Bookshelf addition: “The Age-Well Project”

My post knee-replacement step count is increasing daily – I’m pretty close to where I’d be at the end of a sedentary day at the office! – but there is still ample opportunity to work through my pile of unfinished books, while elevating and icing my leg. The first one I polished off is The Age-Well Project by Annabel Streets and Susan Saunders. I’ve been following these authors/motivators on Twitter (@age_wellproject) since not long after I started this blog, and I was eager to get my hands on their book. For reasons that remain a mystery to me, they do not yet have a US publisher, but the authors arranged for me to receive a review copy (you can, of course, order the book online and patiently wait for it to make its way “across the pond”).

The book began as a blog, where Streets and Saunders digested research on wellness and longevity, and tested some of the ideas on themselves. Both had long neglected their own well-being over decades of raising chidren, tending careers, and caring for ailing parents, and they were eager to avoid the painful declines they witnessed.

We knew our lifestyles were all wrong: irregular eating of the wrong things, sporadic exercise, sleepless nights, chronic stress. After a decade of juggling endless pregnancies and miscarriages, six children and ten elderly parents and in-laws between us, not to mention hugely demanding work commitments, our own health had slipped to the bottom of the pile (page 2).

Susan Crook Saunders and Annabel Streets (red top) ( Photo by Charlie Hopkinson ©)

 

They read journal articles and reports, waded through medical books, interviewed doctors and researchers, tested recipes, and tried new exercise routines. Then they sifted through their findings to feature the ones that made the most significant improvements in their lives. The book contains “over 90 short-cuts which research suggests could radically improve our chances of a healthier, happier old age.” The results are organized into four “cornerstones” for well-being: diet, exercise, staying engaged (socially and intellectually), and environment (for better sleep, better vision, healthy skin, etc.). Each chapter highlights some of the findings Streets and Saunders found most compelling, and then summarizes the key takeaways in a series of bullet points. The book is not a meta-analysis of aging research, but the authors plowed through a lot of studies, and they list their criteria for including particular studies on pages 5 and 6 of the book. Importantly, they try to emphasize research conducted on humans (“we’ve included non-human research only where we felt it was potentially significant”) (here’s a good, short read explaining why this distinction is important). The last two chapters of the book feature profiles of five so-called “Super Agers” (elderly people whose memory and cognition match those of much younger people), and a handful of yummy-looking recipes. I plan to taste-test a least a few!

There’s a lot of great information in this book, and (fortunately, for the time-crunched) it’s organized so that you can zoom right to a particular topic without fearing that you’ve missed crucial background in previous chapters. But it’s also an easy and entertaining read cover-to-cover. Footnotes for the book are available on the authors’ website, which is a little bit irksome for a reader like me, who instantly refers to footnotes and endnotes if something piques my interest or raises questions. Sometimes I kept the reference page open on my laptop while I read, so that I could make those quick checks. But that’s petty carping about an otherwise quick and enlightening read, with a good list of recommended books and websites at the end. This one is going on the “Fifty is the New Forte” bookshelf page.

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