6 Steps to Happy, Healthy Aging
The second half of our lives can be some of the most rewarding years! As we age, we may experience graying hair and wrinkles… but we also gain wisdom, confidence, and patience. The way you take care of yourself over time, both physical and mental health, will obviously have an impact on the natural aging process. Being proactive and adapting to the changes brought on by aging is critical for well-being. You can do this by focusing on good habits such as regular exercise, a nutritious diet, and staying socially active. As experts in senior living, we have some advice and steps for happy, healthy aging. By following these tips, seniors can give themselves a better chance at staying well during the golden years.
1. Stay connected socially.
Maintaining relationships and staying social remains important as we grow older. Scientific studies have shown that being mentally active and socially involved keeps mental acuity sharp. Individuals who stay engaged with others and participate in meaningful social activities are more likely to live longer, be happier, and feel more purposeful.
Of course, the importance of family in life is truly immeasurable and seniors who maintain close family bonds are happier and have a better quality of life, research has proven.
Interacting with others through social activities and community groups can keep a senior’s brain active and help them to feel more connected with the world around them. Staying social can also improve cognitive performance, reduce the risk of certain health issues, and enhance overall well-being.
Did you know? Being socially active can actually aid in recovery after a heart attack. Those who engage in strong, meaningful relationships develop fewer complications after a heart attack and return more quickly to their normal day-to-day life.
2. Stay physically active and exercise regularly.
As we all know, staying physically active has numerous health benefits for people of all ages. It is especially important for older adults to make a habit of regular exercise. Because exercising not only keeps the body in shape but also allows elders to keep doing the activities they love by decreasing fatigue and shortness of breath. Being physically active will improve the quality of daily life!
Exercise lowers heart disease risk and helps prevent strokes. It also lowers the risk of high cholesterol and high blood pressure. As we grow older, it’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle to continue enjoying an active, fulfilled life.
There are many ways to exercise and move your body. Yoga, swimming, jogging, etc. Don’t be afraid to get creative and go outside your comfort zone. Be sure to always exercise safely with proper form.
Finding new ways to get active can actually be a fun part of day-to-day life. Consider joining a walking or exercise group in your local community. Or ask a friend to partner with you for a weekly workout date. Having another person holding you accountable can help you stay committed to fitness.
Wondering exactly how much exercise seniors need to stay healthy? Well, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has clear guidelines for older adults:
- “For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) to 300 minutes (5 hours) a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) to 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. Preferably, aerobic activity should be spread throughout the week.
- When older adults cannot do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week because of chronic conditions, they should be as physically active as their abilities and conditions allow.
- As part of their weekly physical activity, older adults should do multicomponent physical activity that includes balance training as well as aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities.
- Older adults should determine their level of effort for physical activity relative to their level of fitness.
- Older adults with chronic conditions should understand whether and how their conditions affect their ability to do regular physical activity safely.”
3. Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet.
Being physically active will only go so far without providing the body proper fuel and nourishment. So eat well! This means consuming less salt, fat, and sugar while increasing your intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
According to the National Institute of Health, symptoms associated with health conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, and anemia can be prevented or eased by changing one’s diet.
4. Lower stress and relax more.
Make an effort to minimize stress. It has a wide range of negative effects on the body, from accelerated aging to an increased chance of heart disease. To manage stress, try to learn healthier ways of coping with it and avoid unnecessary causes of stress. Make time for fun and relaxation!
Meditation and breathing exercises are one proven way to reduce stress levels and cortisol.
Other effective techniques to relieve stress include:
- Getting enough sleep.
- Talking with a loved one or friend.
- Physical exercise.
5. Take daily walks.
Yes, simply walking can count as physical activity. For better health, try to take a daily walk. Perhaps set a goal of 15 minutes initially and work your way up to walking 30 minutes each day.
Moving and walking well helps keep brain cells healthy by delivering more blood and oxygen. In fact, scientific research suggests aerobic exercise may postpone or improve symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
Walking can help to:
- Improve balance and reduce the risk of falls.
- Keep bones and muscles strong.
- Improve metabolism and maintain a healthy weight.
- Promote better sleep.
- Improve mood.
- Reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and high cholesterol.
6. Take time for yourself and do things you enjoy!
Make self-care a regular part of your routine and take time for the activities you personally enjoy. Maybe it’s a hobby or creative craft. Maybe it’s spending time in nature. Make time for whatever it is that brings you joy.
This will help you keep a positive attitude which can help reduce stress. Focusing on the good can also aid in coping with some of the negative or disheartening aspects of growing older.
Don’t be afraid to pursue new hobbies or find new things that are important to you. Consider what’s on your bucket list. Discovering new passions is part of what keeps life exciting for people of all ages.
Remember, it’s never too late to make adjustments that will improve your well-being. Or for caretakers to make changes that will assist a senior in living happier and healthier.