Celebrating Healthy Aging Month with These 5 Tips
September is Healthy Aging Month. This is a time in which we provide activities for seniors designed to improve their physical, mental and social well-being. With this demographic on the rise, the urgency of promoting healthy aging has never been clearer.
Healthy aging embraces more than the physical aspects of getting older. It embodies all the aspects of health that help us live fuller lives: physically, mentally and emotionally!
Also, healthy aging is not only for those 45 and older. It is a process that impacts all age groups and fosters the development of healthy habits as early as possible.
Let’s work together to live healthier lives as we get older and truly embrace and enjoy the aging process!
#1 Get Active and Stay Active
The challenge of aging often lies within recognizing our body’s new limits and adjusting our physical activities. This develops into a sort of pressure that stresses us into being as vibrant as we possibly can (risking injury or illness) or choosing to withdraw from physical activities completely which can bring forth a host of new, unfavorable conditions.
Staying active can strengthen bones, minimizing the damage of a potential fall. The brain also benefits from even the simplest of exercises. A University of South Carolina study recently showed that those who take part in regular exercise can revitalize their brain cells. This mitochondrial development leads to lower mental exhaustion and sharper thinking.
Recent studies also suggest that physical activity leads your body to produce a protein known as BDNF, which helps promote healthy cells in the brain.
Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity 4-5 times per week. A brisk walk for half an hour not only helps your brain, it can lower your blood pressure, increase bone strength, and reduce your risk of diabetes, obesity, and stroke.
If you are physically limited in your ability to go for a jog, try visiting the pool. Swimming is easier on joints, while still providing significant physical benefit. Yoga is a great option, as you can learn and improve at your own pace. Light weight training can help improve your strength over time so that you can increase your physical activity while still gaining the benefits of regular exercise.
# 2 Encourage a Positive Attitude
It may sound out-of-the-ordinary, but a positive attitude is essential to healthy aging.
Spend time with those who keep your spirits up! Old friends, family, neighbors, whoever keeps a smile on your face and a laugh in your heart. When with friends, you may find conversations turning less-than-positive when topics of health, finances or other pains of aging come up.
To fight this, some people request a limit on how much these topics are discussed in social situations, such as dinners or parties. Some even make a game out of it, like the first to bring up their most-recent doctor’s visit has to pay for dinner. This, of course, isn’t to say that you cannot or should not talk about what bothers you. Just be conscious of the time, place, and environment that these discussions take place. Share concerns and bad news with care, not at the dinner table.
Other find that spending time with younger people, such as grandchildren or neighbors can be a positive distraction. Sometimes, lowering the average age of your social circle may make you feel younger!
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For example, a Seattle nursing home challenges the limitations of aging by combining its facility with a preschool. Here the children and seniors coexist by day, playing games, doing arts and crafts, reading and preparing food. Here, the children are benefiting by learning from older individuals. The residents, however, get the opportunity to play and laugh, like a child.
3.Maintain Healthy Stress Levels
Chronic stress has the ability to rewrite our genes, sometimes prematurely aging us up to an additional decade. This accelerated aging can show, not only in the face in the form of wrinkles or sunken-in eyes but in our health conditions as well. Often, early onset of chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, heart disease and multiple sclerosis can be connected to stress.
If you have a preferred, healthy way to handle stress, continue to do so as long as you reasonably can. For some, this is physical exercise, which as we know can pose a challenge. Others turn to their faith, getting involved in their community or place of worship. Some even take up meditation. Do what you feel is necessary to reduce the frustration and negative feelings that may begin to pile up. Especially when dealing with the many realizations associated with aging.
Also, acupressure is a great way to approach both the physical and mental aspects of stress. The infographic below illustrates the pressure points in the hands and feet that can help alleviate some physical symptoms of stress.
4.Work Out the Mind, Too!
Memory is like a muscle, it needs exercise. You’ve probably heard the phrase “use it or lose it”. Many assume this refers only to physical mobility, but it counts for your cognitive abilities just as much, if not more.
Activities for seniors like crossword puzzles or number games such as Sudoku are exceptional examples of ways to keep the memory sharp. Another great activity for aging people? Sitting with a younger family member and going through old photographs. Not only does this provide an opportunity for younger generations to learn about their past, it gives someone the chance to exercise their distant memory.
Reading news or novels, board games, card games or tinkering are all great ways to keep the mind sharp.
5.Find the Inner Social Butterfly
Often times, as people get older they begin to withdraw from social circles. Lack of mobility, transportation or lost contact can force an aging person into isolation. This is especially the case in the widowed.
Research has shown that individuals that stay in contact with others have greater opportunities to exercise their cognitive abilities. Conversation helps stimulate the brain through discussion, debate, and humor. Individuals that do engage with others socially also tend to have a support system for when they are feeling unwell. Seniors that spend three hours a day or more socializing are more likely to report happiness than their peers, and that happiness increases with each increasing hour of social time.
Social time for seniors can range from activities in their care center, a fitness center, or spending time with friends and family.
It is important for aging people to engage with both their own generation, as well as younger generations. While it is fun to reminisce with old friends, allowing your grandchild to teach you how to use Instagram keeps you sharp and social. (Don’t believe me? Search #octogenarian.)
As you or your loved ones ease into needing geriatric medicine, it is normal to have a lot of questions and concerns regarding the process. From routine physicals to more pressing chronic illness MultiCARE Physicians is prepared to help you and your loved ones age in a happy and healthy manner. Using these activities for seniors, your loved one can age with joy, in September and beyond.