By Kym Hance, CMC
There are a number of myths regarding aging. Some people may mistakenly believe that aging only means getting sick or disabled, while others may think that all adults face memory loss in their later years.
Even more people believe that once you reach a certain age, there is less that you can contribute to society and that you are done learning. All of these beliefs are absolutely false. In fact, many people find that the years following retirement are filled with health, vitality, and meaning.
Since we are all going to get to those golden years eventually, here are a few tips to consider that may help to make that stage of life some of the best years you’ll ever have:
1. Active Mindset. Keeping the brain active and fit is imperative to the health of older adults. Not only does it help stave off memory-loss illnesses like Alzheimer’s and dementia, but it also fosters executive function. Try word games and recall exercises. For example, find 5 red objects during a walk in the neighborhood and recall them when back home. Routines limit brain stimulation so introduce new foods or new ways of eating the same food. For example, replace canned peaches with freshly sliced ones. Also, try taking a different route to the grocery store or shopping center.
2. Balancing Act. In addition to exercises that build strength and improve flexibility and cardiovascular endurance, make sure to add balancing activities to the daily routine. Good balance requires maintaining a center of gravity over the base of support. Tai chi, yoga, walking on challenging surfaces and water exercises all enhance overall balance.
3. Dancing with the Seniors. Older adults getting regular physical exercise are 60 percent less likely to get dementia. Exercise increases oxygen to the brain and releases a protein that strengthens cells and neurons. Dance involves all of the above plus the cerebral activity present in learning and memory.
4. Meal Time. A body needs proper fuel to remain strong and active. As you age, your digestive system tends to slow down, and as a result, foods that are high in fiber are of special importance. At the same time, older adults are more susceptible to dehydration, so it is important that you drink a lot of water every day.
In addition, don’t let meal times become boring or lonely. Make your food look and taste good even if you are only cooking for one or two. Seek out other adults to spend meals with so that you can have social interaction while enjoying your food.
5. Meaningful Activities. Volunteering is one of the best ways to give your life meaning and purpose. As you help others, you can feel a greater gratitude for the things that you have and a greater connection to the people around you.
No matter where you live, there are sure to be boundless volunteer opportunities. Visit a local elementary school for opportunities to reach out to the children in your community to help them to learn and succeed. Local government and nonprofit agencies are also often in great need of help. Contact hospitals in your area for more ideas on how you can serve.
6. Your Health. Our healthcare is not controlled solely by the health care system but by our genes, actions, environment and other social factors. The more patients participate in their own health care, the more satisfied they tend to be with the care they receive. You are your own best advocate.
Contact your primary care practitioner for an annual physical or whenever you have a concern about your health, and go to those appointments prepared. Bring a list of your current prescription and non-prescription medications, including herbal supplements; keep a list of your health concerns; and, most importantly, ask questions.
The possibilities and adventures that await as you enter your golden years are endless. Seek out new experiences and enjoy the opportunities that you never had time to pursue before. By doing so, you can make the later years of your life some of the most exciting, meaningful years of you have ever experienced.
Hance is a client care services/aging life care manager with Herzog Law Firm in Saratoga Springs.