By Jennifer Fitzpatrick
Special to Chesapeake 360
Last month, Jenerations Health Education, Inc. was the proud co-sponsor of actor and social activist George Takei’s presentation to the National Speakers Association in Washington, D.C. 78-year old George Takei is best known for his character Mr. Sulu in the Star Trek television series and films, his role as announcer on the Howard Stern Show as well as for his tremendous social media following. This article is the first in a series of five on what older adults and their family members can learn from this very active and successful septuagenarian.
Takei is often complimented by how much younger he looks than his 78 years. But more importantly he often shares how good he feels. Here are some tips gleaned from studying the way George Takei embraces his aging process:
Takei’s Physical Health Habits
You probably already know that exercise, good nutrition, getting enough sleep, and not smoking can increase our chances of living a healthy disability-free life.
Be active. Takei is a runner and is known to even do situps on talk shows. While you don’t need to exercise in front of a television audience to get the benefits, it’s important to embrace some type of exercise. Exercise is believed to keep diabetes, heart disease and arthritis at bay.
Incorporate healthy foods into your routine. Takei reportedly drinks green tea daily which many studies have suggested boosts both heart and brain health.
Takei’s Psychological Health Habits
Embracing gratitude, authenticity and forgiveness in life can go a long way to boost your psychological health. Psychologist Erik Erikson maintained that mental health conditions in later life increase when we hold onto too many regrets.
Be who you are. Though Takei grew up in a time period when gay people weren’t accepted, he eventually came out of the closet and has been with his husband Brad Altman for the past 28 years (married for the last seven).
Don’t hold grudges. As a boy, Takei and his family were famously incarcerated in a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II. When he discusses this traumatic experience, he also focuses on how all Americans can learn from this dark period in history.
Takei’s Cognitive Health Habits
The Alzheimer’s Association recommends staying intellectually active and curious as we age. While doing crossword puzzles, learning new things and remaining cognitively engaged is not linked to reducing Alzheimer’s disease, it may delay the appearance of symptoms if one is predisposed. Further, staying cognitively active may minimize the normal aging declines we all experience.
Working. While Takei was known for a long time to just Trekkies, he reinvented himself over the last decade and has created a whole new fan base via social media. Takei has also been an activist in the movement to securing marriage equality for the LGBT community. Most recently he will be debuting his musical Allegiance, a show based on his early childhood in the internment camp.
Takei’s Social Health Habits
Isolation is highly linked to increased health risks, including cardiovascular disease and many cancers. Maintaining healthy social relationships and laughing are valuable ways to enhance the aging process.
Maintain relationships. In a recent Men’s Health article, Takei described his Star Trek co-stars that he met five decades ago as “family,” counting Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig and the late Leonard Nimoy among his closest friends. While new friends are wonderful, it’s powerful to remain connected with old friends who know our history as well.
Maintain a sense of humor. Can you laugh at yourself and find the light side of life? George Takei’s resurgence over the last decade has often been attributed to his role as an announcer on the Howard Stern Show. If you’ve ever listened in, there’s no doubt that Takei doesn’t take himself too seriously.
Gerontologist Jennifer L. Fitzpatrick, MSW, CSP is the founder of Jenerations Health Education, Inc., an Education Consultant for the Alzheimer’s Association and a gerontology instructor at Johns Hopkins University. She can be reached at email@example.com or on twitter @fitzpatrickjen.