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6 Tips for Enthusiastic and Healthy Aging

May 02, 2018

It’s an indisputable fact: We’re all getting older, but getting older doesn’t mean being relegated to a rocking chair. We’re living longer and with more emphasis on health, we’re living well longer. The concept of aging is changing as older adults reject traditional views of what they can and cannot do. They start new jobs, new hobbies and new adventures regardless of the year they were born. 

While these tips aren’t restricted to older adults, for older adults who want to start or maintain an active lifestyle that they can enjoy, these tips are crucial.  

1. Visit your doctor. Maintaining your health is one of the most important aspects of aging well. If you haven’t done so already, talk with your doctor and take stock of your health. Are there conditions, such as blood pressure, that you should be addressing? Should you consider losing weight? If you smoke or chew tobacco, what ways can your doctor recommend to help you break the habit? It’s never too late to start living healthier, and a baseline visit to your doctor can detect issues before they become more serious. 

2. Be physically active. If you want to do CrossFit — like 78-year-old Jacinto Bonilla — or body build — like 80-year-old Ernestine Shepherd— and your doctor has given you the OK, go for it! But maybe you prefer a set of tennis with a friend, walking around the neighborhood or gardening. Whatever gets your heart racing — in a good way — is perfect to add to your repertoire. Physical activity will help you maintain strength and stamina, and reduce many health risks, ranging from high blood pressure to colon cancer to diabetes. 

If you haven’t been active recently, start slowly with 5- to 10-minute intervals of activity, then gradually build on that time. Remember to go at your own pace. Talk with your doctor if you have any concerns about what activities your health allows you to participate in. 

3. Be active socially. Being involved r with others is a prime way to stay healthy. Studies show that social well-being may be associated with lower levels of age-related disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer. Social isolation and loneliness can put older adults at physical risk of elevated systolic blood pressure, and are major risk factors for mortality.

For older adults who may experience a change in life — such as a retirement, divorce or the loss of a spouse — the possibility of feeling isolated is greater. By being socially active through a community or religious organization, reconnecting with family members or volunteering at a local school, you can build a strong and supportive social circle.

4. Eat a healthy diet that emphasizes lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy. Nourishing yourself is an important aspect of living life fully. Yet for older adults, this is sometimes difficult. Nearly 16 percent of Americans over 60 years old worry they won’t have enough food to eat. It’s also common for older adults to have a decline in appetite, which can lead to lack of energy and poor nutrition. If you’re concerned about access to healthy food, be sure to talk with your doctor.

5. Get enough sleep. As we get older, our sleep patterns naturally change, and it may be more challenging to get the rest we need. Insomnia and snoring represent the two major causes of sleep interruption. Consider exercising in the afternoon so you can burn off some energy, yet you have enough hours before bedtime to settle down. A short nap, earlier in the day may grant you a second wind, but be wary if that nap makes it harder to sleep at night. Avoid caffeine several hours before going to bed as well.

6. Find your bliss. What’s your passion? Maybe there’s a hobby you’ve always wanted to pick up, but haven’t had the time. Perhaps there’s a class you’d like to take or teach, or a far off place you’d like to visit. Older adults are taking stock and deciding what they want to do, proving it’s never too late to start the next chapter of their lives.

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