The Algebra of Aging Well

Monday, 27 May 2024

As a person of Asian ancestry, I love maths (are we still allowed to use this joke in 2024?). And as a Community Pharmacist who’s been at Roslyn Pharmacy for nearly 20 years, I’ve grown up with an amazing community. I’ve observed and helped people as they age. Aging, in short, is not for the faint-hearted (...but it’s better than the alternative). We see so many different people at different levels of capability at different ages. So why are some 80-year-olds still driving, enjoying meals with friends, and loving life, while others are not at this stage? Are there any trends? What can we learn from this? Can I make something easy to understand and use to help people? Yes, we can. 

Let me proudly present to you my algebra to aging well formula:

algebra of aging updated

Let’s break down this equation and use myself as an example of applying this formula.


While we can’t change our genetic makeup, we can influence how our genes express themselves through our lifestyle choices. We include genes because they are important, but we can’t control them. The rest of the equation, however, we can control. Focusing on these factors will make a significant impact on our health and longevity. Give yourself a score of 20 if both parents were healthy at 80 years and 10 if one parent was. My mum is fit and strong at 80, but my father had a stroke in his 70s, so my score is 10. (Feel free to sub in your Grandparents if its more appropriate)


Quality sleep is crucial for overall health. Aim for about 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night to help your body repair and regenerate. Good sleep hygiene practices, such as maintaining a regular sleep schedule and journaling, can make a significant difference. In the last week, give yourself a score of 1 to 7 depending on the number of days of good sleep. Remember, we are all different, so 7 hours of sleep isn’t the gold standard— just give yourself a score that best represents you at this time. I’m fortunate enough to sleep well, so I score myself 7 here.


Regular physical activity is a cornerstone of aging well. Whether it’s walking, swimming, or Pilates, find an activity you enjoy and make it a part of your routine. Exercise helps maintain muscle mass, improves cardiovascular health, and boosts your mood. In the last week, give yourself a score of 1 to 7 depending on the number of days of exercise—movement that increased your heart rate. Last week was a busy one at work, and I was only able to go for a run once, so I’m giving myself a score of 1.

(Social Days)²

The science is clear—human connection is vital for mental and emotional well-being. Engaging in social activities, whether it’s spending time with family, joining a club, or volunteering, can enhance your quality of life. We’ve included the squared factor to show just how important the exponential benefits of being in good relationships are as you age. In the last week, give yourself a score of 1 to 7 depending on the number of days you spent engaged in some sort of social activity. Last week, I worked 5 days, went to the rugby with some friends, and spent one day zoned out in front of the TV—so I score myself a 6. So, 6 x 6 = 36.

Okay, we have given ourselves a score on the good side of the ledger. My score is genes 10 + sleep 7 + exercise 1 + social 36 = 54 (maximum score is 83).

(Important side note: Exercise and social days can stack for huge gains in the healthy aging equation - activities like a game of golf with friends or enjoying coffee together after a Pilates class combine physical activity with social interaction, offering exponential benefits. Super agers know this secret hack and use it to their advantage to stay fit, healthy, and happy. So, next time you plan a workout, consider inviting a friend along. Your body and mind will thank you!) 

Let’s take a look at the other side of the ledger.

Smoking and Vaping

We all know that smoking is detrimental to health, but it’s also important to be aware of the emerging risks associated with vaping. Recent studies suggest that vaping may carry significant health risks, particularly for young people. If you’re a smoker or vaper, consider seeking support to quit. Remember, at our pharmacy, you can get fully funded nicotine replacement products with a simple consultation. We’re here to help you take

that vital step towards better health. In the last week, give yourself a score of 1 to 7 depending on the number of days you smoked a cigarette or vaped. (My score is 0.)

Ultra-Processed Foods

The latest research shows that ultra-processed foods, often high in unhealthy fats, sugars, and additives, can have a significant negative impact on health. These foods are linked to an increased risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. To age well, aim to consume a balanced diet rich in whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. In the last week, give yourself a score of 1 to 7 depending on the number of days you had an ultra-processed meal (I’m going to give myself a 4, but don’t

tell anyone).

Stressful Days

There’s normal good stress—the type of stress that springs you into action—and then there’s bad stress—worry and rumination. Chronic bad stress takes a toll on both body and mind. Finding ways to manage stress, such as mindfulness, meditation, or simply taking time for yourself, can help mitigate its negative effects. (I’m going to score myself a 2 out of 7 here—again, I’m going to consider myself lucky.)

Results time! My score is 54 divided by 6 = 9. Happy with that! The easiest way I can improve that is to stop eating a sneaky bit of junk food and go out for some more exercise this week.

Remember, this is all a bit of fun, but if your score is less than 1, it means you’re a little out of balance. But it’s a starting point, and we can help. Come in to see us for a chat. At Roslyn Pharmacy, we’re here to support you on your journey to aging well—we’re committed to helping our community live healthier, happier lives. While the formula for aging well may seem complex, the solutions are often simple and within reach and little adjustments now can make a huge impact as we age. Don’t forget the stacking tip - inviting a friend over for a home cooked meal will add to your social score and drop your Ultra-Processed food score, for big wins in the formula! Let’s embrace this algebra of aging well together and make every day count.


Andy and the Team at Roslyn Pharmacy