Healthy Aging

What is it, and what does it mean to you?

Deann Zampelli, Health Coach, M.A., HWC
3 min readFeb 9, 2024


Photo by Centre for Ageing Better on Unsplash

When my daughter was in kindergarten, she came home distraught because her teacher wanted all the students to share what they wanted to be when they grew up. She looked up at me with tear-filled eyes and said, “Mommy, I am only 5. How am I supposed to know that?” Exactly. At 5, or 55 why should we ever have to decide to “be” just one thing?

I have unintentionally lived this philosophy, enjoying each stage of my life in different ways. After working in the entertainment industry for many years, I found my passion in the non-profit world as a director for a charity that helped seriously and terminally ill children. Then, after my mother died of breast cancer, I needed something lighter to distract me from my grief, so a friend and I merged our love of animals with our love of fashion and created PuchiBag, handbags to carry little dogs, which became known for the pink bag in Legally Blonde. 10 years and 1000 retail placements later, I took time off to have my children and sold my half of the business to her.

However, when my kids were 3 and 5 years old, I realized that my brain needed a bit more stimulation, so I went back to school and got my Masters in Clinical Psychology. And while I enjoyed working with my clients, who were low-income seniors, I always felt that something was missing in the way I was able or allowed to help them. It wasn’t until I found the program at Duke Integrative Medicine and became a health coach that I realized what that missing piece was. I wanted to help them with their nutrition, sleep habits, stress management, exercise and so much more. At Montecito Coaching & Nutrition I help my clients to be the experts; on who they are and where they want to be while incorporating all these things. While my focus is on healthy aging, I have clients of all ages working on everything from cleaning up their diet to navigating life’s transitions such as bereavement, menopause and empty nest syndrome.

Healthy aging can have many different meanings. To me, it is continuing to challenge my brain by learning new things. It means getting my Masters degree as a mother with young children. Starting a new career in mid-life. Not seeing limitations, but opportunities. And, never viewing my age as a stop sign. Or even a yield.

Denial is a very powerful antioxidant. And I don’t mean “denial” in the “I am really only 35” kind of way, but more in that I don’t walk around feeling my age one way or another. If someone were to ask me how old “I felt”, it might be 38, 45 or 24 depending on the day you catch me. (When I had Covid, I would have said 104.) For you, healthy aging might mean something completely different; being able to trek through Patagonia; total independence, never retiring, full mobility, freedom to make your own schedule, being medication free or running on the beach with your dogs.

The Japanese have a great word that seems to be a big piece of the healthy aging puzzle; “ikigai”, your reason for being. Your passion. What makes you get up in the morning. And more and more studies are showing that it could be one of the biggest indicators of longevity. Do you feel needed each day? Are you stimulated? Would someone notice if you didn’t show up?

The Blue Zones are getting more and more traction since the first publication of Dan Buettner’s groundbreaking book in 2008. It is a Netflix series, a cookbook, a lifestyle guide and even a home food delivery service. It isn’t a big surprise why this movement gained such traction and captured the imagination of aspiring centenarians worldwide. We all want to know what the secret is. To long life. To vitality. To living better. To being healthier. So we keep reading. We keep watching. We keep learning.

Aging is a gift, after all. Healthy aging is a choice.

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