Before libraries around the country closed and large events were cancelled, I went to hear Daniel Levitin speak to a full house of people aged 18 to 90 about Successful Aging, his newest book, about what happens to our brains as we age, and how to age well. Here’s what I learned from him – about giving a great talk as well as successful aging:

Be gracious and inclusive

The local library was hosting Dan’s talk and our local independent bookstore was selling signed copies of his book. And that’s where Dan started – with gratitude and praise for libraries and librarians, and independent booksellers. A heartfelt gesture is a gracious way to be inclusive and bring an audience together. Libraries are still accessible virtually for access to ebooks, streaming content, podcasts, activity ideas, and virtual museum tours.

Tell memorable stories 

Telling stories brings insight to life. Dan talks about false narratives, like the myth that forgetfulness is a sign of old age. As a college professor for over 40 years, Dan has seen just as many forgetful college students – they forget to bring their computers, where they put their phones, that the test was Tuesday not Wednesday. His point is that we are all forgetful. Forgetting, not paying attention, being distracted are part of life at every age. So is good storytelling.

Share Good Advice

Dan’s acronym for aging successfully- at any age is COACH:

Curiosity – ask questions, want to learn new things, have a sense of wonder

Openness – be open to new people, new experiences, new ideas

Associations – be social, spend time with your friends and family, be part of big social circles and communities, spend time with different kinds – and ages – of people. One person is not enough

Conscientiousness – the biggest predictor of aging successfully. Have follow through. Have somewhere to go in the morning, and get up, get ready and go there. Be responsible, reliable, and accountable to yourself as well as others

Healthy practices – nutrition and hydration, bedtime and sleep habits, diet, exercise and lifestyle practices

Conversations are the best prescription

Halfway through his talk, Dan gave the audience advice: “Don’t retire, don’t stop, retire to something.” It’s important for we social and relational human beings to have a social network, have something to look forward to, a reason to get up in the morning, to be of value. For those of you who know me, you’ll understand how delighted I was to hear this advice from Dan: Conversations are the best prescription. Conversations are complex and keep our brains active. It’s how we learn new things and our brains get rewired to keep us vibrant. Let’s keep our conversations going.