Aging Gracefully: Keys to Healthy Living for Older Adults

April 24, 2017

In the spring/summer 2017 issue of A New View, Joan Brubacher, LSCSW, gave ten tips for healthy living for older adults. Here, she expands on how focusing on your social, emotional, physical and spiritual health can help you age gracefully.

Social

Help others. Ralph Waldo Emerson said it this way: “It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.” Think about where and how you can make a difference. What’s your cause? Where would you like to put your energies? Volunteer and see how your world can be expanded and enhanced by learning about and assisting others.

Adopt a pet. Don’t underestimate the effects of caring for a pet! Studies have shown that older adults who interact with pets have less stress, lower blood pressure and increased social interaction.

Use music to soothe your soul. Music reaches deep inside of you, and it can give you great pleasure, oftentimes instantaneously. It can help you recall positive memories, motivate movement, calm nerves, encourage happy thoughts and relieve boredom.

Get out and travel. Get adventurous, take risks, and travel somewhere. You don’t have to travel far to reap the benefits — go to parades and festivals, and in doing so, sustain your connection to the world around you.

Attack the prejudice toward ageism. Know your own attitudes about ageism, then help others to change their prejudice. What kind of older person do you want to be? Do you want to wear a red hat? Remember you have options.

Share your story. Pass your life story on to younger people. Communicating information about your life to others helps unite you and give value to experience. Don’t be afraid to joke about the darker side of aging — many find it to be a coping mechanism.

Develop a sense of humor. Who doesn’t love a good laugh? It lightens the burdens of a strenuous life, boosts the immune system, increases endorphin levels and reduces stress, anxiety and depression.

Maintain a positive self-image. Oftentimes, how we dress determines how we feel about ourselves. Dress well in neat, tidy clothes, maintain good hygiene, and splash on your favorite perfume or cologne and see how it makes a difference in how you see yourself.

Keep a sparkle in your eye. Keeping a cheerful disposition can lower your blood pressure, strengthen your immune system, combat stress, ease pain and lengthen your life.

Emotional

Build close and meaningful relationships. It is so important to share your daily struggles, joys and sorrows. Build new relationships and strengthen old ones. Studies have shown that connected people have less than half the mortality rates  as those who are lonely. The closer the relationship, the more powerful the survival effect.

Physical

Exercise. As we age, we experience bone loss. Weak muscles mean weak bones. So get off the couch and attempt to build strong muscles. Find friends who are active, and exercise alongside them.

Stimulate your body and your mind. Build strength, flexibility and balance through ability-appropriate exercises. Take up painting, learn how to play an instrument you’ve always wanted to play or get immersed in history. Never stop learning!

Maintain a healthy attitude. A positive attitude allows you to believe you have the power to make yourself happy and content. Your heart will thank you!

Avoid social isolation. We aren’t meant to be disengaged from those around us. Findings have shown that those with increased social interaction maintained lower levels of disability in several areas, as well as greater longevity, less boredom and increased mental stimulation.

Spiritual

Keep your faith in God. Gallup polls have shown that that three-fourths of American past age 65 consider religion to be very important. As a spiritually mature person, you can continue to grow in wisdom, love and other spiritual gifts. If you’re able to attend services, you’ll likely have a stronger social network.

Know that aging is God’s plan. As Henri Nouwen says, “Aging is the turning of the wheel, the gradual fulfillment of the life cycle. Know that aging is a way to the light. There is a light that becomes visible with growing old – a light that cannot die because it is born of growing old.”

Joan Brubacher is a licensed specialist clinical social worker at Prairie View, Inc.’s Newton office. She oversees all of Prairie View’s caregiver services, including caregiver support groups.

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