Adopting a healthy lifestyle can make aging a graceful, more enjoyable process.
More than 10,000 people turn 65 every day in this country (one every eight seconds). According to census.gov, over 20 percent of our population will be over 65 by 2050, and the 85+ population is projected to increase from 43.1 million in 2012 to 79.7 million in 2040. The reality is that people are living longer, but unless you have good health, longevity means very little.
“Planning now for eventualities associated with your health and taking an active role in your future can make a huge difference in your quality of life as you age,” says Brenda Lyle, Aging Services Manager at One Senior Place in Altamonte Springs. “We all age, but how you age is largely up to you.”
Although modern medicine is prolonging life, many Americans aren’t living healthy ones. According to the National Council on Aging, approximately 92 percent of older adults have at least one chronic disease and 77 percent have at least two. Chronic diseases account for 75 percent of the money our nation spends on health care.
“When we talk about health, we must include the physical, cognitive and spiritual aspects associated with that,” says Lyle. “Good health equals independence, security and happiness, so it’s important to stay active both physically and mentally.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, older adults need 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening activities two or more days a week or 1.5 hours of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening activities two or more days a week.
Moderate-intensity aerobic activity includes brisk walking, pushing a lawn mower, or taking a dance class … anything that will make you breathe harder and your heart beat faster. You know you have reached this level of intensity when you are able to talk but cannot sing the words to your favorite song. Vigorous intensity aerobic activity includes jogging or running, during which your heart rate will increase quite a bit and you will be breathing hard enough that you won’t be able to say more than a few words without catching your breath. Muscle strengthening should include all major muscle groups — legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms.
Eating well goes hand-in-hand with physical exercise. According to NIH Senior Health, good nutrition is associated with illness prevention (heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer), higher energy levels, weight management, better digestion and mental/emotional health. Eating well gives you the nutrients needed to keep your muscles, bones, organs, and other parts of your body healthy and include vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, fats and water.
“Even if you haven’t eaten well in the past, it’s never too late to make positive lifestyle changes,” says Lyle. “You can become healthier, look and feel better, and stay healthier and more vibrant moving forward.”
Cognitive health is one of the most overlooked aspects of health for people of all ages, but especially for seniors. Cognitive vitality refers to the brain’s ability to adapt and learn. The opposite of this, cognitive decline, often, but not inevitably, occurs with aging. There are things you can do to increase your cognitive vitality as you age, and remaining active is a key factor.
“Spending time with others — including family, friends and neighbors — boosts brain activity, as does volunteering and working part-time,” says Lyle. “It’s important for you, and your family, to understand this. You may reach a point where you’re not as mobile as you used to be, but steps should be taken to ensure that you still have interaction with people, even if you need help with shopping or driving.”
Other things that can increase cognitive vitality include physical exercise, which increases blood flow to the brain and supports brain health, and mental exercise, which can include reading crossword puzzles, playing card games, and learning something new such as an instrument or a language. “Sleep is also vital,” adds Lyle, “as you should always try to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep a night.”
In the end, we can’t stop the aging process. Bones will become more brittle, hair will become grayer and certain diseases will eventually become unavoidable no matter what we do. But we do have a say in how we age. We all want to live fully and feel good for as long as we can, and adopting a healthy lifestyle can go a long way in making the process of aging as fulfilling and rewarding as possible.
One Senior Place is a one-stop resource and information marketplace. Completely unique, One Senior Place provides information, counseling, referrals, educational events and direct access to independent senior-focused businesses– all under one roof! To schedule a free consultation with an Aging Services Expert call 866-706-9386.