The Power of Positive Aging with David Lereah
The Power of Positive Aging Show Notes
We can have all the money in the world, but if we don’t have our physical and mental health, that money means nothing. Few people understand this better than Dr. David Lereah, PhD. He’s the founder of United We Age, an organization working to inspire a movement where all generations of people are more aware and supportive of people aging.
He’s also the author of The Power of Positive Aging, where he encourages readers to not be afraid of aging but to celebrate it. A stage three cancer survivor, Dr. Lereah demonstrates how simple lifestyle modifications will transform your everyday life, helping you to live more joyfully for the rest of your years.
A lot of things in David’s book hit me in very meaningful ways. Today, he joins the podcast to share his life story, his challenges, his struggles, and how he beat esophageal cancer after being diagnosed at the age of 62.
In this podcast interview, you’ll learn:
- What happened to David when he published a book about the real estate boom right as the housing bubble burst in 2008.
- Why so many seniors are alone, disassociated from family and friends, and unable to get the social interaction or support they need.
- The reason so many people see aging as the end of their professional identity – and how David embraced positivity, even as he faced a major health crisis head-on.
- Why David views aging as an inconvenience and not a death sentence.
- The Four A’s of aging.
- How to rebalance and simplify your life.
- How we become more emotionally intelligent as we age.
- I’ve got to take a different route here, I’ve got to stay positive, because if this cancer, if I can beat it, it’s an inconvenience. And if you treat every physical and mental decline that you’re going to experience as you age as an inconvenience, you’re going to have a great life, you can have a more joyful life as you age into your senior and twilight years. And that’s what positive aging was all about.” – David Lereah, PhD
- “You’ve got to tame your ego first, and once you contain that ego, then the whole world opens up to you, as you age.” – David Lereah, PhD
[00:00:07] Dean Barber: Welcome to The Guided Retirement Show. I am your host, Dean Barber, founder and CEO of Barber Financial Group. My guest today, David Lereah, PhD, author of The Power of Positive Aging, and also the founder of United We Age, a nonprofit organization. I have to tell you that as I read David’s book, The Power of Positive Aging, a lot of things hit me in a very meaningful way. The conversation that we’re about to have with David Lereah is going to take you through his life story, his challenges, and his struggles, and the fact that he was diagnosed with stage III esophageal cancer at the age of 62, and beat the cancer.
It was this experience that brought him to write The Power of Positive Aging. And I have said, for the last three and a half decades, as I’ve been working in the financial services industry, that we can have all the money in the world, but if we don’t have our health, both physical and mental, all the money doesn’t mean anything. Please enjoy this conversation with my good friend, Dr. David Lereah.
[00:01:22] Dean Barber: Alright, David Lereah, welcome to The Guided Retirement Show, such a pleasure to have you here. And I have to let you know right off the bat that I loved your book. And of course, the book that we’re talking about is called The Power of Positive Aging. Welcome to The Guided Retirement Show. I want you to start off if you could by giving us a little bit of your background before we get into why you wrote the book. So, tell us where you came from and a little bit of your experience in life, and then we’ll get into why you wrote the book.
[00:01:52] David Lereah: Well, first, thank you so much for having me, Dean, appreciate it. Well, where did I come from? I’ve got a doctorate in economics from the University of Virginia. So, I lived in the Charlottesville, Virginia area, the south for a while. I’m originally from New York, though. My economics got me into teaching, I was a professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey, at their Graduate School of Management in the MBA program. Then, I wrote my dissertation on banking. So, I worked at the FDIC, and then became chief economist at Sovereign Bank, which morphed into over the years through so many mergers of Bank of America. And then, I became chief economist for the Mortgage Bankers Association, and then the National Association of Realtors.
So, I’ve been in the economic, financial world for most of my life. What gave me curveballs was, number one, I ended up writing a book, Are You Missing the Real Estate Boom? And I wrote that, and as the book came out, the real estate boom turned into a bust. So, it was the worst timing of my life, and I really got hit bad by some of the internet, social media, and some of the media as well. So, that was my first crisis in my life.
[00:03:30] Dean Barber: So, that would have been 2007, late 2007, when that came out, or early 2008?
[00:03:36] David Lereah: Yeah, 2007 and 2008, it was, I think, the beginning of 2008. As soon as the real estate markets, the bubble bursts, basically. And that’s when my book came out. And the Wall Street Journal crunched me at the time because the book was saying that I thought the boom would continue for at least another year or two. So, don’t let your listeners listen to my forecasts. Even though I’m an economist, it’s always one hand or the other hand.
[00:04:08] Dean Barber: Well, I don’t think– there weren’t a lot of people at that time, who were calling for an end to the run-up in real estate. And of course, we could go into what fueled that run-up in real estate and what caused the bust, but that’s not what this show is going to be about today, but suffice it to say, I think there was one guy out there I know of for sure, the hedge fund manager, if you haven’t seen the movie, The Big Short.
[00:04:39] David Lereah: Oh, yeah.
[00:04:40] Dean Barber: Okay. And he was about a year and a half or two years too early and almost missed it on the wrong side because he was shorting things way too early. And of course, he wound up being right, you wound up being wrong, and then he rode off into the sunset, I don’t think ever to come back into the financial world again. So, what happened after that, David, did you continue in your economics profession at that time?
[00:05:04] David Lereah: Yeah, I was consulting a great deal with real estate and finance. I did a lot of consulting for Japanese banks, Nomura being one for financial advice, but then I really got into a voluntary role with Meals on Wheels. And Meals on Wheels delivers hot meals to seniors that need it, and I found that there were a lot of seniors that were alone, they were by themselves, they did not have family and friends. So, they disassociated themselves really from the world. That led me to create my nonprofit United We Age, which is there to support seniors in need and seniors that need more social interaction and social support.
And then, I got cancer. That really started another crisis, where I needed to really learn to cope with aging very quickly, because I was aging at a rapid pace with the cancer going for chemotherapy and radiation.
[00:06:22] Dean Barber: How old were you when you got cancer?
[00:06:24] David Lereah: 62.
[00:06:25] Dean Barber: Okay.
[00:06:26] David Lereah: And I thought I was at the height of my physical peak at the time, and boy, was I wrong.
[00:06:32] Dean Barber: So, before we get too far into your cancer, and I do want to talk about that because your story is fascinating, and how you handled that, and your social support network, and the things that you went through, I think, have shaped your ability to write the book, The Power of Positive Aging, but before we get to all that, tell me about your family, your kids, your wife, and tell us about that, because I know that’s a big part of every man’s life, but sometimes we tend to identify who we are with our profession.
And I see that as something that is a major problem psychologically, as we age, where people, they identify with their profession, and that’s who they are. And then, when they get to that point in life where they want to retire, or maybe they’ve aged out of the profession that they’re in, they lose their identity. So, tell me about your family a little bit, David.
[00:07:27] David Lereah: That’s a really great point you’re making because for me, my life as a chief economist in the nation was, I was out there giving speeches, I was on CNBC and Today Show, and all the television and print media, every day, every week, and I lost sight of family at that point in time, my world centered around my occupation, what I did in life, and that defined me. So, when I got the cancer, things really changed very, very quickly, and realized, all of a sudden, how important family was. My wife was by my side, she showed not just the love, but the courage to be by my side, no matter what would happen with my cancer.
And my kids really were the reason for me surviving and having that positive attitude because whenever I got down, and trust me, when you have cancer, and I had stage III cancer, you have bouts of not just anxiety, but depression. It’s very, very difficult to cope with a life-threatening disease. Just thinking about my kids, I have three children, put me into that positive mindset. And then of course, I went on a journey to learn how to stay in a positive mindset. And that’s what The Power of Positive Aging is all about.
[00:09:03] Dean Barber: The book is really, really fascinating. And by the way, I just have to ask a question before we get off the family here. At that moment, when you were diagnosed with stage III cancer, if you hadn’t– I mean, was there anything, what were you thinking? Would you have changed something about the prior 10 or the prior 15 years of your life? Would you have done something different had you known that that was going to hit you at that time, or had the realization that life is precious, it’s short, and it’s uncertain?
[00:09:36] David Lereah: Yeah. I mean, certainly, life is short, and it is very precious. So, that you immediately think about how much more time you could have spent with your children and wife during those peak years of my occupation, of my profession. There’s a trade-off in life that we all have to make. Your listeners right now, some of them are in retirement mode, some of them may still be working very diligently right now at their profession.
We all know there’s trade-offs. And where is the optimal trade-off? That’s up to each and every one of us and with our families, but certainly, I wish I could have spent a little more time at home, I was on the road a lot, giving speeches, and it would be nicer to stay at home more. But I did coach my son and my daughter, one of my daughters, in basketball and football while they were growing up, so we had good family time. That’s what you reflect and you want more of it.
[00:10:48] Dean Barber: Right. It’s interesting because when I’m doing my coaching of people as they’re trying to hit into those years every time and find that new identity, and I start talking to them about what’s really the most important thing in their lives, and what do they want for the rest of their life, and what do they want that to look like, and something comes out, which is fascinating.
And that is that money is never at the top of the list, money is way down the list on the things that are most important, but money happens to be how we get to do some of the things that are the most important, but the most important always comes back to, I want to spend time with the people that I care about. I want to spend time with my friends, I want to spend time with my kids, with my wife, with my family.
And I hear it all the time, that I’d love to spend more time with my kids, I’d love to spend more time with my grandkids, but they’re so busy now. And I’ve got all this free time, but they’re busy. Boy, I wish I would have gone back and done it differently, so I could have spent more time with them early on. So, I got to imagine, you had to have some of that same kind of noise going around in your mind.
[00:12:01] David Lereah: The irony of it all, my kids now have their kids. So, I have grandchildren. And you’re right, they have lives to lead right now, and now they’re in that mode of working at their profession in a very busy life, trying to bring up family and at the same time, do well in their occupation. So, yeah, there’s definitely some friction.
[00:12:26] Dean Barber: Well, hopefully, they’re going to learn something from your life experiences and have taken the time to really read your book, and maybe they’ll even listen to this podcast and hear what you really have to say. So, let’s get into this book, and talk to me about why positive aging? And in your mind, what is that? What are you telling people here?
[00:12:48] David Lereah: When I went to the doctor, I went to Moffitt Cancer Center, and the surgeon there, I took a PET scan for them to diagnose my cancer. He sat me down and he said, “You have stage III esophageal cancer. And I can’t give you any guarantees, this is going to be a really rough ride. And we’re going to have to do radiology and chemotherapy. Then we’re going to have to take your body apart, we’re going to have to cut out part of your stomach and your esophagus and tie it back together. And I just have no guarantees for you.”
Well, as I was walking out of the office, the nurse took me aside. And she said, “I want you to know something. If you survive this, your cancer was merely an inconvenience in your life.” And that just rang so loud in my brain. That’s when I said, I’ve got to take a different route here, I’ve got to stay positive, because if this cancer, if I can beat it, it’s an inconvenience.
And if you treat every physical and mental decline that you’re going to experience as you age as an inconvenience, you’re going to have a great life, you can have a more joyful life as you age into your senior and twilight years. That’s what positive aging was all about. I went on a journey to learn about how to stay positive and how to view aging as an inconvenience. And that’s what took me on the journey.
[00:14:29] Dean Barber: I love it. As I was reading through your book, which again, by the way, an excellent job on how you put it all together and how you take people through the journey. I’m 55, and you can’t see now because I have the headphones on, but I have hearing aids, and you started writing there about hearing aids and about oh, I got to have glasses now, and I didn’t want to admit that I couldn’t hear well, and I don’t know how many years it took for my wife and my children to say, “Dad, just go get hearing aids.”
And I’m like, “Hearing aids are for old people. I’m not old,” and they’re like, “but you can’t hear us. You can’t take part in the conversations, go get the hearing aids.” And finally, when I went in, and I walked out of the audiologist office with my new hearing aids, and I heard the leaves blowing across the parking lot for the first time, and I don’t know how long, I was like, “Wow, what have I been missing?”
And all because I was stubborn, and I didn’t want to admit that there was a part of my physical body, where it wasn’t. So, I love that it’s an inconvenience, but you know what, I’m so happy now that I have hearing aids, and I can be part of all of those conversations. So, I took it and said, “Alright, that is a positive thing.”
[00:15:57] David Lereah: It all has to do with quality of life. And the first thing that you learn with positive aging, which is in my book, is first, you’ve got to tame your ego, because it was your ego.
[00:16:12] Dean Barber: Right. Absolutely.
[00:16:13] David Lereah: It got a little way of you getting a hearing aid.
[00:16:15] Dean Barber: 100% it was.
[00:16:17]: David Lereah: Right. That ego dominated you for several years before you finally gave into your ego. And also, you’ve got to tame your ego first, and once you contain that ego, then the whole world opens up to you, as you age.
[00:16:33] Dean Barber: Yeah. So, go ahead and talk about some of the other ailments. I want you to talk about not the ailments, but I want you to talk about how from a psychological perspective, it impacts people in a way that I don’t think we recognize as it’s happening. And so, that’s why I thought your book was so great, because it really brings it to saying, hey, these things are normal.
And if these things are happening to you, it’s because you’ve lived a long time, and it’s not something to be ashamed of, or something like that, or looked down upon, but hey, let’s look at the positive side of things. So, what are some of the other things that you kind of see people that happen to them, that start to get them down, where they don’t focus on the positive aspects of aging?
[00:17:21] David Lereah: Oh, it all has to do with lifestyle. And all of us are accustomed to a certain lifestyle, as we’re aging. So, if you’re 55 years old, you can still play tennis, you can do a lot of things. So, that when you start to experience decline, physical decline, and even mental decline, we resist, we resist it. That, for example, I use the example of, if you’re having dinner, and your stomach starts making as much noise as your dishwasher, it’s time to change your diet. We are not used to that. That’s a small, nontrivial thing in your life, but when it comes to cancer, or when it comes to your knee breaking, and you need a knee replacement, you’ve got to realize, well, I may not be able to play tennis anymore.
Well, if you can’t play tennis, what’s the next best thing? Well, I’m going to start to walk 10,000 steps a day. So, we need to start to adjust. And what I like to say that there’s four A’s in life, as you age. That’s acceptance, you’ve got to accept whatever physical or mental decline you’re going to experience. You’ve got to adapt, you’ve got to adapt to whatever you’re experiencing if it’s no longer playing tennis, and you’ve got to walk, instead, you’ve got to adapt. Then you’ve got to appreciate, you’ve got to start appreciating what you have in life. I found that out the hard way with cancer.
I never really appreciated life, and you don’t appreciate it until you start losing it. Like with your hearing, you didn’t appreciate the sounds of nature until you got your hearing aid. And finally, the last four A is attitude. You gotta have the right attitude. We live in this forever young society, where the youth are put on a pedestal, and the old are put out to pasture. We’ve got to turn that around. We’ve got to say, you know, when you’re aging, you’ve got all this wisdom built up in your life, you’ve got all these experiences. Your wrinkles reflect life’s experiences, so that you’ve got to have an attitude, you can’t shy away.
There are so many people that as they age, they get insecure about their role in society. And they want to get off the stage, and they want to get to the sidelines and watch the parade go by. What we’ve got to do is have the right attitude and say, “No, I’m aging, but I’m powerful. I’ve got a lot in life here. As long as I can appreciate it, smell the roses, watch the shoreline of an ocean wave hit it, I’ve got to have the right attitude.” So, that’s what you’ve got to do when you’re faced with physical and mental decline.
[00:20:46] Dean Barber: I’d loved your analogy there of the forever young society. I have thought, for so many years now, I’ll have to say here, David, you don’t know this about me in any way, listeners don’t know this about me, but my grandfather was my mentor. I’ve often thought for so long that we don’t pay enough attention to our seniors, they have so much to teach us. And yet, you’re right, it’s as if somebody reaches 65 or 70 or 75 years old, and it’s like, what do they know? This is a different world today?
Well, let me tell you, there’s a lot of things out there. And I learned so much every day from my clients. I think it’s one of the greatest gifts that I’ve been able to experience in my financial planning profession over the last 34 years now, is working with people who are in or near that retirement age, and really learning from their life experiences and talking to them, and really having meaningful conversations about their life experiences, and then taking that in and saying, you know what, nobody’s talking about that stuff today. And you’re right, and all of the Botox and the injections, and we got to have the wrinkle cream, and age spots getting removed, and as if there’s something wrong with aging, right? We want to look young forever, and we want to feel young forever. Of course, we know that’s not possible.
[00:22:24] David Lereah: Well, there’s nothing wrong with people wanting to look young, but what’s wrong is the attitude, what’s wrong is thinking that looking young is going to help them in life. If it helps their confidence, that’s one thing, but looking young, the forever young attitudes, is where we need to change that, alter it, and start not just respecting our elders, but having them participate in society. Too many elders are on the sidelines, as you said, they’ve got words of wisdom that we can all benefit from, we need to bring them in.
[00:23:11] Dean Barber: Yeah, I know, it’s interesting. Just this last week, I’m kind of reflecting on some things and, and I’m thinking about my mom who is in her mid-70s, and she’s alone. And thankfully, I’ve got a brother that lives less than two miles from her, and she’s got some grandkids around. So, she does get some interaction, but she’s alone the majority of the time.
And your whole idea that seniors need a social support, network, some interaction with other people, to help them stay positive, help them stay, feel like they’re part of something, talk a little bit about that, because that being alone thing, I think, affects a lot of seniors out there. And then I want you to talk about your nonprofit that you’ve established, and how you’re trying to get that nonprofit to help those seniors who are alone, get that interaction that they need.
[00:24:18] David Lereah: You know that it begins with our spirit, and that’s one of my building blocks for positive aging. A lot of us forget that we even have a spirit. A lot of us are religious, you believe in God, you believe in heaven, but yet, you have little focus on your spirit. You tend to play more to your ego than your spirit. If you have a healthy spirit, then that’s your number one social interaction. That’s what’s going to give you a positive mindset in life, and that’s for people that are still working, not just for seniors in retirement.
[00:25:08] Dean Barber: You call that the power of me, right?
[00:25:10] David Lereah: That’s the power of me. Very good. And then, there’s the power of us, and that’s the social interaction, that’s the social support that we all need, because one is a lonely number. We’re social animals, human beings, we need social support. And if you have social support, that raises your spirit. And if you can raise your spirit, then you’ve got a positive mindset, and then you can combat anything in life, especially the physical and mental decline as you age.
[00:25:43] Dean Barber: That’s powerful stuff. So, that power of me, that inner spirit, your mindfulness takes you a long way, and it gives you a different outlook on life.
[00:25:58] David Lereah: Yeah, I mean, the building blocks or your spirit, or taming your ego first, before you can get to your spirit, mindfulness, positivity. And I talked about affirmations, I know that in business, when you go in business retreats, everyone’s looking to do affirmations, but it actually works for aging. For me, more than my physical body, that’s my affirmation. It tells me that no matter what happens to my physical body, the decline, now if my knee no longer works, and I can’t play tennis, doesn’t matter, because I’m going to strengthen my spirit, while my physical body declines.
So, I meditate now every day, trying to get into that mindfulness, where you’re living in that present moment. When you meditate, you’re tapping into your spirit, and that is giving you a more positive mindset, and that is helping you live a more joyful life as you age. Then, we have the four A’s, which I mentioned, and then the social support, which we discussed. Finally, balancing, you need to have a balanced life. And I can tell you that most of the people that you serve, your clients, do not have a full balanced life, because none of us do. We all have some stress in our life, we all exhibit some type of anxiety. If you are in balance, you have less stress, less anxiety, you’re more joyful. And as we age, we get more and more out of balance. That’s the problem.
[00:27:55] Dean Barber: So, define balance, David. What do you mean there?
[00:28:00] David Lereah: Balance means you can look at your lifestyle. That’s one part of balance, your lifestyle. When you’re younger, you’re bringing up a family, but when you retire, what happened to you? Well, you’re no longer bringing up a family, you’re no longer working in a profession, you’re out of balance. So, you need to rebalance yourself, you need to set new priorities in your life, you need to have different expectations about your life. That’s all the components of balancing.
So, I’ve got a whole chapter on balancing to try to help people understand that as they age, they get out of balance. And if you’re out of balance, you’re going to have a lot of stress in your life, you’re going to have a lot of misgivings, you’re going to feel insecure. So, if you can learn to balance, which means emphasize, rearrange your priorities in life, and have different expectations in life, I like to say at the end of the balance chapter, you shouldn’t have any expectations when you’re aging into senior years. You need to have possibilities, because you’d have an expectation, you’re going to get disappointed, because you’re not going to meet all your expectations, but if you view it as possibilities, there’s no disappointment. You just have an array of possibilities, and you can meet.
[00:29:39] Dean Barber: That’s awesome. And the thing that I loved about your book is it not only talks about the power of positive aging, but it actually walks you through the entire process of how you as an individual can harness the power of positive aging. And one of the things you talk about quite a bit is your idea of meditation. So, walk me through, prior to your cancer diagnosis, was meditation something that was part of your life? Or did it only come after that moment when you’re like, Oh, my God, things are really changing fast, I’ve got to get my head in the right space?
[00:30:16] David Lereah: Back in the 1970s, when I was in college, I took Transcendental Meditation, because that was the in thing to do back then.
[00:30:24] Dean Barber: Yes.
[00:30:25] David Lereah: We were protesting the war in Vietnam, and we were meditating, but then after that, no, I never meditated again, until I went on my journey to cope with cancer. And in that journey, I started to read as much as I could about how to stay positive. And one thing that I discovered was the Buddhist philosophy, Buddhism, and I discovered mindfulness and meditation practices. So, it’s very easy today to meditate. It was a lot harder and more difficult in the 1970s. Today, you have apps, on your smartphone, you can put apps like Calm or Headspace, and they lead you through meditations.
And as I say, in the book, you don’t have to meditate for 30 minutes or an hour. I mean, that’s very deep. And if we’re seniors, it’s very difficult for our minds to focus for 30 minutes or an hour on meditation.
[00:31:30] Dean Barber: Some of us, it’s difficult for five minutes.
[00:31:33] David Lereah: And that’s what I’m saying, I talked about five-minute meditations. If you could just do it for five minutes in the morning and five minutes at night, you’d be surprised at how much that’s going to help you not just tap into your spirit side, but also, you’re living in the present moment side as well.
[00:31:55] Dean Barber: It’s interesting because from a perspective of my mind going 100 miles an hour in so many different directions on a daily basis, and I read your book, and you’re talking about meditation, I’m like, Oh, my gosh, seriously, I can’t calm my mind down for even five minutes. So, I happened to go on and try out a couple of those apps that you talked about in your book. I decided, since I can’t sit still, what I’m going to do is I’m going to do a walking meditation. And the power of the first time I did it, and I’m walking along, and all of a sudden, I’m not thinking about anything other than just being in the moment. And I whip out my smartphone, and I start making a whole bunch of notes, and then I just put it away.
Then a few days later, I come back to those notes, I’m like, where did this stuff come from? Right? And then I got a chance to sit down and really think about it. And so, you’re right, there’s something there, and so, when people read your book, The Power of Positive Aging, don’t dismiss this idea of meditation, and you feel like that’s had a big impact on your ability to stay positive?
[00:33:08] David Lereah: It’s an unbelievable impact. And again, I only meditate for five, ten minutes each time, I do not do a half hour or an hour of meditation, I don’t fold my legs like a Buddha. All you need to do in the 21st century, is just use an app, let them lead you through a little meditation exercise. Not only will it help you tap your spirit and get mindfulness, it will help you go to sleep at night. So many of us seniors have a difficult time falling asleep. Sleep is so important to us to stay in a positive mindset. When we wake up during the day, meditation helps.
[00:33:52] Dean Barber: Awesome. Okay, so now let’s get into physical health. And we’ve been talking about mental health, we’ve been talking about psychology and meditation and all that, where does physical health come in here? And you have an entire chapter, I think, it’s Chapter 11 on the healthy habits for your body.
[00:34:16] David Lereah: Yeah. I’m glad you brought that up, because there’s two sides to this. And you’re right, it’s not just mental, you’ve got to be physically healthy as well. Now, the key here is that once you have mental health, that will give you the ability and the desire and the motivation to keep up your physical health. It’s really, mental comes before physical, in my opinion, that’s what I’ve discovered.
[00:34:52] Dean Barber: But the problem that I have with that, and I think the problem that most people have with that is that physical, I can see it and I can feel it. Alright, mentally, we’re all too damn stubborn to realize that maybe, we’re not all balanced to the way that we should be from a mental perspective. So, how can you on this podcast and in your book, convince people that the mental part comes first, and just try a few things to see if you can’t get a little bit more mental peace so that you can have that desire?
[00:35:24] David Lereah: Well, just think about it. So many people focus only on their physical health. And we still have a lot of stress and anxiety, bouts of depression everywhere, so it’s not working. Start with your mental health, and if you can get into a positive mindset, if you can tap into that spirit. Now, a lot of people will lean heavily on religion. If you want to get into the supernatural, that’s fine as well. I don’t know how many people will lean that way, but you can certainly lean on religion. I lean on meditation and trying to stay positive.
Once that happens, once I can tap into my spirit, I have the motivation. Now, I walk 10,000 steps every day. I did not do that when I was feeling stress, I did not do that when I had my mind racing in 10,000 different directions. I work out with weights in the morning, not heavy weights, I’m too old for that now, but I do a lot of different exercises, because I know I want to stay in physical shape as I age.
And then of course, you then have the motivation with vitamins and eating the right way, because as you age, your digestive system ages with you, and you can’t eat all the same foods that you used to eat when you were 40 or 30. I can’t eat an entire pizza anymore. So, vitamins are very important, and I have a chapter on which vitamins one should do as they’re getting into those senior years.
And in terms of healthy physical aging, the first step is to simplify your life. You’ve got to simplify your life, as you’re getting into those senior years. You gotta maintain a healthy weight as you get into those senior years. A lot of us put on weight when we get into those senior years, and that’s not healthy, obviously. Exercise is very, very important. And just keeping structure in your life and staying positive will help the physical side.
[00:37:42] Dean Barber: So, this idea of simplifying your life, for those people that are listening, that are still working, they’re saying, David, Dean, right, simplify my life, that’s impossible. And I think even some people as they hit in retirement, simplify my life, that’s not possible. Tell us what you mean by simplifying your life. You explain it well in your book, but I want you to kind of try to verbalize it here for our listeners.
[00:38:09] David Lereah: Well, to be perfectly candid with you, if you’re still working at 55 years old, like you are right now, it’s going to be very difficult to simplify your life, because you’re still working with your profession, and as you said, your mind is racing in different directions. So, it’s even hard to meditate for five or ten minutes. So, I don’t have a cure all for simplifying your life when you’re still in that mode of bringing up family and working in your profession, I’m not a psychiatrist.
But when you’re a senior, and you’re retired, there are so many different ways to simplify your life. You’ve got to reprioritize your life in your senior years, you’ve got to have different expectations in your life. So, the first thing to do is do nothing. Spend some time by yourself. If you want to just walk down a tree lined street by yourself, do that, rather than sit and watch TV and let those commercials and different programs bombard your brain. Walk down a tree lined street, that would be the first thing. Having some meditation time would be another way of simplifying your life. Organize and set some structure in your life rather than have these random events control your life. So, organization and structure is a big part of simplifying your senior years.
[00:39:57] Dean Barber: Yeah, and you talk in your book an awful lot about cognitive impairments, and how being organized really helps with those cognitive impairments that come naturally with aging. We’re not even talking about Alzheimer’s or dementia or anything like that, but just our minds age as well as our bodies, and so being organized and having that structure goes a long way in keeping you positive as you age.
[00:40:25] David Lereah: Yeah, and I’m glad you mentioned the cognitive side, too, because yes, we don’t just physically decline, but we mentally decline. I’m forgetting things all the time. now. I can’t remember names. There are note reminders that you can use, and that will help structure your life and make it more simple. There are so many apps now that you can put on your phone to help structure your mind so that you can start remembering things. And then there’s of course, mind stimulating activities that one can do to continue to stimulate your brain, so that you deteriorate in a much slower pace than you would if you did not have those mind stimulating games to play.
[00:41:20] Dean Barber: So, what’s something else that you talked about in your book was something called EI or emotional intelligence. And when I read that chapter, my first thought was the millennial generation needs to read the chapter on emotional intelligence.
I think that goes back to what we were talking about the very beginning of this podcast, and that is that we live in this forever young society, where our elderly generation is dismissed as out of touch and nothing more to offer, they did their part, just let’s let them set by the side, but from an emotional intelligence standpoint, I think our younger generation needs to read that chapter on emotional intelligence, because understanding what you’re saying, how you’re saying it, and how you’re perceiving another person’s thoughts, and what they’re saying is absolutely huge. So, talk to us a little bit about how you discovered that emotional intelligence piece, and what does it really mean to this power of positive aging?
[00:42:25] David Lereah: Emotional intelligence, about 20 years ago, came to the surface in businesses, in corporate America. And now, they’re really focused on emotional intelligence, they test their employees to try to understand their levels of emotional intelligence, because emotional intelligence is so different from IQ. IQ is a pure intellect, but emotional intelligence is how you handle life, how you handle situations. And you’re right, the millennials can really learn a lot with emotional intelligence, but what I discovered is that the components of positive aging, to help you age successfully, coincide, intersect so well with the traits of emotional intelligence.
One of the components of emotional intelligence is decision making. You got to be able to make the right, rational decisions, you’ve got to be able to do it in stressful situations, that’s emotional intelligence as well, another measure, self-expression, social interaction, those are all components of your emotional intelligence. So, I sort of take that overlap into the positive aging framework, and the intersection is very powerful. So, it’s very important that we focus not just on the components of positive aging, but our emotional intelligence.
[00:44:07] Dean Barber: So, you get through all this, and you say, Okay, let’s reclaim your life, let’s put all of these different components together. And what hit me in that chapter, and after reading the entire book was as we work our tails off, and we’re diligent, we save, we get ready for those “golden years,” and those are supposed to be the time of your life, and then you get to that point where you know you’ve got enough money saved, where you’re not going to be required to work anymore, you get to do the things that you want to do every single day because they’re important to you, but If we’re not doing this in a positive way, if we don’t have our mental health, if we don’t have our physical health, then all of the money in the world means absolutely nothing.
I recently witnessed one of my clients who about a year ago, finally got it at the age of 72. I told him, I’ve been telling him for years, man, you’ve got so much money, you never need to work another day in your life. And we’ve finally had a good long conversation with him and his wife, and he’s getting up and he’s walking out of my office, and he turns around, and he looks at me, he goes, I think I finally get it. And I said, “Tell me,” and he said, “I’ve won the race, what the hell am I still running for?” I said, “You know what, you’re right.”
Nine months later, he gets cancer, too. And so, he had all those years where he could have actually done the things that he talked about with his wife. Now, thankfully, like you, his cancer is in remission, and hopefully now he’s going to have an opportunity to reclaim his life, but I would like for you to try to maybe encourage our listeners not to wait until something hits you in the face, and it’s that moment of truth to wait to reclaim your life. How do we do that sooner, David, without having to go through those moments.
[00:46:19] David Lereah: That’s in my very first chapter, positive aging. The practice of positive aging should not be done, when you have an issue. I had to learn it on the run, when I had cancer. The whole purpose of my book is to help people practice positive aging before the experience of physical decline or mental decline. This has to be before, because you want to be mentally equipped to have the wherewithal to cope successfully with any aging, ailment, mental or physical. So, it’s extremely important that your clients, your listeners, practice positive aging way before. So, I would not just suggest people at 55 start to begin, because that’s when they start to age. We’re all aging, we begin aging at age 20. That’s in my first chapter in the book as well.
[00:47:31] Dean Barber: Right. I thought that was fascinating. I read that, I’m like, you know what, he’s right, but nobody thinks about it, because you don’t feel it yet.
[00:47:39] David Lereah: You don’t, it doesn’t really come to the surface in a meaningful manner, until you’re about age 50. And that’s when you’ll start to go downhill from a physical and mental perspective, but you can live a joyful life in your senior years, those twilight years, if you can practice the components of positive aging, and I lay them all out. And then my real final chapter on positive aging has to do with how do you implement it? How do you start? Well, there’s a very simple way to do it. You’ve got to alter your lifestyle. And I go through, there’s, I think, 10 ways of altering your lifestyle in a very simple way, and that will get you on the road to positive aging, put you in that positive mindset, so that you can cope successfully with whatever comes your way.
[00:48:35] Dean Barber: Well, I’m going to encourage everyone that has listened to this podcast, not only to share this podcast with all of your friends and your relatives, but to get to the link that is embedded here in the podcast to buy the book, The Power of Positive Aging. We’ve also got a link to your United We Age website, which is your nonprofit organization designed to bring the community together, a way to stay in contact with society and that social network, and also a way that you can contribute to the nonprofit organization to help everybody out there experiencing this power of positive aging.
And I have to say, it’s been a real pleasure, David, talking to you about your life experience. And I want to just say from the bottom of my heart, thank you for the work that you’ve done here. I know that what you’ve done is going to touch so many people in ways that you can’t imagine. So, it’s powerful stuff, and love the fact that you took the time to spend here on The Guided Retirement Show talking to our listeners.
[00:49:48] David Lereah: Well thank you very much for having me, and I wish really health, not just happiness, but more importantly health and a positive mindset for all of your listeners as they age into their twilight years. It can be a real joyful life for all of us.
[00:50:05] Dean Barber: Thank you once again to David Lereah, PhD. What a fascinating man, what a great story, and I encourage everybody, please share this with your friends, even your younger friends out there, because the power of positive aging really does begin as we are even in our 30s and 40s. Let’s not wait until the cancer or whatever horrible thing it is that hits you in life in order for you to wake up and figure out that you need to think about your life in a different way.
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