Do you have a plan for the next 10 years? 20? 30? I have to admit I don’t, and I hadn’t given it a lot of thought until very recently. But last week a Masterclass entitled Life Doesn’t Stop at 50: How to Have a Fulfilling Third Act made me think about it A LOT. Led by life coaches Adrian and Judy Reith (@Act3Life), the seminar had a packed room of 50-somethings thinking about what actions we can take now to make our last decades as rewarding as possible. We spent the evening considering our key values in life and how they can be fulfilled as we age. And we thought about the control we have – or hope to have – over our ‘Third Act’. However busy we are now, with jobs, family, ageing parents and home life, there will come a time we have to make decisions about where we want to be, with whom and what we’re doing for the rest of our lives. We were encouraged to have a ‘realistically positive’ approach: mustering the resources at our disposal: money, health, relationships and communities among them, to make the best of the years to come.
Research shows that the more you plan, the more like you are to achieve your goals. A study of Harvard MBA students in the 1970s found that only 3% had clear, written goals for their future. 10 years on, the planners were earning, on average, ten times as much as the other 97% put together. (Doubtless, now, all Harvard MBA students have clear, written goals!).
Of course, at Kale & Cocoa it’s the health element of planning for the future which interests us most. Is it possible to have a health plan for the future? It’s all very well to think ‘I hope I don’t get dementia/heart disease/arthritis/cancer as I age’. It’s another thing planning to try to reduce the risk (we know we can never eliminate that risk – it’s only about degrees of risk reduction). The Harvard stats quoted above show that just by planning, we are more likely to make things happen. ‘Health planning’ is a term used more in the field of public health policy, but I think we should all look to plan ahead for good health as individuals. Just as a runner plans their training for a marathon, increasing the miles each week, we should all make a ‘realistically positive’ plan for our ageing well in the years to come: how we intend to eat, exercise, sleep and socialise from now on. There’s a very basic planner available on WikiHow http://www.wikihow.com/Create-a-Wellness-Plan which is a useful starting point in the process. Because, let’s face it, we all hope our latter years will be a marathon not a sprint.
In last week’s Times, Dame Joan Bakewell (a role model for positive ageing if ever I saw one) wrote about how important it is to be proactive in staying healthy, staying busy, making new friends and seeking new projects. She referenced Sarah Harper, professor of gerontology at the University of Oxford, who says that ‘old age’ should refer only to ‘that short period of frailty and dependency at the end of people’s lives’. Before that, we hope, there are many years of a well-planned, purposeful, healthy ‘third act’.
Something that is always in my plan for a healthful future is upping the amount of pulses and vegetables in my diet. This simple, seasonal hummus is a delicious, snack, starter of part of a meze platter. Try serving with pitta chips – snip wholemeal pittas into triangles, toss with olive oil and zaa’tar, then bake in a hot oven until crisp and browning.
BEETROOT HUMMUS (Serves 4)
- 500g beetroot, peeled and cut into wedges
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 400g can of chickpeas
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
- 125ml live natural yoghurt
- 2 tbs lemon juice
- 1 tbs fresh mint, finely chopped, for garnish
- a few walnuts, crumbled
- Salt and pepper
Pre-heat oven to 180C. Drizzle the beetroot with 1 tablespoon of the oil and season well. Roast on an oven tray for 30-40mins until soft and starting to caramelise. Leave to cool, putting a few pieces aside for garnish.
Whizz the chickpeas, garlic, yoghurt, lemon juice, remaining olive oil and cooled beetroot to make a smooth hummus. Season to taste and serve with a scattering of herbs, walnuts and reserved beetroot pieces.