Is 50 the new 30? Or the new 75?

Sue Bergeson Health Guide
  • I was pleased to be invited in September to participate in the National Wellness Summit for People with Mental Illnesses. It was convened by the Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS), part of SAMHSA, which is a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. About 100 of us, representing many different mental health perspectives and experiences, were gathered for workshops on topics like defining what wellness is, successful wellness strategies and contextual issues that affect wellness like culture, families, spirituality, etc. (a session I moderated).


    It just so happened that the conference coincided with my 50th birthday, so I was quite interested when Stephen Bartels, MD, MS, of the Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center got up to speak about older adults. He started off his presentation by acknowledging my birthday, and, in the process, pointing out that in this day of Americans living longer and healthier lives, 50 may be the new 30. Boy, was my heart starting to sing! Then, he noted that, because people living with mental illness are dying 25 years earlier than the general population, for us 50 is actually the new 75. Bummer. Not only did I get old, but I suddenly got a LOT older!

    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:


    The good news is that there are a lot of promising programs out there making a difference in our overall wellness. Steve spoke about a few that were successfully combining health skills training, medical management and mental health treatment. This is important, because we often only get treatment for our mental health and ignore our physical health. Our physical health then declines, and problems arise which further affect our mental health. So, paying attention to both is critically important.


    Reverend Bob Dell, board chair of Pathways to Promise also led a session that I thought was especially helpful. As their website explains, Pathways is an interfaith technical assistance and resource center that offers liturgical and educational materials, program models and networking information. They promote a caring ministry for people with mental illness and their families.


    One particularly innovative and promising program, IN SHAPE Lifestyles, was outlined by Ken Jue, CEO of Monadnock Family Service (MFS). Participants in this program are matched with a trained health mentor. The mentor provides an initial fitness assessment of the individual, and, together, they create a Self-Health Action Plan for Empowerment, or SHAPE. Each person's SHAPE includes exercise and healthy eating goals. The mentors help the participants implement their SHAPE plan by explaining a variety of activity and exercise options-and they actually attend those activities with them until they feel comfortable going on their own. For more about this wonderful program, visit, click on "Community Services," and then click on "Monadnock In SHAPE Lifestyles."


    At this Wellness Summit, I felt like I was given a crash course on how to live the rest of my life: from paying attention to my physical health, exercise and diet as well as my spiritual life. Now it's up to me. Will I live like I'm 75, or like I'm 30?


    Add This Infographic to Your Website or Blog With This Code:

    How about you? Do you know of, or participate in, any helpful wellness/whole health programs?

Published On: October 11, 2007