Mastering The Art Of “Ageless Aging”

5 minute read time

What are you going to do with your longevity bonus? If you’re a woman heading toward retirement, the time to start thinking about your answer is right now.

Today, women live an average of six years longer than men. Unfortunately for many women, health issues, financial insecurity and a lack of purpose can rob them of the opportunity to enjoy these “longevity bonus years.” Maddy Dychtwald, the co-founder of Age Wave, has studied aging and longevity for over four decades. In her new book, Ageless Aging: A Woman’s Guide to Increasing Healthspan, Brainspan, and Lifespan, she says there are certain steps women can take to extend not only their longevity but also their quality of life.

WATCH Your Money Map: Mastering The Art Of “Ageless Aging”

Today, women live an average of six years longer than men. Unfortunately for many, health issues, financial insecurity and a lack of purpose can rob women of the opportunity to enjoy their “longevity bonus years.” On this episode of “Your Money Map,” host Jean Chatzky sits down with Maddy Dychtwald, the author of “Ageless Aging,” to talk about the steps women can take to sync up their healthspans and lifespans and ultimately, live longer, happier and healthier lives.

As Dychtwald notes, while women have won the “longevity lottery,” they haven’t quite figured out how to sync up their lifespan with various other “spans” including healthspan (the number of healthy years you live), brainspan (the number of years you live with cognitive vitality) and wealthspan (the number of financially secure years you live). “These things don’t exist in silos by themselves, says Dychtwald. “If somebody doesn’t have their financial house in order, chances are they’re going to start to feel really stressed from high cortisol levels and as a result of that stress, it may manifest as inflammation, which shows up in your body as disease and oftentimes, ends up costing money.”

As women look to boost their “spans” and ultimately, their longevity, Dychtwald says there are some key action steps they can take to do so:

Building A Better Healthspan

Dychtwald got a wake-up call about the importance of healthspan when she was experiencing hip pain in her 60s “I was born with hip dysplasia,” she says. “I didn’t know I had it and found out when I was in my 60s…I could barely walk around.” After going to see a doctor, she was told it would be several months before she could have hip replacement surgery.

To deal with the pain in the meantime, Dychtwald adopted an anti-inflammatory diet, eliminating things like gluten, dairy, most sugar and alcohol. She also started to meditate and continue to exercise. Within six weeks her pain was gone and the steps she took helped her to bounce back quickly after surgery. Dychtwald says even those who are living life pain-free can benefit from an anti-inflammatory diet, regular exercise and meditation. “That’s one example of the kinds of things that we can do to take charge,” she adds. “And it’s not that hard and it doesn’t have to cost a gazillion dollars.”

Boosting Your Brainspan

Dychtwald says through her research, she’s found the most important marker of aging is brainspan. “When we think of health, oftentimes we stop at the neck, we don’t really think about brain health,” she notes, adding that when compared to men, women are twice as likely to fall victim to Alzheimer’s disease. Dychtwald says if you take steps to improve your brainspan, they will have a ripple effect on your healthspan. “Things like eating different colors of fruits and vegetables and whole grains,” she suggests. “Exercise is like the silver bullet for your brain health and sleep is when your brain actually cleans out the trash…and it doesn’t cost a penny.”

Widening Your Wealthspan

Speaking of cost, Dychtwald says one of the biggest factors when it comes to maintaining quality of life as women age has to do with finances. Compared to men, in many cases, women have the deck stacked against them. For example, the gender pay gap will cause the average woman to earn $590,000 less than men over her lifetime and according to recent numbers, women have more student debt than men. In addition, a recent study commissioned by the Alliance for Lifetime Income showed women in the Peak 65® zone will struggle more financially in retirement, compared to Peak Boomer men. “Women also take time out of the workforce to be caregivers for their kids, their parents, and their in-laws,” adds Dychtwald. “As a result of doing that, they’re getting less promotions at work, their salaries are impacted, and their 401(k)’s are impacted.”

For women looking to improve their wealthspan, Dychtwald says there are several levers they can pull, starting with taking steps to improve their financial knowledge, which in turn, will help boost their financial confidence, especially when it comes to investing. “What we’ve learned at Age Wave, through our studies, is that women have a lot of financial confidence when it comes to budgeting and managing their debt…but when it comes to investing, not so much,” says Dychtwald. One AgeWave study showed that a woman’s number one financial regret was not investing more. “Build that financial knowledge, build that financial confidence and then just do something to take a step into investing,” stresses Dychtwald.

Dychtwald also suggests women take steps to secure a “paycheck for life” –or in other words, an annuity–to protect themselves financially as they age, as well as to provide them with peace of mind surrounding money matters. “Today in the crazy world we live in, there’s so much uncertainty,” she says. “I encourage all women to do that so that they have something in their investment portfolio that feels very safe and secure…and that can withstand inflation. I personally think they are a tool that should be part of everybody’s toolbox.”

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