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David's Column

In spite of our name, you will rarely see the word ageism used here. We believe that the best way to change minds is not to lecture or harangue — because, really, how well does that ever work? — but to show positive examples from the world around us. We believe that story is how we learn, so we tell people’s stories in a way that is inspirational, aspirational, and attainable.  Our approach seems to be working as evidenced by almost 50% of our readers being under 50, although we almost never publish a profile of anyone under 50. When we investigated this curious fact, we found that people younger than us wanted to learn from and look forward to being like us. I call that a win.

Ageism is peculiar in the world of the "isms," where there seems to always be fear of some perceived difference, in that what one is fearful of is one’s future self. Is it fear of mortality? Or is it too much negative focus by brands and media on age? Or maybe something to do with the primacy of species reproduction being hardwired into us? Ageism is unique in that it is dynamic in a way that race, gender or other traits are not. 

We have also found that there is widespread age dysmorphia — we may be a certain chronological age, but may feel ourselves to be considerably younger. Even more confusing, this dysmorphia will vary from day to day, or even within a day. Some days we may feel 40, others days after a hard workout maybe we feel 60. Perhaps this was not the case 20 or 50 years ago but, now, as some people are taking better care of themselves they just don’t feel what they think someone their age should feel. One may hear comments like, “Even at his age he learned this new thing" as if we should be astounded that learning capacity is a continuing human attribute.

My personal feeling is that just by the weight of numbers — there are more people living longer, healthier lives than ever before — ageism will decline. It has to. You can't simply marginalize 40% of the population. Well, I guess one could, but the economic and societal costs would be pretty hard on everyone.

Until next week,

David

This week we are in Brooklyn, giving the new Ace Hotel BKN a spin. As a former Manhattanite, Brooklyn way back when was considered an "outer borough," someplace that one only visited under duress. Of course, that was back in the days of dinosaurs, and now BKN is in many ways the preferable destination. One of the pitfalls of age is that we tend to reference our past as if it is the present while blocking out the possibility of change having happened, a form of self fossilization. As to the ACE BKN, it is a lovely place, seemingly modeled after a hotel we saw in Tokyo — comfortable, modern, and chic without pretense. 

This week we passed 200,000 downloads on our SuperAge podcast. THANK YOU to all who have been loyal listeners of our weekly transmissions. You make our world go round. It is because of all of you that we exist, and without you we are quite literally lonely. It is wonderful to have you all on this journey with us. Thank you for your ideas, your suggestions, and for keeping us out of the ditch when we meander too far.

This week's podcast guest is Naveen Jain, whose prediction of living to 800 may be hyperbolic but his RNA sequencing of gut organisms is fascinating. This is another big step towards a future of highly personalized medicine, nutrition, and fitness. We are all unique, and the "averages" that are relied upon now, although a useful guide, are merely a guide based on a statistical distribution of data — they follow the big hump in the center and ignore the long tails. Having this new personalized understanding of our inner health brings with it increased responsibility for our own health — once you really know what works for you, it is up to you to act upon it. 

Until next week,

David

One of the things that is evident to us after having done this for 7 years, and having interviewed hundreds of people, is that showing up counts. That may seem obvious, but it is much easier and less risky to say no than to say yes. One of the features of people who are living well at any age is that they are quick to say yes — to helping people, to learning new things, to new experiences, to new ideas. On the flip side, consistently pre-judging and saying no is the fast track to fossilization. If you are like me, you may have to fight that “no” reflex, to put that millisecond of space between the stimulus of the offer and the automatic response. I am rarely disappointed when I say yes. It may not be what I thought it was going to be, but it's a new memory and a new experience. 

The other thing we notice is that on a scale of 1-100, the hardest part is getting from zero to one, overcoming the inertia of zero. The zero-to-one part is also the most important part — it means that something is happening where previously nothing was. That first 1% move may seem tiny, but it is critical; without it, there is stasis. Taking the same actions, or lack thereof, will get us the same results. As an example, let's take movement. Say you really know you should exercise, your body needs it, you’ve read all the information on it, but until you actually make a move, nothing will happen. The difference between doing nothing and taking a 5-minute walk is gigantic, even though it is just a 5-minute walk. If this is you, give yourself a hearty pat on the shoulder after your 5-minute stroll because you just made an enormous change. As we like to say, if you are of the go-big-or-go-home school of thought, chances are you will never get out of your comfy chair staring at Netflix. Small changes are small victories, and should be celebrated as such. That marathon entry can wait.

Perfection, procrastination, and paralysis, the three Ps of non-action, are the doom of many a good intention. Tiny movements, tiny victories, are how any endeavor starts. As the sneaker man says, “Just Do It” — whatever your "it" is today.

Until next week,

David

Vacations are important, they really are, and I'm addressing all you type A achievers out there. Keep in mind that a trip is not always a vacation. The point of a vacation is to relax and to achieve a downstate for your body and mind.  This is not the same as an awesome adventure, which we also like, but these are different things. One is very much of an upstate for your nervous system and the other is the opposite.

We can often forget to take vacations, as we are waiting for the most opportune moment to pull the trigger to finally downshift. This is not a great idea. Vacations are up there with your yearly physical — an essential part of your health and well-being. As such, they need to be scheduled and planned, hopefully months in advance. I remember the first time the NY Times called me for a cover shoot; I was scheduled to leave on vacation that week and, although it caused me considerable internal dissonance, I turned it down — my vacation was more important. I also went on to do a dozen or more covers for them — my FOMO, as always, was completely unfounded.

My request to all of you this week is that when you look at your calendar for the summer and the rest of the year, I would like you to see some real downtime blocked out for a true vacation along with some plans for what that will look like.  I am writing this because here in the world of never-miss-an-issue digital publishing, if I am asking all of you to do this, I better have some downtime scheduled this summer for all of us here, too. Walk the talk is how we roll at AGEIST — so let's all book some time with family, friends, or solo, to make some lovely peaceful downtime. We all deserve it.

Until next week,

David

You are an athlete. Try saying that simple sentence to yourself and see how it feels. Believe that you are an athlete, at whatever level, and you may begin to make the behavior choices of an athlete.  If we frame ourselves this way we may change how we view food, exercise, rest, and a whole host of other things. As has been said, if I have a body, I am an athlete. As we have seen dozens of times here at AGEIST, a mindset change can shift everything.

If we believe in a positive future we tend to cause it to happen. If we are optimistic, we tend to be proactive about our health. The reverse seems to also be true — if we believe that living at an advanced age must be to accept some sort of grim reality, then we will tend to bring that on. This is not by any means universal, but it seems to be a trend.

It is not so much our self-knowledge that matters, nor is it being fully versed in the latest medical science — the average physician would be exhibit A for failing this test. It is more our appreciation for happiness and the joy of living, and excitement about the future, that seems to really matter. If we feel the future is bright, we tend to eat better foods, exercise more, and in general take better care of ourselves. A bit of optimistic denial that there will be an end out there goes a long way.  It may also be true, and I am just guessing here, that some of our positive health outcomes are the result of emotionally triggered epigenetic signaling of our DNA. That is a long way of saying: smile at your body and it will smile back.

One’s outlook on life is within one’s power to change. It is really as simple as saying to yourself: I am worth it and I can change my health. Boom, with that statement one is now self-empowered to move forward with positive energy. 

Until next week,

David

One of the things that continuously surprises me is the level to which normally attentive people will accept some sort of grim-reality circumstances that can actually be improved upon. If one is not sleeping well, a few simple changes in one's sleep setup can have a big effect. Similarly, if one is not happy with one's physicality, one can change it. Of course, if nothing changes, things will go on as they have been in the past.

There are a lot of things in this world we have little or no control over. As the Stoics would say, these are things we just need to accept and deal with. However, there is a lot we do have control over. Pretty much all of our behavior is within our control and, to take it further, our thinking is something we have power over. In the course of producing AGEIST for the last seven years, I have seen incredible changes in people's lives and conditions. Where it usually starts is a change in beliefs. If we believe something is possible, we may give it a try. 

We all have this issue, myself included, that some part of our lives, some element of our circumstances just must be tolerated, when actually this may simply be a false belief on our part. The power of negative self-delusion is intense, and we all carry it. From what I have seen, because these delusions tend to be so core to our self-image, the only solution is from the outside. Someone may suggest that, whatever it is that you believe you just have to suck up as part of life, you may actually be able to change. Now, there are endless false prophets out there just waiting to sell you the latest miracle water to cure your everything. Beware. But if the suggestion involves probably some behavior change on your part, it may be worth giving it a try.

You never know where new roads will take you. Maybe give it a go.

Until next week,

David

We are back in Park City this week, and digesting the stimulation we enjoyed during our 5-week Los Angeles sojourn. Sometimes we need to leave a place and come back with fresh eyes to appreciate what we left behind. Sure, LA is just soooo LA, easy to parody, easy to put down, but it is also a city of tremendous vibrancy and opportunity. The traffic is mental, all the good stuff is hidden in some random looking strip mall, and the prices at places like Erewhon grocery are enough to send any sensible person in fits of thrift. We get it; we lived there for a long time, and then ran away. But coming back for an extended visit lets one see the upsides without obsessing about the downsides. Things don't matter that much when the time spent is so temporal.

Back here in the mountains, the snows are receding, and the mega fauna are coming down for their springtime snacks. I saw my first moose of the year yesterday munching on some nearby grass. Yes, they are huge; yes, they are terrifically ugly; and no, you do not mess with a hungry moose — bad outcome guaranteed.

We are also prepping for a most anticipated event: the SuperAge MasterClass. It is powerfully fulfilling to the team and myself to make the sort of deep, long lasting impacts that we are able to make. These classes bring together all of the knowledge and connection we have built up over the years and puts them at the service of the people in the cohorts. A meaningful experience for all and, with this one being the last one we can do this year, it will be special. Hoping to get to know many of you there.

Until next week,

David

This week was the Oscar show and, of course, the much talked about slap. So much has been said about that, we will leave that to others to parse. For us, it was Lady Gaga and Liza Minnelli during that show that truly made an impact — they brought me to tears. It was when Gaga said to the clearly struggling Liza on a hot mic: “I got you.” That was the moment to hold up as an example of what we can and should be doing as humans. Kindness, compassion, and elevating each other. I have never met Stefani, Lady Gaga, but I hope that at some point I will. A performer with global star power, she showed us at that moment what real power looked like. This is the sort of human being that I can hold up as a role model, someone who walks the talk, who made the moment about helping someone else out, and demonstrating to a massive audience that this is how it is done. 

We will all at some point in our lives need a helping hand. None of us are immune to sickness, age, injury, depression — that is how life is. I aspire to be the one offering a helping hand when it is needed. As a member of a generation older than Gaga, I would like to say: We salute you, very well handled.  None of us are perfect, we all make mistakes, but we are all examples to others, and we need to understand our actions have an influence.   

We are all here very much looking forward to another tremendous SuperAge MasterClass. We pour everything we have into these, we love it, and the people in the cohort tell us it is a life-changing experience for them. We are so excited to meet all our new people, and for you to meet each other.  As of this morning, there are a few spots left, but they will be gone soon, so sign up today.

Until next week,

David

This week was the Oscar show and, of course, the much talked about slap. So much has been said about that, we will leave that to others to parse. For us, it was Lady Gaga and Liza Minnelli during that show that truly made an impact — they brought me to tears. It was when Gaga said to the clearly struggling Liza on a hot mic: “I got you.” That was the moment to hold up as an example of what we can and should be doing as humans. Kindness, compassion, and elevating each other. I have never met Stefani, Lady Gaga, but I hope that at some point I will. A performer with global star power, she showed us at that moment what real power looked like. This is the sort of human being that I can hold up as a role model, someone who walks the talk, who made the moment about helping someone else out, and demonstrating to a massive audience that this is how it is done. 

We will all at some point in our lives need a helping hand. None of us are immune to sickness, age, injury, depression — that is how life is. I aspire to be the one offering a helping hand when it is needed. As a member of a generation older than Gaga, I would like to say: We salute you, very well handled.  None of us are perfect, we all make mistakes, but we are all examples to others, and we need to understand our actions have an influence.   

We are all here very much looking forward to another tremendous SuperAge MasterClass. We pour everything we have into these, we love it, and the people in the cohort tell us it is a life-changing experience for them. We are so excited to meet all our new people, and for you to meet each other.  As of this morning, there are a few spots left, but they will be gone soon, so sign up today.

Until next week,

David

The odds are that you or someone you love will be hospitalized at some point. My sincere hope is that you will never have to use any of the suggestions in this article. We recently learned from her NYTimes editorial that our friend and AGEIST profile Annabelle Gurwitch is having a very tough time and, because of her illness, stage 4 lung cancer, she is highly engaged with the medical system. Her particular illness is not something I have knowledge of, but the medical system at that level is something I do. Annabelle, you are in our thoughts today as I write this.

At about 50 years old, I spent the better part of a year in a hospital as a “science project” due to my having contracted ITP — idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura. That is the Latin for “you seem to have a problem bleeding and we don’t know why.” One thing about autoimmune disorders, and their inverse disorder, cancers, is that there is no run-of-the-mill average occurrence. They are all weird, all unique, and all special. You can have an average broken arm, but I have yet to hear of an average, regular old autoimmune disease. Modern medicine is fantastic at things like hip replacement, it is much less so with things like cancer and autoimmune. Which is not so say they don’t do incredible work, they do; I’m still alive! It is just that it is all sort of an experiment on a group of one, you, to see what works.

photo David Harry Stewart.

I spent the better part of a year inside a hospital with a Stephen King-level freaky, highly life-threatening autoimmune disorder

For my adventure in hospital land, I spent the better part of a year inside one with a Stephen King-level freaky, highly life-threatening autoimmune disorder.  The most common demo to get this fun thing called ITP were children under 10, and women post-pregnancy. I was the only man my age in the ward. It was weird. But like I said, in the world of autoimmune, it is all weird.

I became the pet science project for my doctor. Thank god I lived in NYC and the world’s foremost authority on my ITP was at Cornell Medical Center. That got me access to a range of off-label drugs. Good, except they didn’t work, and they really messed with me. Pro tip: doctors are doing their best to keep you alive; comfort and functionality are not that high on their priority list.

Every two weeks, to keep me alive they would give me an IVIG, at $28,000 a wack. My insurance covered it. Gold star for Oxford Health Plans. The total cost of my adventure was well into 6 figures.

In the end, I opted for organ removal: my spleen had to go. Not the first choice of any sane person but, with a 60% projected remission rate, I went for it. That was years ago, and I am fine today. I am also the most maximally vaccinated person you will ever meet. I am a pro-vaxxer, as a small blood infection could kill me. 

photo David Harry Stewart

My 8 Practices for Hospital Visits

Here are some things I learned and continue to practice when I see a doctor or, god forbid, should I ever have to go in-patient again.

  • I refuse to be kept alone in a closed room or doctors office in the hospital. No. Fuck you. Keep the door open while I am waiting, or you will find me at the nurse's station. I still do this today. I refuse to be out of sight in a closed room. I find it insulting and degrading. Covid makes this one a bit tricky. I keep my KN95 mask on 100% of the time in a doctor's office unless they want to look down my throat. 
  • Nurses are the key. They run the place. The doctors are useless without them. Make friends with them. If you are in-patient there will be a head nurse for whatever wing or section you are in. Find this person and make them your best friend. They have tremendous leverage over how you are treated. The docs will be trying their best to be friendly, but that is not a med-school graduation requirement. 
  • Unless the doc has taken the drug, or had the operation, don’t believe what they say about its side effects or the recovery time. They don’t really care about that. Really they don’t, it is not what they are interested in. They are interested in long-term outcomes, which you should be, too. Assume that unless they have personally experienced whatever they are about to do, they will minimize the side effects. For instance, when they did my spleen removal, the surgery was done via tiny holes in my abdomen. It was one of those medical wonders. The downside was that they pumped my abdomen full of gas so that it would stay inflated while they worked. But one’s body is not really designed to be a balloon. The effect was horrific debilitating abdominal pain for 2 days until my body absorbed and removed the gas. They never mentioned this pre-op. 
  • Having gone through this ordeal, exhausted, unable to work, or even think clearly for a couple of years, I learned next to nothing new about the meaning of life. People expected me to, but I didn’t. We just sort of move on to the next thing. It may have sunk in years later, and I think it did, but it took a long time. Hospitals and white-light wisdom experiences don’t always go together.
  • It was super hard for the people around to really believe what I was going through — some sort of human psyche defense mechanism. I would be exhausted, unable to function, but people would assume I just needed a nap, not that I was in serious trouble. 
  • There were only a handful of people who visited me in the hospital that year. Everyone else was “busy,” meaning terrified. Severe sickness in others sometimes brings out compassion, and more often brings out self-centered fear: "I don’t want to catch what ever you have." The people who did visit have been elevated to sainthood in my world. These are the people who walk the talk, and whenever they need anything, I am there for them, for life. But for the others who couldn’t see me, I give them some slack. I get it now. They were just dealing with my illness as best they could.
  • In spite of all the experiments on us patients and the docs oftentimes not really knowing what to do, understand that medical science is rather incredible, and advancing at a remarkable rate. What was fatal a few years ago, is treatable and survivable today. Not all, but many diseases are no longer the killers they were. Science works.
  • I send cards of thanks to my docs every holiday. It means a lot to them as for the most part, we patients are in and out. When we treat our medical professionals like friends, they respond. In my experience, it is rather mind-blowing for them to get a holiday card that says thanks for taking care of me, and thanks for keeping me alive. It makes their day. I recommend it.

 

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