Living longer, so how do we live better?

In 1988, I attended the Jimmie Heuga Center in Vail, Colorado. Jimmie was a Silver Medal Skier in the Olympics. He contracted Multiple Sclerosis and created a center where people suffering from the disease could get evaluated and supported in creating a fitness program designed to hold off the impact the disease would most likely have on those challenged by it’s inevitable progression.

Although I was without a diagnosis at that point, there were two of many things I remember being present to while I was out there for the clinic. The first was “I hadn’t been diagnosed with MS and I hated the idea of being this proactive with a condition I most likely didn’t have”. However, I did have symptoms of something neurological that I needed to deal with, and I wanted to get some tips on how live life without the impacts of my disease.

The second most memorable thing was a quote from a cardiologist who spoke to our group. He said “if you want to live a long healthy life, pick your parents”. He discussed the importance of a strong heart and the negative influence cigarette smoking and foods high in fat have on our long term health. Although I am not thin, I am also not fat, and just recently my blood pressure at age 62 was 171 / 59. This might be a result of genetics or it might be environmental or a combination of the two.

As it turns out, I wasn’t able to pick my parents. So my only choice is to be responsible for a moderate amount of exercise and a relatively low fat diet. I say relatively because I am not a zealot nor am I an extremist about how I prepare meals or eat. Mary will vouch for this statement. “I am not a bar food kind of guy”. This is definitely good from a health perspective. But I also like a good bowl of ice cream.

My associate, Liz deLaperouse, gave me an article regarding aging and the predictable impacts we will all experience at some point in our lives if we live long enough. What I realized after reading the article was that our scientists are having us live longer. This is terrific! I want to live longer, but more importantly, I want to live better. Better means more active, alert, aware and contributing all the way to the end.

The best way, from my perspective, is to stay active and live in an environment that supports activity and prevents falls or prevents one from hesitating to do something or go somewhere because there is a level of limitation.

Very recently I purchased a minivan. A minivan was not what I wanted at this stage in my life. I wanted the new Jeep Grand Cherokee or a smaller cool SUV. However I was beginning to notice that I hesitated to go places unless I knew there would be someone to assist me with my wheelchair. Frankly, I was afraid I might fall, either going to the back to get my chair out or going from the back to the front after putting it in. Although this is a small thing to some, it was a big thing for me to realize I was being trapped by this small fear.

I imagine that everyone deals with some level of concern that reduces one’s freedom. My goal is to think ahead and provide homes that provide options and choices for expanding one’s life in ways that dramatically influence day-to-day joy.

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