The Guide to Aging Well
The answers you’ve been looking for when it comes to getting older.
Never before have so many people lived for so long. Life expectancy has nearly doubled over the last century, and today there are 35.8 million Americans age 65 or older. This phenomenon presents both opportunities and challenges for all of us as we seek to stay healthy throughout our longer lives. This special section provides tips for aging well and information on the shifting trends for active living options in our changing community--no matter our age.
SIX Simple Moves to Help You Stay Young:
Attitude and the Mind: The Power of Positive Imagery
A recent article by Psychology Today suggests “keeping a positive attitude may be the key to the fountain of youth.” A study by researchers in Ireland shows that having positive self-reflections about aging may indeed slow the aging process. They have identified that focusing on the benefits of aging creates a self-fulfilling prophecy helping someone stay healthy mentally, physically and psychologically.
10 Best Things About Getting Older
• Happier outlook
• More time for loved ones
• Opportunity to pursue passions
• Participation in civic activities and volunteerism
• Better social skills and more empathy
• Guaranteed minimum income, Medicare and social security
• Senior discounts
• Sense of accomplishment
The number one factor in maintaining your youth is to develop a youthful perspective by keeping a positive mindset. It helps to do things that make you feel ageless such as learning new skills, cycling, swimming, traveling and anything that takes you out of your comfort zone.
The mind, when positively rooted in a deep passion for life, is more certain and powerful.
Meditation: The Art of Letting Go
Because of its impact at the cellular level, meditation has the ability to keep us young longer. It does this by quieting those looping anxious messages, alleviating stress. It can also foster calm and a feeling of well-being. It is also one of the best ways to create and sustain a positive mindset, so if you’re wanting to remain active and care-free longer, it’s worth dedicating a little time each day to it. While, the idea of another daily chore may be daunting, you can start slowly with a 3-minute session and expand as you become more comfortable and begin to realize results from the practice. There are thousands of apps to help you form a consistent habit. Try: Headspace, Insight Timer or Breathe. All have exercises designed for the beginner and can ease you into your own Zen state in no time.
Be Social: Connections are More Important than Money
According to the National Council on Aging (NCA), relationships with friends and family outweigh financial concerns among aging Americans. When asked what is most important to maintaining a high quality of life in their later years, staying connected to friends and family was the top choice of four out of 10 people over the age of 65. Their concern surpasses worry about having financial means.
In addition, social isolation is a predictor of declining mental function. Experts believe this may be due to not using a wide variety of communication skills. Research shows that people who are part of a group -- whether it’s a church group or book club -- are healthier than solitary people when they are older and, the wider the range of relationships (family, friends, co-workers) a person has, the less cognitive decline they experience with aging.
Keeping Your Mind Sharp
Although the brain isn’t a muscle, the rule “use it or lose it” applies. A recent study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that more frequent participation in mentally stimulating activities can lead to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s.
Sorry to say, our brains naturally start slowing down at the cruelly young age of 30 (yes, 30). It used to be thought that this couldn’t be helped, but a barrage of new studies show that people of any age can train their brains to be faster and, in effect, younger.
Learn a Second Language
Learning a second language benefits cognitive abilities like intelligence and memory and is believed to help maintain brain cells and stimulate communication, while lowering risks of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Take a Cooking Class
There is a strong link between a nutrient-dense diet and cognitive skills. If your cooking ability is limited to macaroni and cheese, enroll in a cooking class. New confidence in the kitchen may help fuel memory retention by engaging all of your senses. Additionally, cooking with fresh ingredients vs. frozen or packaged meals can provide beneficial nutrients that keep a body properly fueled.
It’s not just the size and quality of your social network that directly impacts your brain health, but your level of engagement in it. If it’s hard meeting new people, try volunteering at a continuing care community, or if you love pets, your local pet shelter is always in need of helping hands.
It’s often thought that weight gain is an inevitable part of the aging process. However, a Fels Longitudinal Study investigated aging, body composition and lifestyle. Their findings show that women who do vigorous physical activity such as running, cycling or swimming several times a week weigh up to 26 pounds less than their inactive counterparts. They also have significantly less body fat.
In addition to keeping the weight down, other key benefits of exercise include agility, better cardiovascular condition, stability and lowered risk of falls, respiratory endurance and muscle-strengthening, to name a few.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) suggests inactive older adults should start slowly with 5 to 10 minutes and gradually build to the desired level of exertion.
The CDC lists these benefits from physical activity
• Maintain the ability to live independently and reduces the risk of falls and fracturing bones.
• Reduces the risk of dying from coronary heart disease and developing high blood pressure, colon cancer and diabetes.
• Can help reduce blood pressure in some people with hypertension.
• Helps people with chronic, disabling conditions improve their stamina and muscle strength.
• Reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression which fosters feelings of well-being.
• Helps maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints.
• Helps control joint-swelling and pain associated with arthritis.
A “Smarter” Home Can Help You Stay Independent Longer
The use of technology can help you stay independent and in your own home longer. Today, thanks to modern technology, nearly everything in our homes can be connected to the internet.
We can now benefit from electronically controllable door locks, security systems, thermostats, lighting, motion sensors, smart doorbells, robotic vacuum cleaners and lawn mowers, refrigerators that track your grocery consumption, automatic shut-off on stovetops, automatic medication dispensers and remote health monitoring sensors. These technologies and others when bundled together are what make up a “smart home.”
Enter the Amazon Echo or the Google Home device. Both offer a range of assists including on-demand tasks such as lower the lighting, raise the temperature, play music, read a book, place a phone call, play a trivia game -- all by voice command. Facebook’s new “Portal” allows you to connect with loved ones near and far using smartphones and tablets. You can bring up to six people into a group call using Bluetooth speakers and an auto-zooming camera that follows you around the room as you video chat. Like the Echo, Portal is voice-activated and connects with the same Echo functions such as ”listen to Spotify.”