By Mark Kalina, M.D.
Board member, Del Mar Community Connections
On May 20, The Stein Institute for Research on Aging at UCSD featured a powerful visiting speaker, Dr. George Vaillant. A psychiatrist and head researcher of the Harvard Study on Adult Development, Dr. Vaillant reviewed for the audience the findings of this longitudinal study of adults, which has followed the lives of hundreds of people (mostly men) for 70 years. He revealed the seven factors predicting healthy aging.
Not surprisingly, the study found that education levels, marital stability, not smoking, not abusing alcohol, regular exercise and maintenance of a healthy weight all were associated with longevity and improved quality of the senior years. In addition, the ability to employ mature adaptations (coping strategies) also was predictive of healthy aging.
Further, he went on to discuss and emphasize the role of positive emotions in creating and maintaining a healthy life. These positive emotions — faith, love, awe, hope, joy, gratitude, forgiveness and compassion — which he described as the foundations for a true spirituality, are not often cited by researchers or clinicians as important.
In fact, he revealed how little researchers or clinicians devote to these states, favoring the negative states of depression, fear and anger in their focus, work and writing.
He encouraged the audience to focus on these positive emotions rather than the negative states. This strong advice came to us from the man who has followed and documented the emotional, physical and spiritual lives of people for the longest time period ever studied.
The truly great part of this impressive scientific effort — the daily routine CAN be done.
It is very doable.
It does not require anything more than the attitude we choose and the daily choices that we make. Every day, we have a new opportunity to get healthy. Every day, we have a new opportunity to live better. Change can happen; we are not victims of our genes or childhoods.
Dr. Vaillant's research brought these pearls to the light. It is our challenge to take this knowledge and let it grow in our lives. Good luck!
On a more specific note, Del Mar Community Connections (DMCC) will be hosting an outreach pharmacist from UCSD on July 7 at the City Hall Annex. The pharmacist is a member of the American Society of Consulting Pharmacists. The talk will focus on the importance and benefits of the Pneumovax and shingles vaccines for maintaining good health in the senior years. Attendees will also have the opportunity to ask questions regarding their medications and general screening. Don't miss this great talk brought to you by DMCC — your resource for healthful senior living.