What’s your personal strategy for aging?

You’ve got a basic personal policy for aging, whether you know it or not. But do you have a strategy for aging?

Policy involves thinking. Strategy involves action. Policy is what you deduce that you should do. Strategy is what you decide you will do.

Regardless of your age, you have at least the germ of a policy: a thought, a principle, an attitude that guides your decision-making about growing old. It may be pretty vague, not even a thought but a feeling—for example, I should have fun while I can. Another underlying policy might be: I shouldn’t think about old age. Or a certain cognitive dissonance prevails, and the policy in brief is I shouldn’t change a thing because I will never be old.

I suppose I adopted this rather tentative policy: I should try to make my own old age as good as possible. And I did.

By doing something, doing a lot of little things, I even found my thinking about old age changed radically … for the better.

You’re much less likely to have a personal strategy for aging. Could be interesting to try this, right? Imagine you’re the Prime Minister of You, and you have to explain your comprehensive plan of action to prepare for your own old age. What is it?

Comparing strategies for old age and for a pandemic

Facing old age is not like dealing with a global pandemic, but I can’t help seeing a parallel. (Metaphorical thinking is the poet’s doom.) In March 2020 the New Zealand Government had to choose whether to “go early and go hard”, or whether to wait and see, reacting to events beyond their control. They went early and went hard with an instant nationwide lockdown.

When we look ahead to our own old age, we can choose between the same two options (and many variations).

EITHER A: Go early and go hard: tackle the five core lifestyle factors that influence the quality of old age head on. Start a rigorous exercise programme, examine your diet and fix all the problems, ramp up your social interactions, feed your brain with novelty and challenges, and don’t stop taking the meds your doctor prescribes for heart, blood pressure or diabetes.

OR B: Wait and see how old age pans out. Carry on with life as usual. Whenever you get hurt or ill or tired or depressed, go to the experts and let them plan your treatment.

I’m not saying that launching a personal strategy for aging is inevitably better than coasting along! You’re human, of course you will live life your way, and that’s good. I know many happy, healthy humans who take that approach with great success. However, if you are secretly anxious about the future, there can be great satisfaction in planning and executing a personal strategy for aging.

Best find a buddy and do it together—your way! Or join a dance group and tick three boxes at once.

Dancing for fitness, brain health, and friendship in old age

Eight dancers from Crows Feet Wellington, aged 50s–80s, performed at the Seasoned Symposium in Christchurch, April 2021. Helen Balfour choreographed “Birds of a Feather” for the occasion. Crows Feet welcomes anyone over 35 who wants to dance, and this dance displays our delight in dancing together as a group. Music is Schulwerk by Carl Orff. Video by Carolyn Sylvester of Sylvester Media.

Crows Feet Dance Collective Facebook page

22 thoughts on “What’s your personal strategy for aging?

  1. ashok says:

    Just be happy and spread happiness 😊

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      You know your strengths.

      1. ashok says:


  2. cedar51 says:

    I’m still a bit of a spring chicken (just turned 70) but for as long as I can remember everyone is in disbelief I’m actually my true age – apparently I’m was never going to look 50, 60, or even now 70! So when I talk about my plans for aging it all seems to be a bit of a joke…or people (a decade/s less) say things like “when you’ve my age…” I’ve had some delightful interactions on that point! But then on the other side of all this, is when I get an ill/injured and I’m told “but this shouldn’t be happening…you’ve not old enough” .
    I’ve only recently accepted that I can’t change the mindset of others, that I might actually be “free to do whatever”, and then just do it. In meantime I work at a strategy that suits me…

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      How interesting. Yes, you need to cut free of others’ mindset, you’re right.

  3. Sheree says:

    I don’t look or feel my age. In my mind, I’m 39. I’m happy, healthy, fit and content. It works for me.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      That’s cool.

      1. Sheree says:

        I like to think so 😎

  4. Mr. Wapojif says:

    I plan to take it in my stride. And I also intend to be more positive about things and try to be a force for positivity amongst folks around me.

    Also, I highly recommend juggling for fitness and brain health. You can even juggle while you dance!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Juggling sounds like a powerful path to a happy old age. I love your policy 🙂

      1. Mr. Wapojif says:


  5. Cathy Cade says:

    My original plan was to ignore it. Then, suddenly, things started to twinge and stab and ache.
    My current plan involves playing music more often (because it gets me moving) and targetted food supplements (such as turmeric and green-lipped mussel for the hips and knees and magnesium for the night cramps). Other strategies are working at the laptop standing up (but not all the time – standing too long brings on plantar fasciitis and sitting too long encourages backache) and occasional gardening.
    By the way, although green-lipped mussels come from New Zealand, I found it impossible to find the supplements while I was in New Zealand a couple of years ago (was it really two years? Doesn’t time fly when you’re locked down?) Granted, I didn’t move far beyond Wellington and Island Bay, and I had better things to do than go scouring health food shops, but those I did scour didn’t have them. Interestingly, I found the arthritis gathered pace – both the hips and the heel pain were more noticeable. An interesting bit of research I won’t repeat.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I admire your new plan, which seems well thought out and enjoyable. . Green lipped mussel extract is included in the one supplement I take here, so that was bad luck.

  6. Stay active, stay mobile. I try to spend more time moving than sitting, when I’m sitting I try to do things that actively require purpose. Reading or writing rather than mindlessly watching television.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Brilliant. And more fun too.

  7. I will continue to keep my brain active, work on sleep and diet, exercises every day, and listen to my daughter who may see and understand things faster than I do. I love the Crows Feet dance video!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      That sounds like a great plan to me.

  8. I enjoyed your Crows Feet dance. Marvelous!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I’m so glad you get it! We loved it too.

  9. Elizabeth says:

    I am trying to excavate long buried dreams from early adolescence to see me to the end. I will keep you posted! (None of them involve daring deeds or long distance treks.)

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Now I’m really intrigued. Yes, keep us posted!

  10. I think a basic strategy for aging is a good idea. Particularly if we think that we’re not gonna think of ourselves as old but we’re not gonna think of ourselves as 30 either. We’re going to stay active. We’re not going to say we can’t do something because we’re “old. We’re going to enjoy life dance and sing and play and work hard just as much. I think when we get to a certain age though we can also relax a bit more and not worry about making in the world. Just enjoy the world

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