By Eliza Berman
March 11, 2015

When LIFE Magazine presented a four-part series on aging in America in 1959, it focused on the problems of old age, namely a growing older population pushed further and further to the margins of society. But it also beseeched the not-yet-aged to take a proactive approach to ensuring as healthy and full an older life as one could hope to have.

Michael M. Dasco, M.D., director of physical medicine and rehabilitation at New York’s Goldwater Memorial Hospital, offered the following tips to readers of all ages:

1. Prepare for your own old age: “The most important thing is not to let age hit you suddenly, without notice. You must face the fact that it is coming and that your children, who seem to be so slow about growing up, will one day leave you for families of their own.”

2. Broaden your interests: “Age inevitably involves loneliness unless you have made your plans in advance. You can do that by broadening your interests now. The manual worker should make an attempt to learn why cultural matters are so important to intellectuals, and the intellectual should begin learning the pleasures of working with his hands.”

3. Focus on independence: “To age happily you must learn to be emotionally independent. In this respect you can learn much from the Orientals’ ability to meditate and occupy themselves, even with small things like paper folding … It is also a good idea to learn another kind of independence: be able to cook for yourself, take care of yourself and entertain yourself so that you will not be helpless in these important skills.”

4. Start improving your health: “Most chronic illnesses begin to develop during youth; modern medicine puts the 70-year-old diabetic and the 17-year-old diabetic on the same diet. Take care of yourself now. Get used to eating, drinking and smoking moderately and your old age will be far happier.”

5. Listen to your body as it changes: “Above all, do not cling foolishly and illogically to youth by taking any one physical activity too seriously. If you are 50 stop thinking you are 30 just because you can still score as well at golf as the 30-year-olds in the club.”

6. Develop a healthy sense of self-respect: “Bear in mind that your opinion of yourself is often needlessly dependent on the opinion of the people around you. If people act toward you as if you are old or useless, you may come to think of yourself that way, but there is no reason to. You are as old as your capabilities, and you should assess yourself.”

7. Eat what you want, within reason: “People often think that as they get older they have to confine themselves to a ‘light diet.’ There is no need for this, and such a diet actually weakens you. The rule is to eat what you want, within reason. If you find you cannot eat ‘heavy greasy dishes,’ then do not—but do not blame it on advancing age. Many old people can eat such foods with no harmful effects.”

Write to Eliza Berman at eliza.berman@time.com.

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