October 10, 2021
A long and healthy life is no accident

A version of this essay first appeared in Midlife Cues, a weekly newsletter about intentional living in our middle years. Get it in your inbox; you're going to love it.

When you start really paying attention to marketing messages used to target mid-lifers and the older generation, you’ll soon notice a few catchy phrases bandied about: aging gracefully, positive aging, anti-aging, pro-aging, and successful aging are some of the most common.

Personally, I developed an aversion to the phrase “anti-aging” fairly quickly. Why be anti about something that happens naturally? I also hear the underlying ageism and fear of aging sentiments in the phrase. So I don’t use it.

“Aging gracefully” was a phrase I used to be okay with until I examined the thoughts and images that come to my mind whenever I use the phrase. It’s mostly only used to describe women, I’ve noticed, and it’s got a whiff of patriarchy. So I stopped using it too.

I’ve been “pro-aging” for a while. It goes without saying, given my anti anti-aging stance. 😊

But the phrases “successful aging” and “positive aging” are interesting. Or rather, I’ve been on the fence about these phrases.

What do these phrases really mean? What is it like to be positively aging? And what is it like to be successfully aging? Aren’t we — by virtue of still being alive — positively and successfully aging by default?

Are these simply marketing phrases, crafted by the creative geniuses (ahem) hired by conglomerates intent on getting their hands into our pocketbooks?

A Physician’s Perspective

My recent conversation with age management physician and sought-after lecturer, Dr. Mickey Barber, helped me better understand and get behind one of these phrases.

Dr. Barber uses the phrase “successful aging” to mean being able to navigate the process of getting older as healthy as possible. That is, avoiding the pitfalls that typically come with aging: chronic diseases, hypertension, diabetes, dementia, obesity, and such.

“If we can stay healthy and well, and avoid [these diseases associated with the aging process], then we increase our chances of being able to participate in things we really enjoy for a long time.”

That’s another thing I appreciate about Dr. Barber’s philosophy around age management. It’s all about our ability to participate in the things we enjoy or find meaningful — whether that be playing with our grandkids, playing golf, playing the piano, or simply playing — as long as humanly possible.

“I’m 66 years old and people always ask me when I’m going to retire. And I tell them when I’m no longer having fun.”

Not Too Late to Start

I haven’t always made the healthiest choices. There were many, many years when I didn’t prioritize sleep and wore getting by with 3 hours of sleep like a badge of honor.

I dismissed the harm that constantly being stressed out was doing to my body. I only recently understood what a high cortisol level meant to my system.

I didn’t always eat my veggies — as Mom had instructed long, long ago — and ate too much red meat.

Part of me wishes I’d pay closer attention to these things when I was younger. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. I start now. I start today.

“Even if you’re 70 and maybe haven’t been doing everything in a healthy manner or the right way, it’s still not too late. On the other side of that coin, if you’re 30, great! Let’s get started now. You’ll be so ahead of the game. So I don’t think that there’s a right or wrong time to get started.”


With the average life expectancy increasing to about 80 years (in general, for men and women), we want to be able to live our years with vigor and vitality so we can enjoy the things that are important to us.

And the way we do that is NOT by waiting until we’re 70 to make changes.

If we make healthier choices every day, starting today, our chances of aging successfully will be so much greater.


  • This is not a surprise: Studies show 1 in 3 U.S. adults do not get enough sleep. And the suggested ways that we can improve our sleep aren’t breaking news either. But given the importance of sleep, especially to us mid-lifers, we can all use a reminder.
  • “Just like the 10,000-mile checklist to ensure your car runs smoothly, your 40+ year body comes with a checklist of preventive suggestions to ensure smoother sailing for the next 40 years and beyond.” A Health Checklist for Women 40+
  • Why Gen X needs to get serious about longevity. The youngest of the sandwich generation — “the responsible generation” that is busy working, taking care of their aging parents, their own children, and themselves — hits 41 this year. We have it tough all around, from juggling our work and family lives to managing our health and finances. But we are at the prime of our lives. We are in a position to take control of our health and change our behaviors before it’s too late.


    Blue Zones: 9 Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest by Dan Buettner

    A long and healthy life is no accident. It begins with good genes, but it also depends on good habits. If you adopt the right lifestyle, experts say, chances are you may live up to a decade longer. Longevity expert and National Geographic Explorer Dan Buettner reports on health, fitness, diet, and aging, drawing on his research from extraordinarily long-lived communities — Blue Zones — around the globe.


A former management consultant and IT leader, Lou Blaser is the editor of Midlife Cues and the host of the Second Breaks podcast. She is also the author of Break Free: The Courage to Reinvent Yourself and Your career. Lou’s work is focused on exploring how to navigate, thrive, and turn midlife into the best phase in our life.