Staying healthy and feeling the best is important at any age. These tips can help you cope with change and live your life to the fullest.
The keys to healthy aging
It’s hard to deal with change, no matter how old you are. A particular challenge for older adults is the sheer number of changes and transitions that begin to occur — including moving away children, losing parents, friends, and other loved ones, changing or ending your career, declining health, and even losing your independence. It’s natural to feel the losses. But if that sense of loss is balanced with positive ingredients, you’ve got a formula to stay healthy as you age.
Healthy aging means reinventing yourself constantly as you pass milestone ages such as 60, 70, 80 and beyond. It means finding new things that you enjoy, learning to adapt to change, staying physically and socially active, and feeling connected to your community and loved ones. Unfortunately, for many of us, aging is also a source of anxiety and fear. How am I going to take care of myself late in my life? What happens if I lose my spouse? What’s going to happen to my mind? Many of these fears, however, often stem from popular misconceptions about aging. The truth is that you are stronger and more resilient than you might realize. These tips can help you maintain your physical and emotional well-being, whatever your age.
Myths about healthy aging
Myth: Aging means a decline in health and/or disability.
Fact: Many diseases are getting more common as we age. Yet getting older doesn’t mean poor health necessarily or you’ll be relegated to a walker or wheelchair. Most older adults enjoy good fitness, much more than many younger ones. Preventive measures such as healthy eating, exercise and stress management can help to reduce the risk of chronic illness or injury later in life.
Myth: Memory loss is an inevitable part of ageing.
Fact: As you age, you may eventually notice that you don’t remember things as easily as you did in the past, or that memories may start to take a little longer to retrieve. However, a significant loss of memory is not the inevitable result of aging. Brain training and learning new skills can be done at any age, and there’s a lot you can do to keep your memory sharp. The sooner you start, the sooner you can reap the benefits.
Myth: You can’t teach new tricks to an old dog.
Fact: One of the most damaging myths about aging is that after a certain age, you’re just not going to be able to try anything new or make a contribution to things. The opposite is true of that. Middle-aged and older adults are just as capable of learning new things and thriving in new environments, plus the wisdom that comes with life experience. If you trust and trust yourself, you are creating a positive environment for change, no matter what your age.
Aging well tip 1: Learn to cope with change
As you age, there will be periods of joy and stress. It’s important to build your resilience and find healthy ways to meet your challenges. This ability is going to help you make the most of the good times and keep your perspective when times are tough.
Focus on the things you’re really grateful for. The longer you live, the more you lose yourself. But as you lose both people and things, life becomes even more precious. If you stop taking things for granted, you will appreciate and enjoy what you have even more.
Recognize and express your feelings. You may have a hard time showing emotions, perhaps feeling that such a display is improper and weak. But burying your feelings may lead to anger, resentment, and depression. Don’t deny what you’re going through here. Find healthy ways to process your feelings, perhaps by talking to a close friend or writing to a newspaper.
Accept things that you can’t change. There are many things in life beyond our control. Instead of stressing them, focus on things you can control, such as how you choose to respond to problems. Face your limitations with dignity and a healthy dose of humor.
Look for the silver lining. As the saying goes, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” When faced with major challenges, try to see them as opportunities for personal growth. If your own poor choices have contributed to a stressful situation, think about them and learn from your mistakes.
Take daily action to address the challenges of life. When a challenge seems too big to deal with, sweeping it under the carpet often appears to be the easiest option. But ignoring the problem doesn’t make it go away; it allows you to build up both the problem and your anxiety. Instead, take one small step at a time. Even a small step can go a long way to boosting your trust and reminding you that you’re not a powerhouse.
Tip 2: Find meaning and joy.
A key ingredient in a recipe for healthy aging is the continued ability to find meaning and joy in life. As you age, your life is going to change, and you are gradually losing things that have previously occupied your time and given your life purpose. For example, your job may change, you may eventually retire from your career, your children may leave home, or other friends and family may move away from home. But this isn’t the time to stop moving forward. Later life can be a time of exciting new adventures if you let it happen.
Everyone has different ways to experience meaning and joy, and the activities you enjoy that change over time. If your career slows down or you retire, or if your children leave home, you may find that you have more time to do business outside of work and in the immediate family. Either way it is never wasted to take time to nourish the soul.
If you aren’t sure where to start, try some of the suggestions below:
Take a long-neglected hobby or try a new hobby. Taking a class or joining a club or sports team is a great way to pursue a hobby and at the same time expand your social network.
Learn something new, like an instrument, a foreign language, a new game, or a new sport. Learning new activities not only adds meaning and joy to life, but can also help maintain your brain’s health and prevent mental decline.
Get involved with your community. Try to attend a local event or volunteer for a cause that is important to you. The meaning and purpose that you find in helping others will enrich and expand your life. Community work can also be a great way to use and pass on the skills that you have perfected in your career — without the commitment or stress of regular employment.
Travel somewhere new or go on a weekend trip to a place you’ve never visited before.
Spend some time in nature. Take a scenic hike, go fishing or camping, enjoy a ski trip, or take a dog in the park.
Enjoy the arts, man. Visit a museum, go to a concert or play, join a book group, or take an art class.
Write down your memoirs or play about your life experiences The possibilities are endless. The important thing is to find activities that are both meaningful and enjoyable to you.
Tips 3: Stay connected
Maintaining your support network is one of the greatest challenges of aging. Staying connected is not always easy as you grow older— even for those who have always had an active social life. Career changes, retirement, illness, and moving out of the local area can take away close friends and family members. And the older you get, the more people you will inevitably lose. In later life, it may be difficult for you or members of your social network to get around.
It’s important to find ways to reach out and connect with others, whether or not you live with a spouse or a partner. Along with regular exercise, staying social can have the greatest impact on your health as you age. Having a variety of people you can turn to for business and support as you age is a buffer against loneliness, depression, disability, hardship, and loss.
The good news is that there are a lot of ways to be with other people. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you find ways to get out of the house (if possible) and socialize:
Connect to friends and family regularly. Spend time with the people you enjoy and make you feel upbeat. It could be a neighbor you like to practice with, a lunch date with an old friend, shopping with your kids, or playing with your grandchildren. Even if you’re not close by, call or email often to keep relationships fresh.
Make an effort to make new friends with you. As you lose people in your circle, it’s vital to make new connections so that your social life doesn’t decline. Make it a point of being a friend to people who are younger than you. Younger friends can re-energize you and help you see life from a fresh perspective.
Spend time with at least one person each day. Whatever your living or working situation, you’re not supposed to be alone day after day. Phone or email contact is not a substitute for spending time with other people. Regular face-to-face contact helps you avoid depression and stay positive.
Volunteer. Giving back to the community is a great way to strengthen social bonds and meet others who are interested in similar activities or share similar values. Even if your mobility is limited, you can get involved by volunteering on the phone.
Find support groups in a time of change. If you or a loved one are dealing with a serious illness or a recent loss, it may be very helpful to participate in a support group with others facing the same challenges.
Tip 4: Get active and boost vitality
Don’t fall into the myth that growing older automatically means that you won’t feel good anymore. It is true that aging involves physical changes, but it does not have to mean discomfort and disability. While not all illness or pain can be avoided, many of the physical challenges associated with aging can be overcome or drastically mitigated by exercising, eating right, and taking care of yourself.
And it’s never too late to get started! No matter how old you are or how unhealthful you have been in the past, caring for your body has enormous benefits that will help you stay active, sharpen your memory, boost your immune system, manage your health problems, and increase your energy. In fact, adults who engage in exercise later in life, for example, often show greater physical and mental improvement than their younger counterparts— because they are not burdened by the same sporting injuries that many regular exercisers experience as they age. Likewise, many older adults report feeling better than ever because they make more effort to be healthy than they did when they were younger.
Exercise now. A recent Swedish study found that exercise is the number one contributor to longevity, adding extra years to your life— even if you don’t start practicing until your senior years. But it’s not just about adding years to your life, it’s about adding life to your life. Exercise helps you maintain strength and agility, increases vitality, improves sleep, boosts your mental health, and can even help to reduce chronic pain. Exercise can also have a profound effect on the brain, helping to prevent memory loss, cognitive decline, and dementia.
Eat well, man. Your relationship with food may change with your body as you age. Decreased metabolism, changes in taste and smell, and slower digestion can affect your appetite, the food you can eat, and how your body processes food. But now, more than ever, healthy eating is important to your health and energy. Avoiding sugary foods and refined carbs and loading high-fiber fruits, vegetables and whole grains instead will help you feel more energetic, while eating with others is a great way to stay in touch with friends.
Get a lot of sleep. Many adults complain about sleep problems as they age, including insomnia, sleepiness during the day, and frequent waking during the night. But getting older doesn’t automatically bring sleep problems. Developing healthy sleep habits as you age can help you ensure you get enough quality sleep each night. Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, and cool, avoid artificial light from screens for at least one hour before bed, and increase your activity levels during the day. A soothing bedtime ritual, like taking a bath or playing music can help you wind down and get a good night’s sleep.
Tip 5: Keep your mind sharp
There are many good reasons to keep your brain as active as your body. Exercising, keeping your brain active and maintaining creativity can actually help prevent cognitive decline and memory problems. The more active and social you are, the more you use and sharpen your brain, the more benefits you will get. This is especially true if you are no longer challenged by your career, or if you have retired from work altogether.
Try to make variations on what you know. It could be games or sports for some people. Other people may enjoy jigsaw puzzles or try new recipes for cooking. Find something that you enjoy and challenge your brain by trying out new variations or increasing how well you’re doing. If you like crosswords, move to a more challenging crossword series, or try a new word game with your hand. If you want to cook, try a different kind of food, or if you’re a golfer, try to lower your handicap.
Every day, work something new. You don’t have to work out crosswords or puzzles to keep your memory sharp. Try to work on something new every day, whether it’s taking a different route to work or a grocery store, or brushing your teeth with a different hand.
Take a whole new subject. Taking on a new subject is a great way to continue learning. Have you always wanted to learn another language? Learn about new computer skills? Learn to play the piano, huh? There are many cheap classes at community centers or community colleges that allow you to get to grips with new subjects.