People often ask me for my top tip on ageing well.      

If only there were just one – preferably something foolproof and easy!

But this is a complex subject and has to be approached from many angles.

Actually, it’s a bit like spinning a large number of different plates on long poles and constantly checking up on them.  

As I’ve often said in these columns, there’s so much we can do to achieve a better old age, but it all takes effort. 

So here are some of the important strategies that will help us age positively if we adopt them: exercising most days, maintaining a normal weight, having sufficient sleep, eating healthily, having a good sense of balance, keeping to a modest consumption of alcohol, not smoking, enjoying an active social network and, as I described in last week’s column, seeing a dentist regularly which can save us from developing a range of serious illnesses. 

That’s quite a long list, isn’t it?

But even that doesn’t cover everything. You see, you can be in great shape and have wonderful teeth but suffer from a negative attitude – and that’s very ageing. 

A couple of months ago when I was writing about the concept of health spans, I mentioned a remarkable new book called Outlive, by Peter Attia. I’m still discovering useful information in it.    
The last chapter features the thoughts of Ric Elias who is a friend of the author and was one of the 155 passengers who survived the 'Miracle on the Hudson'.

You may remember the incident back in 2009; an airbus had just taken off from La Guardia airport in New York when it was damaged in a collision with a flock of birds, and the pilot swiftly elected to ditch the plane in the river.

Not surprisingly, Mr Elias was significantly changed by the experience. And since then, he has done his best to eliminate negative energy from his life.   

He’s quoted in Outlive as saying: “I think people get old when they stop thinking about the future… If they think about their dreams, their aspirations, what they’re still looking forward to – they’re young”. 

As I read his words, it occurred to me that when we were younger, we would look ahead and plan where we might be or what we might accomplish in three, or five years’ time.

We seem to have lost that knack. Partly perhaps, we don’t want to tempt fate by assuming we’ll stay well for several years.

But I also think we’re cautious in a way that our younger selves were not. We don’t have a crystal ball so can’t know how much viable time we have left, but let’s think positively and make plans for next year and indeed for after that.   

I’m sure this is important. We all know individuals who are more focused on the past than the future, and it doesn’t do them any favours, does it? 

Of course, when we get together with a bunch of mates we worked with years ago, or  meet up with siblings or other family, we tend to indulge in a generous dose of nostalgia.

There’s nothing wrong with that.

Happy memories are heartening and encourage us to feel a sense of gratitude, which is good for our mental health.

But there is something wrong when folk dwell on the past and believe that everything nowadays is less good, if not a downright disaster. This is not the right way to stay young and on top of life.    
I know it’s not always easy to look ahead with positivity.

For one thing there’s no doubt that many of us lost a layer of confidence and certainty during the pandemic which has led to a tendency to put off making definite plans till the last minute.

We think of going to the theatre, or cinema, or visiting family but we hear ourselves saying “sounds good but let’s see how we go…”

The trouble with that attitude is that it can turn us into real stay-at-home folk.

Of course, if you do plan ahead, you sometimes have to cancel because of railway engineering works or bad weather.

But I think that’s a better option than not planning anything and staying home more. When we do that, we can quickly become a hermit.

And in all the books you’ve read or films you’ve watched, have you ever encountered a young hermit? No, they’re always old.  Let’s not be one of those.  

Finally, I believe it’s important to eliminate various phrases from our vocabulary because they’re very ageing. Never say: “I might have managed this at one time, but I’ll never master it now”. Or: “I’m too old for this”. Usually, our brains and bodies are more capable than we give them credit for. 

Also, avoid saying: “I think we should do it how we always have”. This is rarely helpful.

Naturally, we don’t want to change for the sake of it, but life moves on all the time, and it will help us to age well if we move forwards with it.