Research tells us that we are not victims of our DNA, as we maybe once thought. One can think of our DNA like the blueprints of our "house." Your blueprint was created at conception. Got Grandma's hips? Uncle Albert's nose? These are heredity's gift to you--your genealogical legacy--embrace them! Although we are not able to change the design of our "house", what we CAN do is choose the materials we use to build our house, so that we can age in a healthy way, well into our golden years.

Ever see a 50-year-old house that is crumbling due to neglect, or a 100-year-old house that is still structurally sound and beautifully maintained? What is the difference between these two homes? Obviously age plays a role in these two very different outcomes, but more and more we are realizing the importance of a strong foundation, and regular maintenance over time.

So, how does this translate to us? Research has shown that there are four key areas that help to determine our overall wellness. We call them "The Four Pillars of Successful Aging." They are; 1) Brain Fitness, 2) Physical Fitness, 3) Nutrition/Dining Experience and 4) Social/Spiritual Engagement. When you build these Four Pillars into your everyday life, you will be helping to build a strong foundation for health and longevity. Even if you have gotten into a rut and find yourself sitting in front of your TV watching "Judge Judy" or "Leave it to Beaver" reruns all day-- there is hope! Making small adjustments to your routine can make a big difference over time, and it's never too late to start building these Four Pillars into your lifestyle. 

We all hope to maintain our mental clarity as we age. However, as you probably know--"hope" is NOT a strategy. Action is required. There are simple things that you can do to help give your brain a workout. Online programs such as Luminosity and Dakim Brain Fitness are wonderful tools. Playing cards with friends, listing to music, doing crossword puzzles, etc. are activities that help to keep your brain active. Just like a muscle, the brain needs to be challenged and engaged, in order to stay strong.

If you want to work on your physical health, there is no need to become a long-distance runner in order to reap the benefits of exercise. The body was designed to move. Movement is LIFE! So, take steps (literally) to get your body moving and active each day. Conversely, when the body is continuously sedentary, the breakdown process begins--much like a home that has been left abandoned. It may be time to clear out those cobwebs and take a walk around the block!

There is no doubt regarding the role that nutrition plays in your health. Don't worry. I am not going to tell you that you must start eating organic kale at every meal. However, I would suggest looking at your food in a new way--as building blocks for your "house". Make healthy choices each meal and each day. Incorporate more "bricks" (vegetables, fruit, lean proteins, whole grains, water, etc.) and fewer "sticks" (sugary foods, highly processed foods, artificial sweeteners, etc.) to build a stronger "house" over time.

Lastly, take the time to socialize with friends over a cup of coffee, and enjoy a laugh. Connect with your spiritual source of strength, and do your best to remain optimistic and grateful. These are just a few ways to experience the benefits of regular social and spiritual engagement.

Wherever you are in life, and no matter the age or state of your "house," it is never too late or too soon to begin incorporating the Four Pillars into your life, and reaping the rewards of health, happiness, and personal fulfillment.

Sarah Vilmain
Lighthouse of Waconia
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EPPIA is a networking group whose members are committed to the welfare of seniors in our community. EPPIA members meet to learn, exchange information and discuss issues in the field of aging. For more information on EPPIA and local senior resources, please visit our website at www.edenprairieaging.org.