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Five keys to mastery of aging

I've mentioned this in the past. Today I want to say it in a way that calls you to immediate action. And if you do choose to act, maybe we will get to know one another better. I would like that.

I believe there are five arenas in which we must be relentlessly vigilant as we age. The first relates to managing memory difficulties. Or as I sometimes say, "What if there comes a point where you don't remember what you forgot?" Maybe it even happened to you yesterday when someone thought you were joining them for lunch and you never showed up? Not only did you forget the lunch date, but you forgot even making it. We don't want that to occur too often, do we? I have ideas that can protect against that.

The second important area involves managing those depressive feelings that seem more likely to occur in later life. It's linked to losses that come with aging. These may involve changes in vision, hearing challenges or the death of a beloved pet. Just to name a few. Again, there are little and big things that offer load-lightening remedy. I have stories that will make you feel better just in their telling — but I will save them for later.

"Medication jeopardy" is the third area. Let me illustrate. Let's say you have been prescribed a new medication. Your doctor added it without a lot of conversation about the medications you were already taking (prescription and non-prescription) and, uh-oh, you are experiencing side effects. Those reactions involve feeling really "blue" and down-in-the-dumps, and the memory problems you were already having are a lot more pronounced. In addition, you don't feel like eating anything or even getting out of bed in the morning. And those are, of course, the two final areas of importance in aging well — nutrient-rich eating and regular physical activity and exercise. See how this all relates?

When I realized these were significant issues for all of us, I developed a five-module, online program in response. Perhaps you remember my talking about this before. To find it, go online to http://outreach.oregonstate.edu/aging-well.

The online Mastery of Aging Well course contains loads of practical, research-based information delivered in a customized way. You decide what you want to work on (each student develops a personal learning grid and together we solve issues in your self-identified areas). You and I become totally connected by phone and/or computer for six weeks. If I don't have enough ideas or the answers to your need-to-know issues, I hook you up with other faculty at Oregon State University or an expert in a particular field who does.

The course runs Oct. 3 to Nov. 11 and costs $100. To learn more see the website above or call 1-800-667-1465.

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