September is Healthy Aging® Month and it’s a good time to discuss the things that contribute to healthy aging like diet, exercise, brain health and social activity. As the actor George Burns said, “You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.”
Learning to age healthfully is more important than ever before. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the number of Americans aged 65 or older in 2050 will be more than double what it was in 2010. The National Council on Aging estimates that more than 84 percent of people aged 65 and over are coping with at least one chronic condition. Here are some suggestions on how you and your loved ones can age in the healthiest way possible.
Eating healthy can make aging healthy
“Age is something that doesn’t matter, unless you are a cheese.” -Luis Bunuel
Food is fuel and putting the highest quality, healthiest food possible in your body will help it to run well and age well. The best diets for healthy aging are those that are healthy for the heart and that help to avoid diseases like diabetes. That means eating mostly fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein. Avoid eating foods that are high-fat, high-sugar, or have high-salt content. Older women generally need anywhere from 1,600 to 2,200 calories per day and older men need between 2,000 to 2,800 calories per day. Drink lots of water to stay hydrated and keep portions small.
Find a good way to keep moving
“Age is whatever you think it is. You are as old as you think you are.” -Muhammad Ali
Aging healthfully means staying physically active. The fresh oxygen and blood that exercise pumps through the body can help to keep your body and your brain healthy. Exercise keeps joints lubricated and muscles strong. The core strength that develops from exercise can help to prevent falls. Thirty minutes per day is recommended for good health. Find activities you like so that you will look forward to some type of activity each day. If you don’t like to go to the gym, find another activity like walking, dancing, yoga, playing tennis, or swimming. As you stay active your bones will stay strong and you may avoid developing chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
A healthy brain contributes to healthy aging
“Old minds are like old horses; you must exercise them if you wish to keep them in working order.” -President John Adams
Paying attention to a healthy brain is just as important as paying attention to a healthy body. The Centers of Disease Control says that one in eight adults aged 60 or older report “…confusion or memory loss that is happening more often or is getting worse’. Thirty -five percent of them report difficulties due to confusion or memory loss.
Losing cognitive abilities can seriously impair an individual’s ability to conduct the activities of daily living, prepare meals, take medications properly and live alone. However, keeping the brain healthy with the following tips can help to avoid cognitive decline.
- Practice good nutrition. Eating whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein is good for your brain. In general, if foods are good for your heart, they are good for your brain too.
- Stay mentally active by learning things like a new language or a new hobby like knitting. Any hobby that requires your brain to learn new motor skills will grow new brain cells.
- Sleep seven to eight hours a night. Sleep renews your brain.
- Avoid stress, it’s toxic for your brain and interferes with its natural functions.
Socialization is key to healthy aging
“You don’t stop laughing because you grow older. You grow older because you stop laughing.” -Maurice Chevalier
Socialization provides important mental and physical stimulation and can help to prevent depression and anxiety. Staying connected with family and friends expands interests and prevents isolation. Social networks help seniors to feel supported and personal networks can provide joy, happiness and a sense of connectedness. There are many ways to remain socially active as one ages.
- Join book clubs or hobby groups.
- Join a gym, senior center, church or civic group.
- Schedule regular outings with friends, going to lunch, museums, or out for coffee.
- Volunteer in an organization of interest.
It’s never too early to learn how to age healthfully. These tips will help seniors to age well, but family members in other age groups can adopt these strategies as well to ensure that their body and their brain will age well.
If you think an in-home caregiver might benefit your family, contact Family Matters In-Home Care for a free consultation. Our caregivers are thoughtfully selected to ensure that their skills and personalities will be the best possible fit for your loved one. We have seen many of our caregivers develop meaningful relationships with clients, and we strongly believe that these friendships have a positive effect on their overall health and well-being.