“It’s no good gettin’ old,” quoth my mother, now deceased.
But that was a different time, a different era, and we’ve come a long way towards understanding that life does not stop, you are not “over the hill,” once you hit 30.
If you are already there, or older, you probably have seen the signs coming, especially the external physical ones like blotchy skin, age spots, fines lines and wrinkles, sagging skin and more. Maybe it’s not just your skin, but you’ve noticed you’re not as agile as you used to be, your hair is turning grey, you’ve got varicose veins forming, and somehow you’ve put on weight you can’t easily lose, or, due partially to the loss of muscle tissue, you’re plagued by weight loss.
Wait, you say, I haven’t seen all of my problems listed…okay, we know our bones are becoming more brittle, we may be suffering with constipation and/or some incontinence, we may have an increased susceptibility to infection, and, of course, there is hearing loss, weakened vision, and some degree of memory loss.
Though it’s known that many different things contribute to the aging process – like genetics, diet and exercise and other lifestyle choices, and exotic sounding things like telomere shortening and oxidative stress – the interplay of all the factors is so complex it’s really not fully understood.
If you’re just about as depressed as you ever want to be by now, here comes the GREAT news: you can slow down the aging process AND there are actually benefits to be had with growing older!
We all know what to do to protect our skin – treat it gently, don’t use products that make it sting or burn (it’s worth it to do some research to avoid putting harmful chemicals in or on your body). It’s also beneficial to exercise, stay hydrated, and eat clean, nutritious food. Speaking of food, if you don’t want to speed up the aging process, avoid sugar, margarine, fried (especially if using polyunsaturated oils and high heat) and processed foods, and alcohol. And, yes, stop smoking if you haven’t already!
“Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” ~ Betty Friedan (1921-2006)
Here’s the real hot topic – brain health. According to the National Institute on Aging (a division of U.S.’s National Institutes of Health), “Many people live into their 90’s and beyond without significant declines in thinking and behavior.” There are things we can do to make sure that happens for us….
Turns out, what’s good for our hearts is also good for our brains. Since the brain is also a vascular organ, it is wise to manage high blood pressure. Again, a healthy diet and regular exercise, as well as maintaining a body mass index (BMI) under 25, bring with them some serious benefits. Adding “don’t smoke” to your list and keeping an eye on cholesterol levels also keep blood vessels and blood flow healthy. *
* Please note: we are all different and unique, optimum conditions will vary from person to person; it is recommended you check with your health care professional if you have questions and/or concerns.
Unlike what we hear in commercials, there is insufficient evidence that multivitamins improve brain health. You can usually acquire the nutrients needed through food – be sure to include veggies, nuts, berries and fish, if you are able (and not allergic). What about playing “brain games,” you ask? According to the Global Council on Brain Health, the evidence for this is, at best, weak. What really helps are things like learning a new skill, volunteering in your community, staying socially engaged and trying activities you’ve found to be challenging. “The earlier you do this, the better your brain function will be as you age.”
Brain health, of course, includes mental well-being. Do you manage challenges effectively, cope positively with changing life circumstances, generally feel good? Fantastic!!! These things are associated with reduced risks for dementia. Not feeling useful, or, overall pessimism, may actually interfere with the ability to think and reason. So, make sure you include people and activities in your life that you enjoy – don’t be afraid to have fun!
Are you retired, or getting ready to? Did you know studies show that seniors are among the happiest groups of people?! They tend to have a better outlook on life because they’ve been through hardships and negative circumstances and have proven to themselves that they can get through them.
Also, retirement usually provides the luxury of more time – to spend with loved ones, to pursue dreams or passions you had put on hold, to get more involved civically/in your community, or maybe even to have the grand adventure you’ve always wanted!
“A beautiful face in youth is the result of fortune; a beautiful face in old age is earned by kindness and wisdom.” ~ Unknown
Recent studies described in Smithsonian Magazine demonstrate that seniors have better control over their emotions than other age groups. “…unlike 20-somethings, those in their 60’s didn’t agonize over losing, and they were less likely to try to redeem their loss by later taking big risks.” Another study found that seniors have superior empathetic and social abilities; they have “a broader scope of points of view, resolutions and compromises than younger [people].” Also, older folks often have a healthy sense of pride that comes from a lifetime of accomplishments, big and small.
Silly as it sounds, senior discounts are definitely a perk!! Not only can they save you money, but they also provide an incentive to take advantage of services that help you stay engaged and active, like entertainment, transportation and exercise support.
We are all getting there; let us capitalise on this golden opportunity to grow in wisdom and empathy. Knowing what the alternative is should make that an easy choice to embrace.
“At age 20, we worry about what others think of us. At age 40, we don’t care what they think of us. At age 60, we discover they haven’t been thinking of us at all.” Ann Landers (1918-2002)