I am a huge fan of personalized medicine. I spend one to two hours a day studying it. In fact, I see it as the future. Why?
Well, I spent the last five and a half years doing research and studying and going to meetings and conferences, and even putting myself in my own kind of personalized health experiments, to create my bestselling book, 30 Summers More: Adding Time Back to Your Aging Clock. And what I discovered during this journey was, there are so many things that we can do to improve our lives and the lives of our Aegis Living residents.
Right now we take blood pressure, we take people’s temperatures, we look at them and see if their condition has changed. And of course, with the Coronavirus, it’s exceptionally important that we do these things and more, but there are so many other things that we can do as part of regular care.
Traditional Chinese medicine, or TCM, has been around for 5,000 years, but no one in senior housing has really taught people about monitoring a resident’s changing conditions via TCM. You can talk about whether skin tones are different or how to detect a pulse. And the thing about TCM that’s so brilliant is, it’s preventative. It’s not after-the-fact. You don’t want to wait until someone doubles up in pain to say, “Oh, they have a UTI.” You want to be able to look and say, “Wow, if we don’t give this person more hydration, they’re going to end up with a UTI.” We’re trying to think progressively about a variety of things.
I’m consumed by this concept called earthing or grounding, where we connect with the Earth. In Japan, they call it forest bathing. Doctors actually write prescriptions for people to lower their blood pressure, lower their blood sugar, through walks in the forest.
There’s also the concept of biophilia, which hospitals have found significant in terms of improving people’s immune systems. They originally discovered this by putting some people, post-op, in rooms that overlook brick walls and other people in rooms that overlook gardens. And they found that the people whose rooms overlooked the gardens were healing twice as fast as the people whose rooms overlooked the brick wall.
So, more than just getting out and taking a walk (which is still a great thing to do), what can you do to get back into nature? To get connected to the Earth—whether inside or outside? What you choose to do will help improve your immune system.
Something else that is important to your overall wellness is sleep. Take, for example, a person who’s getting eight percent deep sleep — maybe they sleep eight hours and out of those eight hours are only getting 32 minutes of deep sleep — there’s going to be an impact on their immune system. You can trace it back and say, “Did you drink coffee at nine PM? Are you drinking caffeinated beverages at night? Were you watching your TV until you fell asleep?” Once you trace it backwards, you can determine how to improve that?
You can also track it scientifically. There is tremendous technology for sleep. On my bed, I have a sleep map that can actually diagnose how much I toss and how deep my sleep is. I also wear a ring called an Oura Ring that will track my deep sleep and tell me how many times a night I wake up. With the assistance of technology, you then have data. With data, you can improve your sleep and, in the process, your immune system, and your quality of life.
One of the things that I didn’t write about in the book was my meeting with several past US Presidents. I’ve interviewed President Clinton, spent time with Jimmy Carter, and got to meet Barack Obama. One of the things that I found with presidents is that they are living 15, 20, 25 years longer than their mortality chart would have predicted at the time of their birth. President Clinton was 72 when I met with him, and no one in his family has ever lived to the age of 72; everybody dies from some form of cancer. And he said, “You know, there’s only one reason for it. It’s having a purpose in my life.” And Jimmy Carter, at 95, is still building Habitat for Humanity houses and teaching Sunday school, and he has a foundation that does great work around the world. His dad, brother, and sister all died of pancreatic cancer in their 50s, and here he is, 95. How do you explain it?
The one thing we don’t do well is give people purpose as they age. People think, “Well, my purpose is, I retire at 65 and I go golfing and fishing,” and that’s what kills people. Purpose is a big aspect of wellness, and if we really want to be forward-thinking, we’d better be thinking more about it.
Is personalized medicine and preventive health the future of senior living in general?
Yes, absolutely, and it’s certainly the future of Aegis Living. I think we’re way ahead of the curve in how we’re thinking about this and the experts that we’re gathering together to give us some very creative thoughts about this topic.
If you think about it, no one grows up saying, “Man, I can’t wait to go into assisted living. It’s my dream in life,” right? But if you invent a concept that says, “Hey, not only do I think I’m going to improve the quality of your life as you age, but I think I can extend your life expectancy through some very well-thought-out methodologies and science,” and so on, that’s significant. That’s really significant. We’re not at that point yet, but I think we have that capability.
Many thanks to Lois A. Bowers from McKnight’s Senior Living for featuring Aegis Living and me in her recent article.
Stay with me as I continue to share more on personal wellness, longevity, and thriving as a senior! Until next time, Live Well, Live Long.