Laugh, Love, & Live Long: How ISU’s Gerontology department is discovering the secrets to life longevity

Jamie Lauten

With Veishea, Greek Week and spring

break just weeks away, it may be easy to assume that many ISU

students have not been spending much time thinking about aging and

getting older.

However, for ISU students who are

enrolled in the gerontology department, you can bet they’ve had

aging on their minds in some way or another.

As Peter Martin, gerontology program

director, said, “It’s important to realize that [gerontology] is

the study of aging and getting older. We cover the entire adult

life span in our research”.

Martin explained that the

gerontology department mainly focuses on exceptional longevity.

Researchers look at behavioral characteristics of how a person

reaches a certain age and the quality of life at that


Although some ISU students have not

even reached their 20s, Martin stressed the importance of being

aware of the future.

“Genes will only take you so far —

about 80 percent is lifestyle,” Martin said. “What you do today can

have long range affects.”

Jackie Sorensen, senior in

marketing, said she realizes the importance of living a healthy

lifestyle. Sorensen is currently training for a marathon and runs

every day to stay fit.

“Running helps me stay focused in

school and keeps me goal oriented,” Sorensen said.

Martin compared exercising to

economics and investing: If you do not start saving in young

adulthood, you cannot ever catch up. The same goes for nutrition,

Martin said. If you do not think about what you eat now, it could

have long term consequences.

Developing good health behaviors is

the easiest thing people can do for themselves. Working out and

eating healthy will not only help you stay in shape now, they will

also help add years to your life, Martin said.

According to Martin, one of the main

reasons for the dramatic increase of the average life span — 100

years ago, the average lifespan was only 47; today it is 78 — is

due to medical advances and humans’ ability to fight deadly


However, Martin said if you want to

live really long, behavior is key. Surround yourself with a good

support system, stay positive and keep exercising your


“Keep learning and seek

opportunities to keep going mentally,” Martin said.

The ISU gerontology department is

currently working with the Ames and the ISU community to develop a

healthy area. They are trying to add more healthy food options on

local restaurant menus and integrating more bike paths, Martin