How Can We Age With Gusto? Try Diet, Exercise and a Positive Attitude

— Written By Rachel Monteverdi and last updated by

When you call her phone number, expect to get her voice mail. She might be in a water aerobics class, helping with a canned food drive, tutoring a child, or meeting with her computer club. In fact, Mary is more active today then she has ever been, and she is 75 years old. How is she aging with such gusto? According to Mary, three key factors are diet, exercise and attitude. It’s a habit.

Every day Mary wakes up with a plan and has several things to look forward to. She stays positive and believes in nurturing her spirit, mind, and body. She also feels it is important to have a sense of purpose, contribute to the community and spend time with others.

Mary has a routine and stays busy. She begins her morning routine by taking her medicine and taking care of herself. She does her best to eat a healthy breakfast before exercising. She takes time to stretch in order to increase her balance and then she walks or swims for sixty minutes. When she returns home for a snack, she strives to eat fruit or vegetables because research shows healthy eating helps protect against many diseases.

As part of her regular routine, Mary wears a pedometer. The pedometer keeps track of her steps. A few years ago, she made the conscious effort to get “a little healthier” by increasing her steps from 5000 per day to about 10000. In the past twelve months, Mary averaged 9200 steps per day. How did she do it? She set a new daily goal each week by calculating her averages and increasing it by 10%. It’s been a long road but each day she continues to try a little harder. She doesn’t let the weather get her down; when it is raining outside, she opts to walk inside and do exercises in her chair at home.

At dinnertime, Mary recalls what she learned about portion distortion in her Eat Smart, Move More, Weigh Less class. They talked about sensible sizes as it related to ingredients. There were different size recommendations for different foods (fats, dairy, protein, fruits, vegetables). She remembered one serving of chicken was equivalent to the size of a deck of cards but was hard for her to remember which food portions should be the size of a small fist, thumb, dice or cassette tape.

Thankfully, she posted this information near her refrigerator to help her remember. As she reviewed the material, she considered the importance of drinking water and adding more fiber (like bran), calcium, and vitamin D, to her diet. She does her best to maintain a healthy weight, manages her diabetes and staves off heart disease.

There are a number of key factors to the aging process and aging well. Many of them will be discussed at our upcoming What to Expect as You Age: Aging with Gusto program at the Senior Center on June 3rd. To sign up for this class, or our “Emergency Preparedness for Families” class scheduled on May 12; or our “Scams: What to do when someone contacts you by phone, computer, mail or they are at your door” classes, please call 919-496-3344.

Rachel Harris Monteverdi is a Family & Consumer Sciences Agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension, a division of North Carolina State University and North Carolina A&T State University. The Family & Consumer Sciences department includes prenatal to end-of-life programs. Priorities for North Carolina citizens include: Healthy Relationships; Family & Parenting Education; Academic Success; Active Aging; Energy Conservation; Leadership; Emergency Management and more. Call 919-496-3344, email or visit for additional information.