5 Best Ways to Live Longer This Summer

5 Best Ways to Live Longer This Summer

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With the postponement of the Obamacare mandate dictating that businesses with 50 or more employees offer health care insurance to full time workers, many continue to wonder how much the delay was related to the 2014 midterm elections. Did the Democrats, hoping to preserve their Senate majority in 2014, make a politically calculated decision on the delay? Business leaders and Republicans had complained for months the mandate would have been unduly onerous on small businesses – while speculation has turned to whether the individual mandate will also be behind schedule as well. 

Either way, as the political classes continue to fight it out, the rest of us can save precious health care dollars this summer – by making sure we take vacations that are truly restful, relaxing and healthful.

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Here are five reasons why, if we haven’t already taken them or scheduled them, we need to make sure we get a vacation onto our summer calendar today and take a few other measures for great health and well being: 
1. Vacations protect our health.
You know that vacation you’ve been planning for (or dreaming about) since the leaves fell from the trees back in October? New research suggests it might be one of the best things you can do. One academic study of 13,000 middle-aged men, for example, found that skipping vacations led to increased risk of heart disease. Another study of women found that “women who took a vacation every six years or less were almost eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease.”  We know the reverse is also true: that those who remain active, which includes travel, stay healthier, longer. 

2. Vacations are good for our families and for our romantic lives.
Recent research has found that vacations can improve familial relationships, especially across generational lines. Over half of all kids surveyed claimed that vacations bring their families closer together, and 80 percent claim that vacations enable them to spend “quality time” with their grandparents. Even better, vacations are also a way to rekindle romance. New research shows that three in every four travelers finds that travel adds romance to their relationship

3. Vacation destinations are vibrant and “age-friendly.”
We’re not aging like our parents did – this much is clear. The all-inclusive golf and bingo resorts of the 1990s are giving way to vacations that bring together vibrancy and age-friendliness. Urbanist Richard Florida argues that the next wave of “age-friendly” travel will abandon buffets for cafes and live music. And it’s more common than ever for the young and “old” to brush shoulders at uber-trendy scenes like South Beach. Companies take note: A new market is exploding for the right products and services. With one billion of us over 55 and two billion by mid-century, this is a market opportunity if ever there was one. Just don’t try to sell us Velcro shoes or subscriptions to How to Succeed at Bingo.

4. Sun damage is fully avoidable today.
New evidence shows that a daily dose of sunscreen doesn’t just help prevent cancer, which we’ve long known; it also keeps our skin from developing tell-tale signs of aging. A recent Australian study found that daily sunscreen use, even on the world’s sunniest continent, kept adult women from developing “indications of photoaging,” which includes lines, wrinkles, coarseness, and the like. While healthy skin habits have long been a priority of the American Skin Association and others, prevention is key for people over 50. With decades more to live, healthy skin practices will enable healthier aging and save medical expenses.

5. We’ve got plenty left in the tank.
While it’s sad news that the world’s oldest living person recently passed, the fact that he lived to age 116 is a testament to the progress we’re making. Jiroemon Kimura, born in 1897, worked as a postal carrier until standard retirement age, then transitioned to an “encore career” and farmed until he was 90. The age-old notion that productivity declines among older workers is being more fully disproven by the day. The newest evidence comes from an in-depth study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, which found that working men over 60 are just as productive as those “in their prime,” or of the ages between 35 and 54. Some younger workers may complain of a “gray ceiling,” but employers are taking note of how older workers can drive business.  

Obamacare mandates or not, there’s never been a better time to age. So wouldn’t it be a huge irony if it turns out the one savior of Obamacare is a reduced need for health services as we age because we actually spent more of those dollars on traveling and staying active?  

Executive director of the Global Coalition on Aging, Michael W. Hodin, Ph.D., is also managing partner at High Lantern Group and a fellow at Oxford University's Harris Manchester College.