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Learn to be 'happily older' as you age

With professional self-interest front and center — and personal well-being ever-predominant in my thinking — I have a recommendation. It's a holiday-giving option you might not otherwise consider.

It's called "Mastery of Aging Well," a five-DVD set with an accompanying study guide. It developed from a whisper of an idea I had several years ago, and as a partnership between Oregon State University Outreach and Engagement and AARP. The originating thought was selfish — I was going into my sixth decade and felt I needed really good information if I was going to stay my "best self" in the 30 years ahead.

I'm projected to have a life expectancy of 97.3 years. (If you want to project your own longevity, go to www.longevitycalculator.aarp.org). Things happen, so that may not occur, but I'm a planner, and if I'm going to become decades older than I am now, I want to be informed and self-managing throughout the process. I think of it as "happily older."

So I decided to gather well-sourced information about aging well and put that data and my accompanying observations to the test by enlisting university-based peer reviewers and other aging experts, who would take a look at my findings and critique or enhance them. I was delighted (well, not always, because these reviewers could be a little harsh) to have a gerontologist, memory experts, a pharmacist, a professor of communications, several nutritionists and two exercise physiologists do a critical examination of what I unearthed and help me package and edit it. I also had some lovely, everyday, off-the-street, aging people give me their reactions. Their thoughts were the most useful of all.

The result is a "simple and surprisingly engaging body of information" (direct quote from one of the reviewers). "The real beauty of this product is you can acquire it in a variety of easy-access ways" (direct quote from one of the computer-design experts involved in the project).

In fact, right now, if you are near a computer, you can go to http://outreach.oregonstate.edu/aging-well, and "Mastery of Aging Well" will pop up on your screen. When it does you can drill into one of five modules — the one called "Memory Difficulties: Should I Be Worried?" seems to be the most popular, but the "Food as Medicine" module is a close second. Or you can go to Google and type in "Mastery of Aging Well" and my site comes up first. Not sure how that happened; actually, I'm little awed.

There are many ways to acquire the "Mastery of Aging Well" information, including a six-week online course I'm teaching right now— and will teach again twice next year. But the easiest way (and here's where the earlier holiday gift-giving reference comes in) is to order the 5-pack DVD. It costs $19.95 plus shipping and handling. You can do that by calling 1-800-561-6719. Request DVD 5.

One person who bought the DVD referred to it as "practical, research-based information delivered in an innovative, easy-listening way."

I narrate the modules and had a great time doing that — I hope it comes across when you listen. You can use it to prompt discussions with friends or family when you're together over the holidays. Older is what we all have in common. "Better informed" and "happier" is a gift.

Sharon Johnson is an associate professor in health and human sciences at Oregon State University and on the faculty of the OSU Extension. E-mail her at s.johnson@oregonstate.edu or call 541-776-7371, Ext. 210.

Learn to be 'happily older' as you age