The following are some basic steps we can take to respect our bodies, challenge our minds, and nurture our souls to improve the quality of our lives as we age.
Ever heard the expression, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing?” Well, there’s a lot of truth to that. Staying active is one of the most important aspects of healthy aging—and it’s never too late to start. Walking is a great form of cardiovascular exercise, but according to Judy Beyers, former holder of the North American Natural Bodybuilding Federation title and owner of PowerSource Personal Training in Edina, weight training is the fountain of youth. “We lose a percentage of muscle each year, but it can be completely rebuilt by strength training and nutrition,” Beyers says. PowerSource trainers not only teach clients exercises and maneuvers so they can work independently, they also inform clients about nutrition. There’s even a class specifically for people 50 and over called “Getting Younger, Getting Stronger.
Photo © jd-photodesign – Fotolia.com
A Sense of Purpose
Volunteering is one of the best ways to give your life meaning and purpose. When you help others, you’ll feel a greater sense of gratitude for the things that you have and a greater connection to the people around you. According to Freda Marver, owner of Begin Again Coaching, many of the 50 to 70-year-olds she helps define, create, and lead their own version of “the good life” share certain characteristics. “This is the generation that shook things up,” she says. “They participated in the Civil Rights movement, the womens’ movement, the peace movement, the environmental movement. They grew up redefining the roles that came before them, and they take that redefining perspective into their retirement years.”
She works with clients of all ages to define what’s important at their core: Helping others? Expressing an artistic gift? Fighting for social justice? Protecting our natural resources? “When one has an opportunity to give expression to their goals, they find purpose and meaning in their lives,” she says.
Eat A Well Balanced Diet
Choose foods high in fiber, drink eight glasses of water a day, and cut back on saturated fats, refined sugar, and salt. Take high-quality animal-based omega-3 fatty acids (many experts believe this is likely the predominant reason why the Japanese live so long), eat foods rich in folate (found in asparagus, artichokes, Brussels sprouts, and sunflower seeds), and limit your alcohol.
Get Your Blood Pressure Under Control
Hypertension appears to be associated with an increased risk of both vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. You can’t change the risk factors of age, family history, and heredity, but you can work with your doctor to monitor your heart health. “Studies suggest that plaques [abnormal clusters of protein fragments] and tangles [dead and dying nerve cells] are more likely to cause Alzheimer’s symptoms if strokes or damage to the brain’s blood vessels are also present,” explains Debbie Richman, director of education and outreach, Alzheimer’s Association. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, she comments, “You are not alone. There are people who understand what you are going through. Help is available.” There is so much you can do in the early stages to live with Alzheimer’s disease, she says. The Alzheimer’s Association has support programs for both caregivers and those coping with the challenges of dementia. For more information, call the 24/7 helpline at 800-272-3900 or visit alz.org/mnnd.
Keep In Touch
Make an effort to stay connected to others as you get older, and you’ll most likely find more joy and satisfaction in life. One study even shows that people with strong friendships are less likely than others to get colds (one theory is that people with good friends have lower stress levels).
Photo © Diego Cervo – Fotolia.com
At some point, you may want to downsize, ditch yard work and maintenance repairs, and have access to amenities that can simplify your life. Today, more than any other time in history, there are more housing options designed specifically for the unique wants and needs of adults 55 and over—wants and needs like multi-functional spaces, cozy coffee/wine bars, good food, craft rooms, fitness centers, organized activities, libraries, chapels, and beauty salons. When you’re shopping around, make sure you’re comparing amenities, and ask if the“bottom line” really is the bottom line, or if there are extra fees. For example, will you eventually pay extra for private duty aides, or is around-the-clock care already part of the fee? Think about the services you may need in the future, too. When you’ve narrowed down your options, visit. How friendly is the staff? Will your kids and grandkids feel welcome visiting? How social are the residents? Get to know the culture, not just the first impression you get from walking into the lobby.
According to David Leonhardt of the happyguy.com, “It’s time for each of us to take pride again in everything we are.” He suggests saying something like this to yourself every morning: “I am pushing 60 (or whatever age applies to you). I have lived 60 years of happiness. I have survived 60 years of challenges. I have experienced 60 years of personal growth. I have learned so many life lessons from 60 trips around the sun. I am aging gracefully. I have thrived, mostly, during 60 years. And I am proud of every one of those years.”
Photo © hannamonika – Fotolia.com