Do you think you’ll live a long time? Would you bet on it?

At an anti-aging conference in Russia, Deep Knowledge Ventures’ senior partner Dmitry Kaminskiy and Insilico Medicine Inc. CEO’s Alex Zhavoronkoy PhD decided to bet money on the subject of aging. Each man runs a science-based company which hopes to reverse aging and increase longevity. To prove once and for all that their methods are best, Kaminskiy and Zhavoronkoy bet on who would live the longest – the loser (or, rather, their estate) forfeits a million dollars in stock or cash.

At Capital City Nurses, we know that living a long life is wonderful, but aging successfully is better. In fact, the field of gerontology has recently shifted from focusing on extending life to improving life among seniors. What does this mean for you as you age? It means focusing on the quality of your life rather than the number of years you’ve accrued.

One of the best ways to stay healthy as you age is to stay active. Exercise and physical activities like gardening are wonderful ways to age successfully. The National Institute on Aging reports “regular exercise and physical activity can reduce the risk of developing some diseases and disabilities that develop as people grow older. In some cases, exercise is an effective treatment for many chronic conditions. For example, studies show that people with arthritis, heart disease, or diabetes benefit from regular exercise. Exercise also helps people with high blood pressure, balance problems, or difficulty walking.” Some studies have even found that increased physical activity has helped seniors retain their cognitive abilities.

Another important way to age successfully is through intellectual stimulation. Read a book, solve a puzzle, or hold a conversation to help keep your mind sharp. By challenging your brain, you reinforce the neurons that help you recall and retrieve knowledge.

The most important thing to know about aging successfully is that you can start at any time. Whether you’re 15 or 75, it’s never too late to make changes that will improve your life. Instead of focusing on the number of years you live, or betting millions of dollars on an arbitrary lifespan goal, focus on making your time as successful as possible.

Everyone loves to spoil their grandkids. Too much sugar, too many presents, too lenient – grandkids are a chance for seniors to cut loose and not worry about proper parenting. But grandkids are more than just an excuse to indulge, they can also help seniors keep their minds and bodies sharp.

The next time the grandkids come over, in between sugary treats and toy shopping, take some time to do the following:

Studies have shown that staying social is a great way to keep your mind sharp. Talking with friends and family has been shown to prevent depression and improve cognition in aging Americans. Social interaction has also been linked to decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease.

So when your grandchild comes for a visit, don’t turn on a video (how many times can you watch Frozen, anyway?). Have an unplugged visit. Learn what they’re doing in school, have them make up a story to tell you, share your memories and funny stories from your childhood. Interaction will strengthen your bond and hone your cognitive processes.

Story time is another great way to exercise your brain. Unlike holding a conversation, which exercises the recall and speech sections of your brain, reading requires a different set of skills. Taking time to read has been shown to reduce stress in seniors, as well as provide mental stimulation and improve memory.

Pick out a story with your grandchild and teach them the joys of getting lost in a good book. The added bonus of reading is that it can help your grandkids focus on paying attention and provides a quiet activity you can do almost anywhere.

All talked out? Then get outside for a game of catch. Scientists at the University of Illinois at Chicago found that a simple game of catch was a great way for seniors to improve their balance. By tossing a ball around for a few hours each week, seniors were able to improve their anticipatory postural control, which helps maintaining balance.

As you teach your grandkid the finer points of hand-eye coordination, you are teaching your body the basics of fall prevention.

At Capital City Nurses, we know that time with your grandkids is precious, so why not make the most out of it by choosing activities that can help you and your grandchild flourish?

How well does your doctor know you? Do they see you as a chart with medical notes attached or as a person? Having a good relationship with your doctor can dramatically improve the care you receive.

The Obama administration is interested in improving the quality of patient care. Suggesting that the government reconsider how they pay Medicare doctors, the administration wants to look into a system that will pay medical professionals based on their patient’s outtcomes, rather than the procedures they perform. This new way of evaluating and paying doctors would take into consideration the Medicare recipient’s overall wellbeing and whether the doctor was working with the patient to improve it. This new process should be in place by 2018, with the administration expressing hope that this system will help seniors have a more successful relationship with their doctors.

But what is a successful relationship with your doctor? To develop a productive relationship, it’s important to have proper expectations. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons defines a successful doctor/patient relationship as one that “implies that the patient and physician have developed a “partnership” and the patient has been fully educated in the nature of his or her condition and the different methods to address the problem. This allows the patient to be actively involved in the decision-making process and establishes agreed upon expectations and goals.”

That’s a great definition and one seniors should aspire toward when working with their doctors. Speak with them about any concerns you have regarding conditions, your health history or medication. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or request another treatment option. If you live with or care for an aging loved one, become their health advocate. Be sure that they are receiving comprehensive care from a doctor who sees them as more than a medical chart.

At Capital City Nurses, we believe in healthcare that works for you. Make sure you’re engaging with your doctor so that you get the most out of your golden years.