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Currently showing: Funding longer lives > Health/medicine

02 Jan 14 13:44

If you're on the search for some inspiration to help you jump start your new year's resolutions, maybe this video will help.

Swiss Re's film crew interviewed Priscilla Lazarus, who has been teaching yoga in Cape Town for an impressive 38 years. Priscilla shared her passionate perspective on what it takes to age happily and healthily.

She believes "life is wonderful as long as you've got your health" and encourages people to take responsibility for their own well-being. Diet and exercise are essential components of doing so in her view - as is a positive outlook and resilient nature. She credits her long-time yoga practice as not only means of maintaining her physical health, but also a foundation that supports her in facing life's challenges. She acknowledges that yoga may not be for everyone, but it certainly works for her!

What about you; do you feel it's your responsibility to manage your own active and healthy ageing? What steps are you willing or already taking to do so? Is there a more active role the insurance industry could be taking to support preventative care and active ageing?

Category: Funding longer lives: Health/medicine

Location: Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa


Rashunda Tramble - 3 Jan 2014, 11:27 a.m.

I think most of us feel that our health is our responsibility. But in reality, most of us are lazy - to put it bluntly. Or, we're so set in our ways and habits, that the fleeting comfort of high-fat meals numbs our common sense. I think the insurance industry is doing what it can to provide the tools we need: take Zurich Insurance's Vitaparcours (, a great way to get and stay fit without having to go to the gym. But no one from Zurich will knock on our doors, come into our homes and drag us to the forest.:-)

Jennifer Rodney - 3 Jan 2014, 1:38 p.m.

Wow, I wasn't aware of Zurich's Vitaparcours program - that's really great! Thanks for sharing that resource. :-) One thing that I like about Swiss Re - although I've only tried it once so far - is their option for walk & talk meeting formats. These are meetings held outdoors as participants take a walk in the fresh air. I think anything employers can do to help encourage and moreover enable healthier habits makes good sense and can benefit both employee and employer in the long term.

Paritosh - 3 Jan 2014, 7:11 p.m.

Yoga, a matter of operational excellence, between when cartilage turns into a bone. Ageing in short. Timing has to be perfect to begin yoga for eternal flexibility (qi gong anyone?). Bad timing could be all about luck. Bad luck here is all about grown ups spending money to achieve something "tough" to achieve!

I prefer to continue on knowledge & learning as my resolution. For bad health, I rely upon insurance :o)

Jennifer Rodney - 6 Jan 2014, 7:06 a.m.

When it comes to yoga - or any form of exercise/physical activity, I think timing is only a problem if you have unrealistic goals. For example, there is no way at this point in my life I will ever become an Olympic skier or a professional basketball player. And I'm quite ok with that! :-) However, that doesn't mean that my health and well being wouldn't benefit from taking up some form of physical activity now. If I go into my first yoga class expecting that I have to be as flexible as the teacher or go on my first jog expecting to be able to run a marathon then I'll be in trouble. But if I see my practice as a way to improve and care for myself - based on my current level of fitness and regardless of what other people around me are able to do, then I can still benefit.

Not that there are not benefits to knowledge and learning too - and of course to having health insurance! ;-)

Rashunda Tramble - 6 Jan 2014, 7:59 a.m.

Yes, timing must be perfect if your goal is flexibility. But if your goal is discipline, it's never too late to start yoga. And the discipline one learns in yoga affects other areas of life, including diet.

Jennifer Rodney - 6 Jan 2014, 9:24 a.m.

Well said Rashunda!

Rashunda Tramble - 6 Jan 2014, 12:45 p.m.

Hey, maybe you *can* start now and become an Olympic skier! Check out Ernestine Shepherd, the world's oldest female bodybuilder. She started at 57 and look at her now at 75.:-)

Warning: Her pics made me suck my stomach in!

Jennifer Rodney - 6 Jan 2014, 1:25 p.m.

Wow, now that is inspiring! Incredible what we humans can do if we set our minds to something. Sometimes, the limitations are just in our thoughts. Thanks for sharing Rashunda!

Paritosh - 6 Jan 2014, 2:49 p.m.

Really, a life cannot be lived without discipline.... But the problem with achieving via exercising is, once you have achieved discipline and stopped exercising, all the goodness start getting reversed.... e.g. It's been only 3 year's that I have stopped exercising and my tummy has noticed it.

I don't know why I am getting skeptical to a thing that was part of my life, but an instinct say... Don't follow routines forever...

Alicia Montoya - 7 Jan 2014, 6:42 a.m.

I recently attended the 2013 SharpBrains virtual summit where Jayne Plunkett chaired a session on scalable practices to spread smart health. Speakers agreed that bad habits are hard to beat but also stressed how big data, personal monitoring and smart analytics will be key in helping us redress bad behaviors.

Yoga (as well as meditation and focusing on awareness a.k.a. mindfulness) and its positive effects on brain plasticity as well as physical well-being were also discussed.

As far as I can tell, the scientific data is patchy but, as a yogi, I can safely say that yoga has helped me enormously physically but also mentally and emotionally. You can probably achieve the same benefits through other meditative activities (e.g. for me walking in the Swiss hills has a similar effect to meditation). But each person is different so while I think we should all make efforts to enhance brain plasticity, physical agility and strength, as well as emotional and mental balance.. I think we each have to find what works for us, and this may change at different stages in our lives. So Paritosh, don't discount it too quickly. We may yet meet in a yoga shala somewhere sometime ;)

Watch the recordings of the summit here:

Jennifer Rodney - 7 Jan 2014, 8:12 a.m.

Thanks for sharing the link to the summit Alicia. What a lot of interesting content!

I think you state it perfectly: "I think we each have to find what works for us, and this may change at different stages in our lives."

This viewpoint, and Rashunda's comment about Ernestine Shepard makes me think of Daniel's recent post: ( about Doctor Bern Shen, who believes that alleviating health issues could allow people the chance to do more with their lives: "If we could only reduce the amount of wasted potential and if people focused that potential on things that help others, it would make the world a better place."

For all the potential benefits care of the self can offer - better health, lower healthcare costs, unlocking one's potential, etc. - I wonder is there something more institutions (gov'ts, employers, and of course the insurance industry) can be doing to enable and empower people to nurture their health?

Rashunda Tramble - 7 Jan 2014, 9:13 a.m.

@Paritosh: True, once you've stopped exercising, the benefits reverse after a while, But this also means that when you start back, the benefits come back. It's cause and effect. I'm only speaking for myself, but what works for me is to not think of being physical as something outside of my daily routine, it's part of it. Sometimes I get off the tram two stops ahead of my regular stop, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and so on. But don't worry Pari...a little skepticism is a good thing. Changing up your routine, even if it means taking a step back and allowing your tummy to expand, is part of the process.

Alicia Montoya - 7 Jan 2014, 9:21 a.m.

Oh they could do a lot more (and so could citizens). The question is what should governments, insurers and employers do, and not for our sake but for theirs.

As with all sustainability issues, it is in the world's interest to mitigate risks rather than pay for the consequences later. And maybe that's the key to our riddle: Who's paying for the consequences of bad health today? How much of that is absorbed by companies, governments, insurers and how much by tax payers? And is what they're paying to solve the problem after the fact more than what they would pay to mitigate it?

I think you'll see that as the balance in that equation shifts for each of those entities, their participation will change accordingly.

S_Wilson - 7 Jan 2014, 5:25 p.m.

I took up Bikram Yoga 6 months ago and won't be looking back! It provides a welcome break in the middle of a busy work week and leaves me feeling relaxed and refreshed. On the occasion when I have missed a session - I can feel the effects. I strongly feel my health is my responsibility. (Though society should provide moral support!) My health is my insurance.

Jennifer Rodney - 8 Jan 2014, 8:52 a.m.

So glad that you're introduction to yoga has been so positive Sian, and I love your perspective: "My health is my insurance."

I've had similar experiences with my practice. Not only do I feel physically healthier when I'm practicing regularly, but I'm also happier and more relaxed. I think my boyfriend notices the effect too. If I've missed a few classes in a row he's always tremendously encouraging that I get back on the mat. ;-)

I took my first yoga class well over ten years ago. My practice is not always regular, but I always come back to it. Even though I KNOW how good it is for me, it can be a challenge to find the time to go. Long/demanding working hours are always the biggest hurdle for me - but I know I have it easy compared to many people out there who have to work even harder and longer just to make ends meet. I too would love it if society - and employers - would provide more support and opportunities for all people to invest in their own health.

Frank Calberg - 8 Jan 2014, 9:36 a.m.

Interesting ideas regarding new meeting formats. Thank you. Also, simply trying out meetings during which people stand up could, I have experienced, create more value for more people. Some more inputs on improving meetings:

Jennifer Rodney - 8 Jan 2014, 9:57 a.m.

Thanks for sharing these tips Frank! I think asking if a meeting is really needed is a useful practice. I think both employers and employees can benefit from increases in efficiency - and less time in unproductive meetings could potentially mean more time for yoga or other types of preventative care.

Jennifer Rodney - 9 Jan 2014, 10:22 a.m.

Here's one viewpoint from a financial perspective recently published in the NY Times. A study found that employers offering work place wellness benefit from cost savings from programs that help people manage chronic illness, but NOT from "lifestyle management offerings" that focus on preventative care practices like stress management.

Frank Calberg - 3 Feb 2014, 9:38 a.m.

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