About the SLOW aging philosophy
Thanks for taking the time to come to our blog. This is where you’ll learn to go SLOW with your life and the aging process.
SLOW aging is a guiding philosophy and set of principles that will help you successfully navigate the aging process. It is accessible to all of us who aspire to living the life of our dreams, to being the best person we can be and to live in a state of optimal wellness.
Different groups have used the SLOW acronym to highlight different issues. For example, the slow food movement has used it to mean:
- S = Sustainable (not having an impact)
- L = Local (not someone else’s patch)
- O = Organic (not mass produced)
- W = Whole (not processed)
Each of these concepts is a practical way to foster connectedness between what is being produced and what we are eating.
The same principles can also be applied to our own lives. It is very easy to disengage and feel that our choices have no importance. Like flying in a plane, time just seems to melt away until suddenly we are a long way from where we started. SLOW is about taking our time (back).
We use the acronym SLOW to mean the following:
- S = Strategic
- L = Long-term
- O = Organized
- W = Wilful
We cannot expect that enjoyable and fulfilling lives will simply come from longer ones. SLOW aging therefore has the complementary goals of disease prevention and maintaining structure, function and quality of life. These aims are distinct from anti-aging practices, which propose to intervene in the processes of aging, with the goal of extending lifespan.
It is reasonable to have expectations of technology and medicine. Over the last hundred years, our lives have become healthier and longer, and more advances will be made in our lifetime. Yet the notion that aging may be controlled by a single pill or diet is naive. Aging is not even a wholly biological experience, but a complex change determined by environmental, behavioural, cultural, socioeconomic, as well as biological factors.
As an analogy, it is now possible to contain the entire nutrient content of an apple in a tablet. While it may be chemically identical, it does not have the crunch of the first bite, the shine of the skin or the joy of picking it fresh from a tree. In the same way, health and aging are much more than biology or chemistry. A deeper understanding of health, disease and aging allows us to take rational steps to better support structure and function and maintain quality. Rather than simply being passengers in our bodies, we can engage in our lives and our environment, and start to make positive and informed choices about things we can do today with tomorrow in mind.
How can I slow down?
We all want to delay the onset of age-related decline and disease. So did Faust and Dorian Grey. But as each found out, the ends do not justify the means. SLOW means not giving control over to anyone else (be that the devil, professional experts or large corporations). SLOW puts you in control of your choices and their consequences.
There are many different ways to slow down. They will be intrinsically different for each of us. We all have different needs and our lives play our in quite different settings. However, we can all apply our seven principles – the AGELESS principles.
On the bog we apply these principles to illustrate some of the opportunities to slow aging and extend our healthspan. These principles are also a starting point to guide policy makers, funders and the healthcare system.
STEP ONE: SLOW solutions involve AWARENESS and ENGAGEMENT
In this busy world, it is easy to fall asleep at the wheel and find ourselves somewhere we didn’t want to be, like in a hole! Many of us wake up at some stage in life to find ourselves stuck. To become unstuck we need to take the time to change any bad habits we’ve accumulated over time. SLOW is for people who are ‘awake’ to the benefits of choosing wisely and living in a state of wellbeing. The SLOW path is one of self-awareness where we make the effort to become vigilant. It means taking a closer look at our biology, at the world we live in and to identify our risks and strengths. It means taking a close look at what we eat and drink, our work, stress and activity and to understand that our choices will have a significant bearing on our future. Much of the discomfort and disease associated with aging result from the choices we make or fail to make in earlier phases of our lives. SLOW is about finding these connections and finding opportunities to merge our understanding and awareness with a willingness to do what it takes to age well and to keep at it for life.
The SLOW approach also seeks to educate – what, how, why and when. It helps us to understand the challenges we will face on the road (and there will be many over the journey of our lifetime). It means understanding our risks, options and possible results of different pathways. There is a lot to think about when it comes to living a conscious life and we hope over time to help guide you on the path to optimizing your chances of living ‘the good life’. Unfortunately, this blog will only take you part of the way there; the rest must come from you. Only you can recognize your own skills, enjoyments, appetite for change and commitment to the road ahead.
STEP TWO: SLOW solutions have CLEAR AND REALISTIC GOALS
Taking the long way home doesn’t mean you don’t know where you’re going; an aimless meander. SLOW is not the easy option. It takes a good deal of strength and commitment.
It is not enough to simply want quality of life or longevity as we age. We need to be clear about what we’re prepared to do, when and how, and understand that the choices we make really matter. SLOW solutions set objectives that match our personal goals and capabilities, goals that reinforce our actions. It is about taking stock of where we are now and being realistic about the health planning process. This takes organization, as much as execution. In fact the acronym could equally be used to describe an approach that is:
- S= Strategic – becoming aware, investing time in planning and making the critical decisions required for you as an individual to slow the aging process
- L= Long-term – to persist for a lifetime
- O = Organized – implementing your plan against measurable objectives. Investing effort into interventions that work for you
- W= Wilful – where unhurried actions are undertaken and choices are made with full consciousness of the nature and effects and arising from careful consideration
STEP 3 : SLOW solutions ELIMINATE THE NEGATIVE
SLOW aging seeks to redefine aging as a positive growth experience, rather than one inexorably linked with decrepitude, degeneration and decline. The anti-aging movement generally seeks to position ‘getting old’ as something to be avoided at all costs. It feeds on people’s fears and typically doesn’t provide real solutions. This is unrealistic and unnecessary.
We want to slow aging, not fear it. Attitude is the single most important factor in healthy aging. A positive attitude drives healthy behaviours and gives us control over our lives. It can more than compensate for a number of other things that may be failing. Aging needs to be re-positioned as an experience of value, not only for ourselves as individuals, and our society. It is possible to LOVE the aging process, to re-frame aging as a positive experience and take control so we age with pleasure, peace, resilience and growth.
There is always a certain guilt associated with poor health and disease. Did we cause this by something we did or didn’t do? Equally, in considering steps to prevent illness or aging, it is easy to fall into the trap of believing that some suffering is the price of good health, the distasteful medicine we must swallow to get well. However, SLOW solutions are not punitive, they are a positive experience. For example, for a weight-loss diet to be successful in the long-term, it cannot be a punishment, it must be intrinsically rewarding. Similarly, good sleep, hygiene and exercise will effortlessly find their way into daily life when they come with their own rewards, such as the kick we get from waking up revitalised and refreshed. Additional reward comes from achieving control and related feedback. It is important for each of us to find our own incentives and rewards for any activity to be continued and its full benefits revealed. SLOW aging means we are equipped to savour our life’s journey, stay on track and find the best way home.
STEP 4 : Slow solutions are SUSTAINABLE IN THE LONG-TERM
SLOW solutions are long-term solutions for long-term problems. They are never a quick fix. They can usually be easily separated from the fads that claim to achieve miracles in only six weeks! There is no point buying into diets, or joining a gym but rarely going, or getting good medical advice but only following part of it. We will only rebound and be left feeling less in control than ever. We’re in this life for the long-term. So whatever we do to slow the aging process, it must be something we can incorporate into our lives on an ongoing basis. SLOW solutions are seldom more than good habits. That’s what makes them work so well! The desire and momentum to keep habits in place usually comes from us. Of course, it helps if we like it, we know why we are doing it, and it realistically fits in with our personal goals, our lifestyle and our environment. This makes it easy to keep at it until it simply becomes a good habit. This does not mean becoming angels or fanatics who do everything correctly all the time. This will never be sustainable. Ultimately, practice makes perfect most of the time.
STEP 5 : SLOW solutions are not EXCLUSIVE
The complex challenges that face the aging body and mind require complex multi-modal solutions that are most effective when used in combination. The key to SLOW aging is not an individual antioxidant, an exercise regimen or eating five fruits and vegetables every day (although each may help). It is having a focus and understanding of the whole process and the options available. This leads to awareness and rational choices that sit right for each of us. This cannot be mass-produced. Slow aging covers all aspects of our health – physical, mental and spiritual. Each of us place a different emphasis on these elements and, over time, that emphasis may change. SLOW practices don’t mean we can’t adjust. As new ideas and information emerges, some change (even a sea change) may be necessary. When we understand we are in control and have the knowledge to make the right decisions, then change is both transforming and invigorating.
STEP 6 : SLOW solutions need SUPPORT
A central theme to SLOW is that we as individuals must be at the core of the process, controlling key decisions. But even while we sit in the driver’s seat, it helps to have a navigator. This is one reason we have developed this blog – to provide our experiences of the roads, the potholes and the easy downhills. There are also many good practitioners available and the best of them are willing to act as health ‘coaches’, rather than simply demanding allegiance to their therapeutic strategies. It is valuable to use them to organise our thinking and explore the many options available to achieve our objectives. Don’t be afraid to look for knowledge from friends and family too. Sometimes they also want to know (and participate). Ultimately, the most successful program involves a strong relationship between the driver and navigator, whether they are a doctor, dietician, trainer, motivator, friend or family member.
STEP 7 : SLOW solutions are SELECTIVE; do what’s right for you, Goldilocks
Once upon a time, there was young girl called Goldilocks. When approached with a challenge, she resolved to explore the alternatives, ultimately choosing the one that best suited her needs. When considering the many options available, it’s a good idea to take a leaf out of Goldilocks’ book. There is no one answer to aging. Some options may not work, or will prove too hot or too cold for our tastes, but there will always be one that is right for us. A SLOW solution means choosing the RIGHT thing for ourselves in the RIGHT doses and at the RIGHT pace for our life, and sticking to it. It is about aging at the right speed for us as individuals.
Matching our needs to potential SLOW solutions occurs on many levels. Some of this comes from an awareness and understanding of our needs, skills and capabilities. If we don’t enjoy it, or if we feel it’s too risky for us, we’ll never keep at it. Another way to ‘match up’ is through the new technologies that help us target what is right for us.
Finally, getting the choices right also means getting FEEDBACK to provide some indication that we’re heading in the right direction. Is the way we’re aging now truly supporting us to be happy? Successes and failures in the course of any activity can be used to keep us on the right track and to set personal benchmarks. The more we understand ourselves, the easier it is to make the best decisions. Little bears need little bowls. Big bears need big beds. One size never fits all!
Taking it SLOW
There are many opportunities to slow our lives. In this blog we will use these seven principles to illustrate only some of these opportunities. There is not room to cover them all. However, these “AGELESS” SLOW principles apply equally to a range of different interventions. As you read the material on this blog, take the time to look through your own pages. What are you are doing today for tomorrow? Can you say that these are SLOW solutions? Can you use the principles of SLOW to make them more beneficial, more sustainable and more enjoyable? Often it doesn’t take much to make a real difference, just the awareness that we can.
The 7 principles of SLOW AGING (AGELESS)
- AWARENESS and engagement in the aging process
- GOAL setting is essential as part of a strategic planning process
- ELIMINATE the negative; accent the positive. Find a way to LOVE what you are doing
- LIFE-LONG focus; you need to make choices that are sustainable in the long term
- EXCLUSIVENESS should be avoided as there are rarely one solution and complex problems require complex solutions
- SUPPORT is out there, so get help
- Be SELECTIVE; find a solution that is right for you