The Paula Gordon Show Logo The Paula Gordon Show
Mortality's Blessings

Andrew Weil

     ... clinical professor of medicine and director of the Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona. Healthy Aging: A Lifelong Guide to Your Physical and Spiritual Well-Being is Dr. Weil’s 11th book. Others having addressed subjects from The Healthy Kitchen (with Rosie Daley) to natural medicine, spontaneous healing and a revolutionary approach to the drug problem. He writes “Self Healing,” a monthly newsletter, makes his ideas available at and supplements his ideas about aging at He graduated from Harvard Medical School.


You can’t turn back the clock. Sorry. That's the law of the universe, says Dr. Andrew Weil. He’s eager for Americans in particular to reject the notion of "anti-aging." Be pro-health instead. Engage in all the things we can do in order to age well, Dr. Weil urges, based on a lifetime of experience as a widely known medical doctor who has popularized the idea of Integrative Medicine. The only promise on which the highly lucrative "anti-aging" industry can deliver today, he says, is that you will be distracted from what should be our real goal -- learning how to resist and delay the onset of age-related diseases.

The new reality in much of the developed world, he reports, is that the oldest-old are the fastest growing segment of society. This genuinely new human phenomenon puts the future of being old up for grabs. Let's do it well, Dr. Weil says, urging us to shape this new way of being old starting with what we already know about achieving a lifetime of physical and spiritual well-being.

Dr. Weil says he's always known that aging was not reversible, but he wasn't sure if the aging process was synonymous with the development of age-related disease. He's now quite certain -- the answer is, "No!" It is possible to age well, he's convinced. He wants for us what most of us say we want -- to live long and well and have the end come quickly. Dr. Weil says this "compression of morbidity" depends a great deal our own individual actions -- nutrition, exercise, spiritual practices, managing our attitudes, relationships and stress, and so forth -- and that our choices have a profound effect on our old age. It's never too late to start and it's never too early, he says at every opportunity, directing his attention to old and young alike.

What will it take to turn the tide away from today's damaging, dominant conceptions that somehow the worth of human life diminishes with age, that aging is a calamity and you have to do everything you can to avoid it? Dr. Weil puts high hopes on the influential Baby Boom generation, just beginning to turn 60. He thinks they can be a positive force for change in the way we all think about aging. Why? Because 'Boomers, he predicts, will hate being treated the way old people are treated today. Better to learn from the cultures where the oldest old are treated as treasures -- like a fine old wine, violin or tree -- respected for their experience and wisdom, even revered.

First, change the culture, Dr. Weil urges. Be pro-health, not anti-aging. Then, be actively engaged with life. Create ways to be connected. And be flexible, in body and in mind. It's key. Be observant about how you change and be willing to change your behavior as appropriate. Who knows? We might even spark a revival of the communal spirit that has been sorely missing in American life in past decades.

Get busy creating the kind of old age that enhances both physical and spiritual well being. Work on yourself -- it's the one thing you can change. From there, people with whom you come in contact will be influenced and whatever it is that you’ve created will spread. After all, says Dr. Weil, that is how social change works.

[This Program was recorded November 2, 2005, in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.]

Conversation 1

America’s attitude toward aging is way off track, in lots of ways, Dr. Andrew Weil tells Paula Gordon and Bill Russell. Dr. Weil puts great hope in aging Baby Boomers rejecting today’s status quo, becoming pro-health instead of anti-aging.

Conversation 1 RealAudio5:17

Conversation 2

Time brings out qualities we value in violins, trees, antiques, old whiskeys, wines and cheeses, Dr. Weil observes, urging us to find out what those qualities are in human life as well. He brings stories from a different culture where the oldest old are revered as living treasures. The roots of beauty are health and one’s relationship to oneself, he says, with examples. The law of the universe is that everything ages and dies, he says, concerned that being anti-aging puts one in a very wrong relationship with nature, while distracting us from learning how to resist and delay the onset of age-related diseases. He explains the desirability of “compressing morbidity.”

Conversation 1 RealAudio10:54

Conversation 3

It’s never too late to start implementing healthy life-styles that make for healthy aging, Dr. Weil says. It’s also never too early, he says with equal enthusiasm. He shows why it’s important to teach our young people what to do and avoid, so they can slow inevitable losses that begin in everyone’s early 30s. He describes appropriate ways to live in each of life’s stages, stressing “flexibility” in all respects. All social changes are rooted in individuals changing themselves, he insists, then explains the power of “ethical wills,” and shows the destructive reality of immortality. Profound social consequences of today’s revolutionary growth among the oldest-old are examined.

Conversation 1 RealAudio11:03

Conversation 4

Dr. Weil shows how the spiritual and physical sides of life directly affect each other in his own life and everyone’s. The way people are now aging is new and we can shape it, he insists, offering suggestions including a revival of a more communal spirit. He offers ways to address age-related cognitive decline and memory loss, then confronts myths associated with the huge “anti-aging” business. Being actively engaged with life -- connected -- is central to healthy aging, he asserts.

Conversation 1 RealAudio12:24

Conversation 5

Sharing stories about his mother, Dr. Weil shows how beautiful healthy aging can be and contrasts today’s ways of aging to those of earlier generations. Common sense plays a great role in his approach, as does the constant reminder, It’s Never Too Late to Get Started, he reiterates. All kinds of “balance” are celebrated. Now is definitely the right time to be dealing with healthy aging, Dr. Weil is convinced, and tells stories confirming his conviction. What to do and where to find more information are outlined.

Conversation 1 RealAudio12:32

Conversation 6

Dr. Weil’s “prescription”: Enhance you spiritual health, offering traditional and non-traditional alternatives; Challenge and change today’s damaging cultural concepts about aging; Reject anti-aging; then get started creating new ways to be old grounded in the reality of aging and death.

Conversation 1 RealAudio3:32


Dr. Weil’s gracious manner and serious approach to finding ways to integrate a wide variety of approaches to good health is refreshing and encouraging. Where others appear intent on “selling,” Dr. Weil’s interest seems genuinely focused on maximizing life’s possibilities in constructive, healthful ways. We admire his good work and were delighted that he still makes “house calls.”

Related Links:

Healthy Aging: A Lifelong Guide to Your Physical and Spiritual Well-Being is published by Alfred A. Knopf.

Dr. Weil’s website offers all kinds of additional resources, information and possibilities, including more at his healthy aging website.

Information about the Nutrition and Health conference that Dr. Weil’s colleagues at the University of Arizona and at Columbia University put on, offering continuing education credit for physicians, registered dietitians and clinical nutritionists, can be found at the Program of Integrative Medicine’s website.

The first conversation we had on the specific subject of successful aging was with Dr. John Rowe who, among his other talents, directed the MacArthur Foundation study on “successful aging.” Dr. Rowe moved on to be the President, CEO and then Executive Chairman of Aetna, Inc. He retired from that position at the end of 2006.

Psychologist James Hillman speaks of a variation of the “ethical will” in terms of becoming “Ancestors” to our communities. These Ancestors demonstrate the character of living well.

           Quick buttons
© 2007 The Paula Gordon Show.
All materials contained on this website are
copyrighted by The Paula Gordon Show and may
not be used in any way without the express,
written consent of Paula Gordon.