Getting older can be tough. Our choices catch up with us.
The human body is amazingly resilient. However, eating poorly, not exercising, and stress all do catch up with us as we get older. The choices we’re making today will affect us in clear ways as we age. This is why you can see such drastic differences in two people of the same age. The person with an active, healthy lifestyle may seem 10-20 years younger than the person who has lived a sedentary one.
It is a fact that the body declines with age. With age, bones tend to shrink in size and density, making them more susceptible to fracture. Muscles generally lose strength, endurance and flexibility. The aging body needs more nutrients and fewer calories. Due to digestive system changes (along with effects of medications, disease and lifestyle), older people experience more constipation and indigestion. The bladder becomes less elastic and bladder/pelvic muscles weaken. Vision becomes worse with age and hearing loss becomes more common.
Many diseases are correlated with getting older. The accumulated effects of life can hit the body hard. All of this can be quite discouraging and many people do their best to ignore it. Then, suddenly they can’t ignore it and find they’re spending every day in medical appointments. But, there’s good news…
You have control over more than you think.
Fortunately, the body is resilient so we can still benefit from even small changes no matter our age. Keeping the body and mind active will counteract a great deal of decline. This isn’t always easy, especially if we’re feeling weak and in pain. Try to build activity into your daily routine, in ways you enjoy. Exercise with a partner or take classes/work with a trainer for accountability. Feeding your body healthy food will give you the energy you need along with promoting healing.
Additionally, as modern medicine has evolved we have better solutions for many of these issues related to aging. Being proactive with your healthcare can make all the difference. Medicare and health insurers cover screenings because they know this. If your doctor spots cancer early, treatment will be more effective. When you know you’re at risk for heart disease or have osteopenia, you can take action to stave off further development. And, there are better and better accommodations for vision and hearing loss.
You don’t have control over everything, but you have more control than you might think. Don’t ignore getting older. And, don’t dread it. Take some steps toward aging wisely. For inspiration, check out our aging wisely role models.
Here are our top steps to take (along with tips and resources) for getting older gracefully:
- Stay socially engaged and active. Embrace opportunities to volunteer, take a class or try a new hobby (or rekindle an old one). Spend time with friends and loved ones…time that has probably been limited by competing demands until now. Or, start a new business or pursue a lifelong dream. Did you know that over the past decade, the most common age for an entrepreneur in the U.S. is between 55 and 64?
- Feed your body what it needs. You can find some services/resources that make it easier to eat well as you get older here.
- Incorporate physical activity into your daily life. Do things you enjoy. Consult with professionals if you have pain or injuries. A good physical therapist or knowledgeable trainer can develop exercises that address your weaknesses and accommodate your problem areas.
- Be proactive with your healthcare and seek preventative care. Hire a care manager to organize your health records and create a healthcare action plan. Your care manager can be a liaison with various providers and help make sure your treatment plans fit your wishes. They can also ensure you have regular medication reviews to minimize unnecessary use of medications and interactions.
- Plan and prepare. Do advance care planning. Get your estate planning organized. Talk to a financial advisor. Understand typical costs associated with aging. Make sure your insurance coverage fits your needs. These might be the less desirable tasks related to getting older. But, they’re necessary. Not making plans can be disastrous for you or those you love. Consider seeking a comprehensive aging life care assessment to understand the steps you need to take and any gaps. Planning affords you choices.
Getting older is full of positive things too.
You rarely hear about the positive side of getting older. Many older adults experience less stress and gain more time for themselves and their hobbies. They typically have more time to spend with family. Some elders especially enjoy the benefits of being a grandparent. This can be particularly true for those who did not play a strong caretaking role in other times of life. Because this was often the case for men of past generations, they often relish the role of grandparent and even spousal caregiver. Speaking of that, we often focus on the challenges of caregiving but not the benefits. However, over 90% of caregivers define the experience as rewarding.
As we age, we often get more comfortable with ourselves. Studies show seniors tend to be significantly happier than those in middle age. Though wisdom doesn’t automatically come with age, most of us gain intellectual and emotional benefits. For example, research shows older adults have more control over their emotions. Elders also demonstrate better empathetic and social skills.
The Positive Aging Movement seeks to counter ageist stereotypes and put the spotlight on the positive aspects of getting older.
Later life has many challenges. The positive aging movement does not deny or minimize these. Positive aging theorists take exception to oversimplified, “cardboard”, characterizations of later life. In reality, our existential journeys are complex, multidimensional and multidirectional. We move forward, we move backward, we move sideways. We advance, we regress, we stumble, we advance again. These are the rhythms of life ongoing. They do not end when wage-earning capacity ends. They do not end when physical infirmity or memory loss comes along. The positive aging movement affirms and validates the quest for self-fulfillment throughout the lifecycle.
Let us help you create an action plan for positive aging.
Our care managers can provide assessments with personalized recommendations. Our in-home team can provide support for staying active, healthy meal prep and everything you need for getting older on your own terms.