Dr. Roger Landry, preventive medicine physician, author, and cofounder of Masterpiece Living, will present the opening keynote, “The Legacy of Cave Dwelling: What’s Next?” at 8:30 on Monday, Feb. 27, during the Environments for Aging Expo & Conference at Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. In this Q+A with Environments for Aging, he shares a preview of his presentation:
Environments for Aging: You describe your book “Live Long, Die Short: A Guide to Authentic Health and Successful Aging” as a roadmap to aging in a better way. What are common misconceptions people have about aging?
Dr. Roger Landry: The most notorious one is that we have little control over how we age, that we are victims of our genes. The research data is clear: Lifestyle determines up to 70 percent of how we age. In fact, recent work in genetics has spawned a whole new field of epigenetics, which has demonstrated that our lifestyle can put some of our potentially troublesome genes to sleep. Another common misconception is that we can’t make significant lifestyle change. If we use a small-change approach, we can, in fact, always succeed in whatever change we want to effect … it just may take a little longer. Finally, there’s a lack of understanding of how significantly some lifestyles can affect our health and aging experience. For instance, a sedentary lifestyle, which more and more of us live today, is associated with risks as high as smoking. Social isolation is extremely destructive, leaving us at high risk for chronic disease, and living without meaning and purpose is also associated with very high risk for decline.
What are the characteristics of an environment that promotes healthy aging?
Dr. Roger Landry: Well, first of all, it cannot be cookie cutter or institutional. The new older adult wants the feeling of a customized environment and a community that offers choice and variety, and generates a feeling of pride. They want places that foster physical movement, such as walking, yoga, swimming, and strength training, but above all, moving versus sitting. They want a community that nurtures learning and new experiences, and will—by design—bring people together for a variety of purposes and will stimulate engagement with all generations and with the larger community. A lifestyle that’s all about continuing to grow is one that’s associated with a better aging experience and one that’s more likely to be where we live long and die short.
You’ve gone beyond senior living communities to also challenge cities, towns, and organizations to become places that maximize well-being and allow older adults to continue to grow and learn. Why is that important?
Dr. Roger Landry: In just 15-20 years, one in four Americans will be over the age of 65. The 80-plus and even the 100-plus are rapidly growing segments of our population. Most Americans will choose, oftentimes because of limited options, to remain in their homes. Therefore, our towns and cities are already being challenged to accommodate this demographic shift. How do we provide not only living arrangements but services that offer them what they want: experience and the opportunity to grow and be all they can be for as long as possible? With healthcare costs for older adults continuing to rise, it’s critical, for quality of life and for the soundness of our economy, to provide opportunities to live a lifestyle that’s been shown to reduce the occurrence of chronic disease. It’s a challenge for each community to assess what is currently available, the barriers that exist, and the best practices already proven to address this lifestyle transition.
What’s one takeaway you want EFA Expo attendees to go home with from your presentation?
Dr. Roger Landry: It’s no longer a matter of getting ready for the next generation of older adults. It’s happening now and the senior living communities that will thrive will be those that recognize the immediacy of the requirement and begin creating environments that empower and enable continued growth. These communities will be more like universities, fostering and expecting growth in all aspects of life. Yes, they’ll continue to be places that can support the care needs of seniors, but they will be defined more by what they prevent than what they accommodate, more by growth than by maintenance, more by adventure than by comfort.
P.K. Beville, Founder and CEO, Second Wind Dreams will present “The Dementia Code,” at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 28. Here’s a Q+A with Beville:
Environments for Aging: You were a clinician specializing in geriatrics before founding Second Wind Dreams, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the perception of aging. What will your message be to EFA Expo attendees?