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The Four Columns of Successful Aging

The Next Chapter - Improving the Lives of Seniors
Patti Lyons

Today, 12,432 people in the U.S. will celebrate their 60th birthday! This rate will continue for an estimated 10 years. It’s an amazing statistic and one that should give you pause whether you are among the lucky seniors starting the next chapter of your life or among the ones who will live in the wake that this phenomenon will cause - not only in our community but our country and world as well.

While 60 isn’t old by ANY means, it brings to the forefront the importance of aging successfully…not only personally but in our society’s imperative to ensure that reaching that age occurs for each one of us. From a community standpoint, the ramifications of a diminished tax base forced to deal with the strain of Medicare and Medicaid for a growing population that is living longer will change how and what we fund in the future. It will bring sharply into focus our core beliefs, and hopefully we’ll rise to the challenge and remember the wisdom that cautions that a society will be judged by how it cares for its young AND its old. The course we will take is beyond my expertise to foretell but it is one that I am without a doubt we will need to navigate.

I do know that each of us can play a role by making sure we do all we can to personally age successfully and prepare for the next chapter in our lives when we reach this landmark. Aging successfully is what this column is all about and has been the mission of Senior Citizens Inc. for almost 60 years. Most of the articles will deal with helping on a personal level and we’ll look at topics that help strengthen each of the columns that hold up the framework of a successful life. At times, we’ll also look at larger changes that will inevitably occur as we struggle as a nation to best define society’s role in successful aging.

So what do I mean when I write about the “columns of life”? There are four areas, or columns, that are essential to achieving a life well lived.  Each of these columns has to be strong in order for us to live life fully and successfully. 

Mind:  A sharp, keen mind is critical for successful aging.Keeping ourselves intellectually engaged and challenged is just one of the tools needed to ward off not only the natural effects of growing older but diseases like Alzheimer's that rob so many of us of our mental acuity against our will.

Body: The physical component of our life is also an essential column. Time has a way of eroding our body but we can keep it strong and healthy, and it may be one of the easiest things to control.

Spirit: A heart that is open and nourished by goodness is our third column. It is scientifically proven that those that find the positive in situations and people around them live longer.

Community: You know the phrase “it takes a village”? Well, it does. Each of us needs to have a village around us. We need to have relationships that lift and nurture us and give us the community we all crave. Keeping our community active in our lives is the fourth column in our ability to age well.

In the months to come, we’ll talk more about each of the columns and what you can do to shore them up. Until then, take a survey of your own columns. Do one or two of them need attention today? Take the time now to look at ways you can strengthen them. It doesn’t have to be a grand or difficult endeavor. Call a friend. Take a walk. Breathe deeply. Complete a crossword puzzle.  After all, regardless of our current age or where we are in the book of life, we all want to age successfully and be ready for each new chapter.

For the past 17 years, Patti Lyons has been the President of Senior Citizens Inc., a nonprofit organization that has been helping people age successfully for almost 60 years. She serves on the Meals on Wheels America Board and is a governor’s appointee to the Georgia Council on Aging.