Mac in Five: Five things you can do right now to age well.

by Dr. Parminder Raina

Two older men on a bike ride along a lake.

Population aging is poised to become one of the most transformative shifts of this century, impacting how we work, live and engage in our communities. Today in Canada, there are more people aged 65 and older than children under age 15. Recent population projections suggest that one in five Canadians will be 65 or older by 2024. With such a fundamental shift underway, we need to radically change how we approach getting older. Because we know aging well is not just about living longer — it’s about living better.

The McMaster approach has always emphasized the translation of research evidence into practice, programs, policies and interventions to improve the health and well-being of Canadians. Research on the aging process happens across all Faculties at McMaster, which is why, in 2016, the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging (MIRA) was created to develop a coordinated, collaborative research agenda to bring the university’s leading researchers on aging under one vision. In addition to the exceptional team of researchers who provided the foundation for MIRA, the Institute also draws upon existing McMaster resources such as the Gilbrea Centre for Studies in Aging, the Labarge Optimal Aging Initiative and the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging. Building on these platforms, McMaster has also recently announced the creation of the Labarge Centre for Mobility in Aging, which will enable our researchers to work collaboratively in the study of all aspects of mobility — both physical and within our communities.

So what do we know about aging well? Is it all in the genes, or dependent on our lifestyle choices? Research shows that about 25 per cent of our life expectancy is connected to genetics, but the other 75 per cent is determined by what we do to our bodies. There is still much research to be done, but what we know has been compiled on the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal, which has been created as a trusted voice on healthy aging to provide citizens with the high-quality information they need to age well. Here’s a snapshot of what you will find.

Five things you can do to promote healthy aging:
 1) Exercise — No gym memberships required. Just slip on a pair of walking shoes and go.
 2) Eat well — Think portion size, the Mediterranean diet, less salt and saturated fat, but more fish.
 3) Stay connected with friends and family — Research shows social connections contribute to a happier, more fulfilling life.
 4) Sleep — In general, middle-aged adults need between seven to eight hours; older adults need seven hours or less.
 5) Take care of your teeth — The importance of brushing your teeth is highly underrated. 
 Recommended Reading: 
 How to Age: The School of Life by Anne Karpf
 World Health Organization World Report on Ageing and Health

Recommended Websites: 
 McMaster Optimal Aging Portal

Dr. Parminder Raina
 Scientific director of the McMaster Institute for Research on Aging

Dr. Parminder Raina specializes in geroscience including successful aging, aging brain, disability, and fall related injury. Dr. Raina is Director of McMaster University Evidence-Based Practice Center (AHRQ Designated Center) and has an appointment in the Institute of Population Health at Hamilton General Hospital.