despite a person’s complications or strengths in the health and wellness arena. It is having that authority, which leads me to be able to contribute to health and wellness in my unique way; meeting people where they are at, looking at them as an individual, and creating a system to help them enjoy their long, healthy life.

Seekers throughout history have traveled great distances and embarked on mythical quests in search of the “elixir of life,” a mythical potion said to cure all diseases and give eternal youth. Has your search for health, vitality, and longevity taken you on any interesting paths or journeys? We’d love to hear the story.

My most recent focus on health has been through participating in a bootcamp created by my business coaching program. I cannot recommend healthy habits to those I work with if I am not demonstrating the effort toward it as well! This bootcamp has many components, including a healthy diet, hydration requirements, 60 minutes of exercise, taking a progress photo of ourselves, taking a gratitude photo, and reading 10 minutes of non-fiction every single day, for 90 days at a time. Through this process I have learned a lot about being creative to get things done, as well as the fact that health is not all physical. Health and vitality include personal growth in all aspects, and continually working toward bettering ourselves however we can. This is a constant journey and will never be perfect, but may be one of the most important journeys we embark on, as living healthy and fully is what allows us to accomplish our other tasks and purposes across our lifetime.

Based on your research or experience, can you please share your “5 Things You Need To Live A Long & Healthy Life”? (Please share a story or an example for each)

#1. A positive aging mindset

I have learned that if we believe we can’t we won’t, and if we truly believe we can, and we want to, little can stop us. When it comes to aging, there are often a lot of negative connotations, and “I’m too old for this” is as common a phrase as any.

If we believe that aging leads to weakness, sickness, low vision and hearing, and loneliness, there is a good chance our path will lead us there as soon as a barrier gets in our way. Have you ever played the video game MarioKart? It is a racing game with obstacles and tools to either help yourself or throw in the way of others. In this game, if you are looking at the banana in the road, even though you know you want to avoid it, you often run right into it and slide out of control. Our path is created by what we focus on, and our beliefs often lead us toward where we go.

If we believe the other hand of the story; that we can overcome any obstacle, that age is just a number, and that there is nothing that age can take from us that we can’t get back at least in a new way, we are much more likely to follow that path, and lead a long, healthy life.

#2. Proper fuel for the body — nutrition, hydration, and sleep.

Each spring every living thing in my yard, weeds included, get the rain and sunshine they need to experience rocket growth. Rain and sunshine. This is their fuel. What do we need as humans to stay strong and well fueled? Three very important components are our nutrition, hydration, and sleep.

Nutrition is something that we all know is important, but knowing so and doing so are two very different things. There is no magic formula, but key points to keep in mind include being sure to get adequate protein, fiber, and antioxidants from fruits and vegetables. The deeper the color (red, purple, orange) the better. Nutrition is important because the food we eat not only influences our health in terms of the likelihood of disease, but also our energy, ability to build muscle, maintain skin strength, heal when injured, and many other aspects we may not give it credit for.

Have you ever wondered what water does for us? Why it is important to be hydrated? Water helps carry nutrients and oxygen to and from our cells, helps organs absorb nutrients, regulates our body temperature, detoxifies the body, moistens body tissues, and cushions joints, among other things. By the time we reach age 80, the amount of water in our body has decreased by 20%, and we may begin to lose our thirst response as we age, not noticing when we are thirsty. This is why tracking our water intake and attending to hydration is such an important part of this health equation.

Sleep quality and habits may change for many reasons as we age, whether it be more difficulty finding a comfortable position, having to wake up multiple times to use the bathroom, or other restlessness. Our bodies however are not able to recharge without sleep, so if it does become difficult for you, it is important to look into opportunities for remedies.

When thinking about health and longevity, focusing on these aspects of nutrition, hydration, and sleep is what will properly fuel us to continue to live strong.

#3. Movement

As we know nutrition is important, we know exercise is important, but often easier to say than implement. The term exercise may be daunting for some, so I simply say movement. We need to move our bodies one way or another every single day. For you this may be a long walk, a hardy 30 minutes of cardio or strengthening exercise, or simple movements lifting your arms or legs while sitting on the couch or standing in the kitchen.

I’m sure you have heard the phrase if you don’t use it you lose it. I once heard a story of a 93 year old lady living on her own. The first thing she did every day was get down on the floor, and get back up. When asked why she did this, she mentioned that they day she cannot get back up, she will know it is time to move to a place with more support. Each day she got on the ground she may have been checking herself, but she was also practicing, strengthening, and continuing use of those muscles and that movement by partaking in this task.

Movement keeps our bodies strong, and it keeps our minds strong as we unconsciously plan where we are going while moving. It can be simple, or it can be hearty, but we need to move one way or another every day.

#4. A hobby / passion / purpose

What makes your life worth living? I hope you have a long list, as that list will keep you going. Engaging in an activity you love has many benefits we often don’t even notice. Besides bringing a smile, it often involves some sort of movement, social engagement, or thinking skill. Take gardening for example. If someone loves to garden in a raised bed, they experience enjoyment, while also working on balance, standing tolerance, functional reach, fine motor control, and larger motor movements. When someone who loves knitting joins a knitting circle, they engage in social conversation, cognitively follow the directions of the pattern, and keep up hand strength and finger control. Having a hobby, a passion, and a purpose helps us to live life, rather than watch it pass by.

#5. An openness to change and support

Number 5 may come to each person at a different point in their life. Though many people live a long, healthy life with little change as time goes by, many others live a long, healthy life that looks completely different when they are 80 compared to when they were 60. For most people, after doing something the same way for 70 years, it is hard to change. Being open to change however, is what will allow us to continue to flourish in new ways, as age and time may change how our physical and cognitive abilities are functioning.

This is where a majority of my time as an OT is spent, helping others to recognize and embrace new ways of doing what is important to them, rather than giving up when they aren’t able to safely do it the same way anymore. We use compensatory strategies and positionings, maybe sitting to put on our pants vs standing on one foot like we used to. We teach the use of adaptive equipment and helpful tools to assist people in getting on their shoes, or washing their backs when these tasks become a larger challenge. We may adapt the environment, and change the way things are set up around the house to make daily tasks a bit simpler and safer. These small changes will not be successful without an open mind and willingness to change.

Ideas of changes such as these are something that does not come naturally to everyone, which is why occupational therapy, and other supports exist. It is important to allow the support of others to guide us through these changes that may occur at one point or another, to enable us to continue to live a long and healthy life that may be a little different than before, but still just as full.

Can you suggest a few things needed to live a life filled with happiness, joy, and meaning?

I am going to repeat #4 from my prior list, having a hobby / passion / purpose as it is just as applicable for both questions, and both aspects of life — health and happiness. Many people I have spoken to share that having a purpose to share with others provides them with meaning. Because of this, I will also add socialization to the answer here. Not everyone is a social butterfly, and doesn’t need to be, but having someone to share the joy of life with brings happiness in a way that otherwise isn’t felt. Whether this is one close friend, a large gaggle of grandchildren, or volunteering with strangers, happiness is often experienced with others.

Some argue that longevity is genetic, while others say that living a long life is simply a choice. What are your thoughts on this nature vs. nurture debate? Which is more important?

I believe that there is a genetic factor involved when considering longevity, and that many life instances may be beyond our control. When mentioning which is more important however, based on my experience, it would be the nurture component of choice and mindset. We cannot control our genetics, but we can influence our choice, and therefore this is what needs to be the focus.

I have seen many people come back from the unimaginable — multiple broken bones, strokes, chronic diseases, and the individual pushes through. These are people in their 70s, 80s, and 90s. Though I don’t know their genetic factors which may influence outcome, their determination to regain their life and independence gives them the strength to push on and put in the work that is needed to do so. I have also seen individuals who believe that it is too late for them, or believe that they can not do a certain task; and as they give in to that belief, they give up the strength to fight it, and ultimately lose the independence they are missing.

I believe there is some choice, but that mindset and belief in oneself go deeper than a simple choice, and ultimately if someone can find the belief, they can have great power to influence their outcome.

Life sometimes takes us on paths that are challenging. How have you managed to bounce back from setbacks in order to cultivate physical, mental, and emotional health?

Discipline, motivation, and encouragement from others. I work best with a goal in mind. When I feel that I need to change my habits and lifestyle to get back on a healthier track, telling myself I am going to live healthy habits is not as successful to me as a competition with a checklist of tasks to accomplish, and positive rewards for achieving and negative consequences for not meeting the goal. Everyone is different, but when I’ve experienced a challenge and a setback, and I know I need to cultivate all these important aspects of health, this is what helps me accomplish my goals; which is why I often incorporate checklists, encouragement, and accountability with those I work with as well.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

My business coaches often say “Imperfect action is better than inaction”. For me, this comes into play when publishing content for my viewers, or creating a new program. If I work on making everything perfect, nothing will ever happen, meaning no one will benefit, and done is better than perfect.

This is also very applicable to life, and to living while aging. We may not be able to do things the way we used to. This happens at any stage in life. I don’t have the same energy now as I did 10 years ago and I have a long way before I am considered an ‘older adult’. Living life, though we may not see our actions as perfect, is better than watching life, waiting to become perfect. Completing some sort of movement routine is important every day, even if it does not pass your standards as perfect exercise. We may not have the perfect nutritious diet, but trying one step at a time is better than nothing. Do something to live your life every day, and don’t worry that it is not perfect, just jump in and do it.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Belief in oneself and others. I have heard so many stories of adult children of aging parents being frustrated that their parents won’t put in the effort to make a change, and I honestly believe it is because that person has given up on the belief that it will matter. I am speaking from experience working with an aging population, but this is a concept that people experience in all stages of life — we don’t try because we don’t believe it will happen. Sometimes this lack of belief doesn’t make much difference in the scheme of things, but other times it leads to end of life, whether that be actual life or engaging in life. If there was a movement that led people of all ages to believe in themselves, that they have the power to make changes needed to live the life they want, a whole new world would be created.

What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?

I have a variety of online resources that are constantly being updated with more tips and tricks for living independently and safely as we age. This includes my Facebook group “Aging with Independence”, as well as practical handouts and other social media accounts that can be found on my website:

I encourage you to join the group, watch the videos, download the handouts, and follow my accounts so we can walk together on this journey of living a healthy, long, life.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.



Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC), Journalist, Best-selling Author, Podcaster, and Stage 3 Cancer Survivor