As a nation, we're living longer and healthier lives because of improved medical care and better social conditions.
As an individual, how long you live is often down to your genes. But there are things you can do to boost your chances of making your old age a healthy, happy and long one.
No matter what age you are now, here are a few tips that'll hopefully have you living to a grand old age.
Tip number one: be positive!
Are you a glass half-empty or a glass half-full kind of a person? The answer may literally be life and death. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota found that optimists decreased their risk of early death by 50 percent compared to pessimists.
Tony Broe is professor of geriatric medicine at the University of New South Wales Research Institute he says that "optimism correlates with self-esteem so I think succeeding in life leads to more optimism and probably a better outcome, but it's hard to know what's the chicken and what's the egg," he says.
So we don't know whether being optimistic makes you more successful, or being successful makes you optimistic.
Just in case start smiling! Positive thinking lowers the stress hormone cortisol which reduces the effectiveness of your immune system.
So, managing stress is also important to a long life.
"Stress in young animals, in young children, leads to actual death of brain cells," says professor Broe.
You can learn ways to chill out, meditation is a well-known one. Try this for ten minutes every morning:
- Sit comfortably, close your eyes and listen to your breathing.
- With each breath out, repeat a calming word and empty your mind.
If that doesn't do it for you, how about a little tai chi? All those fit and elderly Chinese can't be wrong. Even just taking a deep breath can help. Whatever you choose, always look on the bright side of life.
Tip number two: keep active!
Exercising regularly keeps you fit and keeps your weight down.
At the Alloura Waters retirement village in Sydney, residents take part in everything from aquarobics, to heart smart classes.
Growing older is no excuse for growing lazy:
Margaret Dickson: I'm up at six o' clock and walk the dog for half-an-hour to three-quarters of an hour every morning.
Doug Thomas: I enjoy my golf, my fishing, my gardening.
Joan Edwards: I walk every day, I do aquarobics, I do the heart moves exercises and I found that I just feel so much better.
Just thirty minutes of moderate intensity exercise every day is ideal especially as you age.
What's moderate? Well you don't need to hit the gym: a spot of gentle gardening and a good stroll with the dog are great exercise and good for your stress levels too.
According to psychology professor Mary Luszcz from Flinders University in Adelaide, giving your brain a workout is also just as important as working out your body.
"Practice in different kinds of cognitive activity does seem to be beneficial to ageing well," she says.
Stimulate your brain with games that involve problem solving, like crosswords and cribbage.
Professor Broe says it's vital to have an interest in life: "I think the key brain mental activities or brain exercise as you get older are things that challenge your skills, things that interest you. It is the involvement in it using what we call your frontal lobes to plan and program and carry out what you do rather than just absorbing information in what we call the back half of the brain where knowledge sits."
For Jeff and Margaret, painting and quilting fit the bill because, like learning a new language or making music, they involve coordinating multiple regions of the brain. But you'd be surprised at what else is good for you one is shopping. Yes, that's right go ahead and shop 'til you drop, because retail therapy uses several cognitive functions. It might not be great for the bank balance, but it is good for your brain.
Tip number three: eat well, live well!
Another key to staying young is eating a well balanced diet. The so-called Mediterranean diet pasta, fish and olive oil with plenty of fruit and veggies has been associated with longevity in many studies.
That's because the Mediterranean diet is rich in anti-oxidants which mop up free radicals in the body which accelerate ageing. Good natural sources are berries, capsicums, spinach and surprisingly, red wine.
If you watched What's Good For You last year, you might remember that family doctor Philip Norrie has written several books on the health benefits of red wine.
"The thing that's unique about wine is not only has it got alcohol like other alcoholic beverages beer and spirits, but it's got the most potent antioxidants in nature resveratrol, quercetin and epicacatin and they should put it on the NHS and fund it with Medicare," says Dr Norrie.
But if your glass of wine goes hand-in-hand with a cigarette the cigarettes have got to go. We've all heard the stories about the person who smoked 60 a day all their life and lived to be 100, but the reality is that smoking kills 50 Australians every day. Your chance of heart attack increases by two to six times if you smoke. Your risk of stroke is increased by three times, and then there's cancer: "Smoking is a big killer and it's a big cause of disability, but you can give it up any time and there are marked health benefits from stopping smoking," says professor Broe.
Quit now and within a few years your chances of getting a heart attack will be the same as a non-smoker's.
Tip number four: stay connected
When we retire we have a lot more time on our hands to do the things we want to do and that includes having a good time with friends. Of course, most of us also have our families, but which group will actually help prolong our lives friends or family?
"Our own research has shown that friends relative to family are actually more important to longevity to how long you actually live," says Professor Luszcz.
Why friends beat family is less clear, but researchers say a strong friend can really prolong your life.
And it seems to work both ways researchers at the University of Michigan found that old people who volunteer to help others reduce their chance of dying by 60 percent.
Families are still important, of course. In fact, another study at Adelaide's Flinders University showed family ties can stave off disability among the elderly.
So cherish your friends and family they could be your life line.
Tip number five: get married
If you're a man and you want a long life get married. Studies show it can add seven years to the male lifespan.
Because, traditionally it's women who care for the men.
Prof Luszcz says it's because "they're used to having, essentially, a woman take care of them and so that enhances the chances that they're going to be well fed, that they're going to be looked after, that they're going to have someone who they can confide in if they want to do that."
But what about women, is marriage good for them too?
"For women, they can gain a sense of accomplishment by doing these sorts of things, but they can also seek someone outside the marriage so the marriage per se is not the only source of benefit for women in terms of longevity," says Prof Luszcz.
In fact, single women live longer than married ones all that running around after your husband isn't good for your health.
- If you're a man, women really are good for your health. Research published in the American Journal of Human Biology shows that having a daughter increases a man's lifespan by 74 weeks. If you're a woman it doesn't matter if it's a girl or a boy each child takes 95 weeks off your life.