Building financial security and maintaining health are consistently listed as top aging concerns for adults over 55. Most of us know you have to plan, balance assets, and make regular deposits to support lifelong financial security. But what about your vitality?  Do you have a plan? Have you considered what “assets” you need to support lifelong vitality?

The Vitality Portfolio®, strategy encourages you to create a practical roadmap for lifelong health:

1) make a vitality plan,

2) balance vitality assets (functional, core, and wellness assets), and

3) make regular deposits


Making a Plan

How long do you expect to live? I ask this question during keynote speeches and people always seem to have a number in their head. In future blog posts (Aging – It’s a family affair) we’ll explore how people come up with it, but for now consider your number – and more important, consider what you want to be able to do through your 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and 100’s! Making a vitality plan helps you set, track, and reach your goals.

 Functional Assets

Strength, mobility and endurance are “mission critical” assets for maintaining independence; yet optimizing function through physical activity is the most underused healthy aging strategy available today! It’s easy to disregard functional changes that happen gradually, so here’s some food for thought.

Statistics don’t motivate action unless they’re personally relevant. For example: Strength declines approximately 1-1 ½% per year after about age 30. That doesn’t sound like a lot until you do the math.  If you’re not regularly challenging your strength – you’re losing it – on average about 60% by age 70 and 75% by age 80. Imagine going about your daily life carrying a backpack filled with your body weight (i.e. ½ the strength requires double the effort). Consider how difficult daily tasks would become and how many activities you would have to give up. 

Physical frailty IS common and predictable with age, but it’s NOT due to age or inevitable! Studies show even 90+ year olds can prevent and reverse loss of muscle mass and strength with resistance training.

Take charge! If you get fatigued while walking – walk more! If you’re having trouble rising from a chair, do it more; every time you sit down, stand up and sit down 3 more times. See how many knee lifts you can do during TV commercial breaks or commit to standing up and sitting down 5-10 times during each commercial break.

To maintain the gift of mobility gently stretch and move your muscles and joints through every range of motion. Embrace cardiovascular exercise to help your heart, lungs, and blood vessels deliver oxygenated blood throughout the body. Endurance activities bathe your brain in oxygenated blood so are also closely linked to brain health! Get out and move briskly every day; walk, swim, dance, or even do seated exercises that elevate your heart rate – toe touches, heel pressed, knee lifts, low kicks, marching in place all with arm swings. For simple downloadable movement programs visit

Age is not a diagnosis so confront functional challenges with physical therapy intervention. Consciously invest in lifelong functional independence.

Core Assets: Ageless Thinking and Resilience

Attitudes and expectations directly impact aging. Engage Ageless Thinking by consciously rejecting negative expectations of aging. Activate Resilience by embracing adaptive strategies to overcome challenges – regardless of age.

Thirty years ago people with disabilities were often institutionalized with no expectations or opportunities; and outcomes were bleak. The disability movement changed attitudes and expectations and literally transformed lives. Now young people with profound disabilities are given resources, tools, and encouragement to overcome and live fully in spite of challenges, and they accomplish astonishing things!

Unfortunately, attitudes haven’t changed much for adults who face physical or cognitive disabilities later in life. They most often receive resources, tools, and support to cope with disabilities.  There’s a profound difference in mindset between coping and overcoming – resulting in profoundly different outcomes. If you’re facing a challenge take age out of the equation, embrace adaptive strategies, and insist on pursuing the fullest recovery possible.   

Wellness Assets

Visualize the six dimensions of health: physical, social, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and vocational as spokes on a wagon wheel. Consider how many deposits you regularly make into each dimension (spoke) and then draw your Wellness Wheel. Are some “spokes” large (carrying most of the load) while others barely exist? Are you missing an entire “spoke”? It takes conscious effort to balance wellness assets across the body, mind, and spirit.    

Don’t leave your vitality to chance! Make a plan, balance your assets, and make regular deposits into lifelong vitality.  Visit for a FREE downloadable Vitality Portfolio® tool-kit to get you started.

First published at Sixty & Me

I’ve spent my career promoting lifelong vitality and have learned that great information and even programs don’t motivate action until people, of any age, first believe in their ability to change their circumstances. It’s absolutely proven that loss of function can be prevented and even reversed with resistance training and other exercise interventions, but many people don’t take advantage of these proven programs.

Part of the problem is negative expectations of aging – i.e. “it’s normal to become frail as I age”. But it’s simply not true. It’s very common. It’s very predictable. But it’s not normal and it’s not inevitable. And even if something challenges your functional independence it’s important to embrace a mindset of possibilities, rather than focusing on deficits or disabilities.

Young people with disabilities are given tools, resources, and encouragement to overcome challenges and live life fully in spite of them – and they do! But older adults faced with functional challenges are most often just given tools to cope with challenges. There’s a profound difference between the mindset of overcoming versus coping– resulting in profoundly different outcomes. Take age out of the equation and look at challenges through a lens of resilience. Actively support self-efficacy, self-esteem, optimism, purpose, mastery and control – the building blocks of resilience. Embrace adaptive strategies to live fully rather than coping strategies that create a smaller world.

Rejecting stereotypes and believing in possibilities will move us away from the – when in danger or in doubt, run in circles scream and shout approach to health challenges, and towards environments where people feel competent and compelled to live fully in spite of challenges.

A recent newspaper article really gave me pause. It described technology solutions for keeping track of aging parents but also revealed both ageist expectations and what my friend Teresa calls “Helicopter Childrening”.  Family members described this technology as both comforting in the short term and as a tool to know when it’s time to step in and take over: notice NOT IF – when.  A parent “under surveillance” also described how her daughter lectured her on staying up too late at night.

I applaud adaptive strategies that help people live where they choose to for their full lifespan, and technology monitoring daily activity against a pre-determined “norm” for an individual can be a helpful tool.  But strategies to support safety and security must be balanced with a commitment to also support the building blocks of resilience like self-efficacy, self-esteem, mastery and control, optimism, and hope. 

Consider some low-tech solutions too!  Instead of watching and waiting “until”, employ the research proving functional loss can be prevented and in many cases reversed and create a family plan to maximize functional ability. Adult children who feel compelled to comment on a parents choices during the day (staying up late, sleeping late, etc.) need only to consider how much they would personally appreciate that type of interference in daily life. 

Take a cue from the disability movement and prioritize an individuals feelings of self-efficacy, autonomy, and mastery and control over their own life – regardless of challenges. Employ the concept of the “dignity of risk” to avoid creating a culture dominated by illness management.  Some risk is preferable to hovering, second guessing decisions, and trying to parent your parents. Take age out of the equation and use technology in a way that helps create a care partnership and culture of “whole person” well-being.

A new study following 1,000 older adults for 11 years revealed that poor heart health increased the risk of dementia by two to three times.  Do your brain a favor (and your heart) by embracing cardiovascular exercise and healthy eating.


An interesting study in 2014 out of Uppsala University in Sweden showed that, independent of increased physical activity, reducing sitting time resulted in increased telomere length. The study measured telomere length in blood cells of 49, 68 year old, sedentary, overweight individuals. After a 6 month physical activity intervention researchers found that telomere lengthening was only significantly associated with reduced sitting time. Clearly more study with larger groups is warranted, but evidence is mounting that simply standing more than sitting in your day pays significant health dividends.