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HartsteinBy Executive Office of Elder Affairs Secretary Ann Hartstein


It’s the start of the New Year, and many of us are being inundated by an avalanche of New Year’s resolutions. We are warned to start exercising regularly; address weight concerns; stop smoking; give up carbohydrates; give up sugar; give up fried food.  It’s hard not to equate resolutions with depriving yourself of many of life’s pleasures.  At the same time, we know that taking charge of one’s life and habits will give us a major dividend: better health and longer life. 


There is another way to greet the beginning of the New Year. Perhaps we could think about empowering ourselves to make good choices that will make us feel and look a lot better.  In other words, New Year’s resolutions should be a gift to ourselves – and to our families for whom we are setting a healthy example and who will have the pleasure of having us with them for many more years.


A recent article in the Boston Globe cited a Stanford University study that revealed making resolutions has a negative impact because 80% of them are doomed to fail according to B.J. Fogg, director of the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University.  And, Susan Lehmann, a John Hopkins University School of Medicine psychiatrist recommends working on focusing on specific issues rather than on everything (Washington Post, 1/2/12)  Both suggest that developing healthier habits rather than setting oneself unrealistic goals will yield better results.


Two years ago, Governor Patrick and the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs (EOEA) launched the Aging Agenda, based in part on the premise that developing lifelong healthy habits generally yields a longer, healthier life.  But these habits – regular exercise, sensible nutrition, regular bedtimes, social activities, lifelong learning – are always there for you.


Most people prefer company as they embark on a life-changing activity.  First, we need the support of people taking the same journey. Second, it’s more fun to have company.  I’m not going to say “misery loves company” because I am not talking about inflicting misery.  Rather, I’m suggesting that we all have the opportunity to make some easy choices.  For example, check out your local Council on Aging, available on our website or by calling us at 1-800-AGE-INFO (1-800-243-4636), and ask about the range of exercise, diet/nutrition counseling (starving yourself for a week or two isn’t going to give you the long-term benefits of  reasonable sustained food choices) and chronic disease self management programs they offer.  Many COAs also have programs such as walking clubs – a pleasant way to initiate an important change. You can even invite a friend or two to form your own walking club – in a local mall when the weather is bad. And most Councils on Aging have healthy meals available every weekday.


Begin by thinking of empowering and rewarding yourself.  Seize the opportunity to work with people who can give you tools you want to give yourself: A New Years gift of a better, longer and healthier life.


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