I will forever look back on the first year as a male in my “mid-forties” with humility and a heightened sense of mortality. More importantly, I desperately hope my late-forties and beyond will include some of the same protein-based indulgences I’ve enjoyed for the past four-and-a-half decades. As the food industry adapts to feeding an aging population, I’m getting a preview of the heightened importance of diet and lifestyle as a fringe baby-boomer.

Despite continuing to live a moderately healthy lifestyle, which facilitated running in two half marathons in the past six months, it’s clearly evident there’s no running from age, much to my chagrin. Before over-celebrating the most recently awarded medals received at the finish line of these races, I would be remiss to not mention how these days, each mile seems much longer than in years past and the stopwatches tick faster than ever. Indeed, the bullet-proof shield of youth has quietly receded this year, as evidenced by the new prescription glasses I now can’t live without and the incessant emergence of grey hair around the temples.

Though not necessarily related to age, a condition that recently put me on the shelf served as somewhat of a wake-up call from middle age. After enduring two days of ferocious pain in the joint of my big toe, I gimped to the doctor’s office desperate for help, begging for amputation if it meant relief. Instead I got a diagnosis of gout. Adding insult to injury, blood testing results were cause for my doc to ask about my diet, which had never been an issue before. After hearing about my passion for not only cooking, but also consuming any and all varieties of meat and poultry, I was given a prescription that would eliminate the elevated levels of uric acid in my blood. I learned this acid can form crystals in the joints of people whose bodies do not produce the enzyme to flush it out naturally. A quick Googling of “gout” and its causes almost universally links red meat (and beer) consumption as common denominators among sufferers. To address this and some of the other issues not yet requiring medicinal remedies, I’ve been put on a diet that is pathetically light in red meat. The alternative, I was told, is a daily regimen of pills to offset the symptoms. While I rue both options, I am complying with a modified menu in hopes that once my vital signs are back in the healthy range I can reintroduce my favorite foods, balanced by a dedicated and more varied exercise regimen. A guy can hope, can’t he?

With the aging population in the US snowballing, many of the baby-boomers and those on their heels are likely a bit reluctant to immediately commit to popping a prescription pill for the rest of their lives to address early signs of aging. Nor are they likely going to abandon the foods they’ve enjoyed most of their lives at the first sign of mortality. This segment is more likely to make compromises and not default to a one-size-fits-all solution. Already I’m scouring labels to find foods that highlight solutions and health benefits. This approach is successfully used in the pet-food industry, with offerings that are formulated to target breed categories, joint health, age and weight. This is a concept that should be a part of future offerings for non-canines as well. Those are the types of solutions I, and millions of others will likely be seeking…if I could just find my glasses.