To age successfully, you will want to strengthen your physical health, cognitive behaviors, social skills, and attitudes. Spiritual development also plays a role in successful aging.
Strengthening Your Physical Health
Although all five areas are important to your future and quality of life, strengthening your physical health will increase your longevity. You will want to boost your immune system, strengthen your bones, improve your flexibility, and manage your stress.
The healthier your physical body, the longer you will be able to live independently or with only a small amount of help from others. Since preventative medicine is really the best medicine, consider utilizing a physician who specializes in geriatrics.
A geriatric doctor will keep an eye out for issues that seniors face as they successfully age. This can include vision and hearing impairment, digestive issues, accidents and falls, vertigo, incontinence, self-care needs, and more.
Although you will need to work with the geriatric doctor to form a self-care plan to enhance your life, there are things you can do to stay physically healthy.
Cardiovascular exercises. Depending on your situation, you can try cardiovascular exercises to strengthen your heart, bones, and muscles. This can include walking, taking a group exercise class, or working with a trainer. Your doctor will let you know how hard he or she feels you can push yourself.
Functional exercises mimic actions you do in everyday life, such as reaching for dishes on a high shelf or picking something up from the floor. These can make your daily tasks easier and make you less prone to injury. (If you have a heart condition or another ailment, be sure to ask your physician for recommendations.)
Stretching exercises. Stretching exercises will keep you flexible and limber. You can do simple stretching exercises or take a yoga or Pilates class to strengthen your muscles and tendons. Stretching also helps with joint and muscle aches.
Strengthening exercises. If your geriatric doctor permits, exercising with light weights can help to strengthen your bones and make things like lifting gallons of milk or water easier. You can also use an exercise tube or band to provide resistance training and incorporate stretching at the same time.
Healthy diet. Your physician may recommend a special diet based on your dietary needs. You should follow the one suggested by him or her. If you are not on a special diet, try to consume more fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats. Your food can act as a medicine for your body providing it with much-needed micronutrients, such as potassium, magnesium, and electrolytes. Drinking enough water will also help you avoid dehydration and constipation.
Stress management. Stress can come over us in layers with everything from bills to family. Getting enough sleep at night and taking rest periods during the day is important in your ability to cope with stress.
Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Some senior citizens have problems waking up during the night and seem to require less sleep. Try to take a small nap (30 minutes or less) during the day if you feel you are not getting enough sleep.
Other chores that are also fulfilling can keep you physically fit and help to manage your stress, such as gardening.
Appointment schedule and transportation options. Keep appointments with your doctor, specialists, and screenings. Preventative care is the best option. If you are having trouble driving, ask your doctor or a counselor who specializes in aging about transportation options for seniors.
Transportation options include a caregiver who provides you with a ride to your appointment or a senior citizen minivan where you can socialize with others who are successfully aging. You can also learn to use Lyft or Uber driving services if you have it in your area and if your income allows.
Medication management. Due to the natural process of healthy aging, we may find ourselves taking more medications than in the past. Your pharmacy can help you determine a schedule and a way to keep your medications separated. Most pharmacies will contact your physician if you run out of refills or if your medication requires prior authorization from the insurance company.
Sharpening Your Cognitive Skills
Your cognitive skills (mental fitness) is as crucial as your physical health. Sharpening your mind may already be something you practice daily without realizing it. Playing memory games, such as cards, trivia, bingo, and crossword puzzles, help to keep your brain functioning well.
It may seem silly to play games if that is something you stopped a while back. Think of it as sweeping out the cobwebs that happen to all of us. Your ability to focus and remember will speed up your brain’s ability to process memories and information.
Anytime you learn something new, your mental fitness grows stronger. Make it a goal to learn something new every year. You may want to set weekly and monthly goals too.
For example, you could set a new goal to learn to play the piano as an amateur by next year. You could also set the goal of reading five books about something you want to learn over the next thirty days or learn how to create a social media profile in the next seven days so you can communicate with your children and grandchildren more easily.
Whether it’s learning to play chess, writing a book, building a birdhouse, or sewing a set of kitchen curtains, there is no better time than now.
Bringing Meaning to Your Social Interactions
Not everyone thrives on social interaction all the time, but as humans, we do need others at least part of the time. We need healthy relationships with others who appreciate and love us. We want to avoid isolation and loneliness by forming friendships.
You may find a group with similar interests to you at your local church or senior center. Sometimes organizations form senior citizen groups around a hobby or interest. Your local library may offer a book club, recipe club, or table game group. Some community centers provide group fitness classes and movie nights.
Increasing your social interactions with others can help with your mental health by warding off depression and providing you with a sense of belonging and companionship. Remember that what you put into a relationship is what you will get out of it. Form your new friendships and work on building trust. Make it a goal to meet someone for coffee or tea this week.
Growing in Your Spiritual Life
Successful aging also means reflecting on your past, but not staying there. It’s constantly moving forward to be better than you were yesterday. This can mean growing in your relationship with God and seeking Him as you maneuver through this new part of your life.
Developing your spiritual life has physical and cognitive benefits too. Learning more about scripture and memorizing verses can strengthen your cognitive abilities, while prayer and meditation will help you manage your stress as you give your worries to God and ask Him for wisdom about your next decision or action.
Local church events, Bible study classes, or interest groups are great ways to meet new people and form bonds with others on the same journey. If you feel you need help with healthy aging, consider speaking to a faith-based counselor.
In group sessions, you will meet others trying to embrace aging while remaining empowered and close to God. A counselor can also recommend resources to help you maintain your physical health, a home, and your independence.
In your quest to form new friendships, remember that not everyone in your circle needs to be a senior. You may find some of your best friends in another age bracket. You may be the one they need as a role model for successful aging. Leave your mark with the next generation.
Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. – Isaiah 46:4
“Chess Hustlers”, Courtesy of Alex Chernenko, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Love in Winter”, Courtesy of Esther Ann, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Laughter”, Courtesy of Nathan Anderson, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Xianqi Hustlers”, Courtesy of Clay Banks, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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