It’s unavoidable. We all think about it. Maybe it happened when you first started noticing the streaks of silver sprouting amidst your darkly colored hair. Maybe it happened when you noticed a crease abreast your beautifully constructed face. Maybe it was the crackling bones that reminded you of the journeys and adventures forged in your younger years. Let’s be honest, maybe it was just an overwhelming desire to age as flawlessly as possible. Whenever you began to notice the effects of aging or your desire to prevent the impact of aging, it is safe to say most of us will wonder about the best way to do it. Aging is a uniquely unifying experience that we will all experience.
For many of us, the thought of aging and growing older represents a decline of some sort. A decline in our abilities, appearance, vibrance, and perhaps most concerning, a decline in our well-being. The fear of this often motivates us to resist the inevitable. All of the collagen, retinol, Botox, vitamins, and exercise will not stop us from getting older. I myself have dabbled in some (OK, most) of these options desperately attempting to hold on to my youthful appearance. Ironically, each year, I continue to get older despite my best effort to slow down time. It turns out the best and most beautiful thing we can hope for is to age well and cultivate a fulfilling life.
Aging well means different things for different people. How we age can be affected by our nutrition, physical fitness, socioeconomic status, and the amount we are willing to spend on aesthetics; all of this is true. But, did you also know that one of the best ways to live a long, healthy, and happy life is to have quality relationships and connections with others important to us. Again, Good relationships and quality connections with others keep us healthier and happier and allow us to live longer.
While we have been focusing on anti-aging physically, we have been missing the true antidote; connection. According to Robert Waldinger, psychiatrist, and professor at Harvard University, the people who were most satisfied in their relationships in their 50s were the healthiest in their 80s. Good relationships protect both our physical bodies and our brains as we age – our memory stays sharper for longer when we have good relationships. Additionally, according to the National Institute on Aging, research has linked social isolation and loneliness to higher risks for a variety of physical and mental conditions that include, but are not limited to, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and even death. Funny enough, this information is as old as time and the solution is FREE! So why is it so hard for some of us to establish those connections? To put it simply, relationships are complex and at times messy and uncomfortable; they often require effort and vulnerability and can leave us saying “I don’t want to touch this with a 10’ pole.” Simultinaety however, is a funny thing that reminds us that for as challenging as relationships can be, the joy and fulfillment that results is immeasurable.
From the moment we are born, our well-being is directly linked to our connection and attachment to our caregiver. It is the most primitive and critical catalyst for healthy development. From there our ability to connect and be in community with others is reliant upon our lived experiences which in turn directly affects our quality of life. One of the longest-running studies on health and well-being, the Harvard Study of Adult Development which began in 1938, provides 80+ years of research and evidence that supports one overarching truth – embracing community and building and maintaining good relationships helps us live longer and happier lives (Mineo, 2018). Further, in an article written by licensed clinical social worker Angela Theisen, for The Mayo Clinic, it was noted that the social ties that accompany a sense of belonging are a protective factor in helping manage stress and other behavioral issues. When we feel we have support and are not alone, we are more resilient, often coping more effectively with difficult times (Angela Theisen, 2022).
So, while we might try all the technical and aesthetic options out there to age well, where we are actually most likely to get the biggest bang for our buck is to prioritize our connections and relationships. Health and wellness coaching is an effective option to explore your relationships and to set goals to prioritize the cultivation of these connections to improve your quality of life. I look forward to the opportunity to discuss how working together for this purpose can set you on a path toward a longer, healthier, and more fulfilled life.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Social isolation, loneliness in older people pose health risks. National Institute on Aging. Retrieved March 3, 2023, from
Mineo, L. (2018, November 26). Over nearly 80 years, Harvard study has been showing how to
live a healthy and happy life. Harvard Gazette. Retrieved March 3, 2023, from
Angela Theisen, L. C. S. W. (2022, August 25). Is a sense of belonging important? Mayo Clinic Health System. Retrieved March 3, 2023, from https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/is-having-a-sense-of-belonging-important#:~:text=The%20social%20ties%20that%20accompany,difficult%20times%20in%20our%20lives.