Determined to enjoy longer and healthier lives, two women researched the science to find the key. Here, they share what they discovered
When Susan Saunders was 36, her mother was diagnosed with severe dementia. “I had a toddler, a newborn, a full-time job as a TV producer – and I became a carer as well.” As a teenager, she had watched her mum care for her own mother, who had the same condition. “I became determined to do everything I could to increase my chances of ageing well.”
Annabel Streets’ story is similar. When she was a student, her grandfather died from cancer months after he retired; later, she watched her mother care for her grandmother, who lived with dementia and crippling rheumatoid arthritis for nearly 30 years. “When I developed a chronic autoimmune disease, I knew things had to change. But by then I had four young children and there was precious little time for my own health.”
Together, Saunders and Streets started researching the latest science on how to have a healthier, happier old age and how to apply it to their own lives, and blogged about their findings for five years. Their Age Well Project has now been published as a book, compiling almost 100 shortcuts to health in mid- and later life – and Streets and Saunders, who are both in their 50s, say they have never been in better health.
What did they learn?
Look to your ancestors for answers
If you are serious about ageing well, you need to become an expert in your own health – don’t be afraid to ask questions of your doctor and your family. We started our project to age well by compiling ancestral health trees, listing any known illnesses in old age and the causes of mortality and ages at death of as many direct ancestors as possible. We did DNA tests, built records of our blood pressure, blood glucose, cholesterol and vitamin D levels, and took note of our BMI and waist-to-hip ratio to devise more personalised ageing plans.