Aging Feature
Wellness

The Key to Aging Well? It’s Not One Thing

Is there one thing that makes you age well? The answer is no – no one thing allows us women to age well. It’s a combination of things that you do that lead to a longer and happier life, and it’s probably not what you think. There are the obvious things like keeping your cholesterol and blood pressure down then there are the things that you probably don’t think about as much. What does it take to age well?

Thinking Old School

In the 1990s, gerontologists, that’s the study of aging, created a model to define successful aging:

  • Avoiding disease or disability
  • Cognitive and physical function
  • Engagement with life

It is that all there is to it though? Maybe it’s time to ditch the old school thinking and redefine aging well.

Getting Proactive About Aging

A 2017 study published in Gerontology did just that; they threw away the old model and focused more on managing the challenges that come with aging, what they referred to as “age-related stressors:”

  • Chronic illness
  • Social losses
  • Lack of “person-environment” fit

To master age-related stressors, one must draw on both internal and external resources, according to these researchers. Internal resources might include:

  • Attitude
  • Being optimistic
  • Coping mechanisms
  • External resources are:
  • Friends and family
  • Finances

By changing the meaning of aging well, they were able to create a new, modern model to define it:

  • Self-evaluation of success
  • Life satisfaction
  • Meaning in life
  • Positive mood and emotions
  • Valued activities

Which Model is Right?

I suppose the answer is it depends on who you ask. For most people, it’s likely a combination of these two models that work best. It is hard to deny the importance of avoiding disease or declining cognitive function. It is also hard to deny that how you see yourself and define aging well matters too.

What Tools Do You Need in Your Aging Well Toolbox?

You already know smoking is bad for you and that you need to eat right, so what else can you do to help you age well?

Remain Mentally Active

The earlier you start, the better. Behavioral scientist Joan Tucker, Ph.D. says curiosity and creativity are what make you feel younger Learning new things does more than wake up the neurons in your brain, it teaches you how to play again.

Person Playing ChessIt’s okay to think outside the box, too. You don’t have to sit around doing crossword puzzles to be mentally active. You could:

  • Start a blog
  • Take a class
  • Write a book
  • Play strategy games like checkers, cards or chess

That mental exercise might also be the key to avoiding dementia and other brain-related illnesses.

Make Some Friends

Social interaction is what drives you to do all the other things you should like exercise and explore new hobbies. Making that connection with others keeps you interacting with life and what could be more important than that, really?

Depression is a growing concern for older people in this country. There are an estimated 6 million people in the U.S. over the age of 65 that are living with depression. Staying social is one way to manage those dark emotions.

Get Moving

It can’t be said enough how important exercise is for aging well. It does more than just keep you healthy. Exercise:

  • Relieves stress
  • Makes you feel good
  • Improves your sleep

There are far more reasons to do it than not.

When it comes to exercise, the trick is to find something you enjoy. If you are not a jogger, going for a run each day is more of a chore than fun. Instead, find another activity that engages your mind and body at the same time like swimming, bike riding or yoga. If you pick an outdoor event, you can soak up some sunshine for extra vitamin D, too.

Not sure what to try? Golf is an excellent choice but lose that cart. A round of golf could keep you walking for hours.

Embrace Your  Work

The age of retirement is going up, in part, because there are people out there who love what they do. Retirement is just not for everyone. Focus on work and find a way to be passionate about it whether you are the CEO of a company or a home.

Keep it Positive

Walter Bortz, MD, author of Living Longer for Dummies calls aging a self-fulfilling prophecy. In other words, you are only as old as you think. Maintaining a healthy attitude about work, life and your age will keep you feeling young.

Avoid Falling Into the Stereotype Trap

Along those same lines, don’t let other people define you. Television and the media tend to put aging in a box that can leave you feeling like you should be sitting in a rocking chair knitting.

Stay in control of how you see yourself. Do what you have to feel young whether it means getting a makeover or buying a new car. If you think old, you will feel old, according to Vincent Giampapa, MD, and coauthor of The Gene Makeover.

Don’t Ignore the Obvious

Leafy VegetablesAging well requires you to be well.

  • Eat right – If possible up your intake of foliate, too. There is some evidence that low levels of folic acid play a role in dementia and depression. Foods rich in folate include:
  • Leafy vegetables
  • Citrus fruits
  • Dried beans
  • Get screened for age-related illnesses like high blood pressure, diabetes and cancers.
  • Follow your doctor’s instructions. If you need medication for high cholesterol or blood pressure than take it.

Finally, start embracing the idea of aging well. Take the time to do all those things you dreamed of like travel, play with grandkids and spend time with your partners.

Welcome to the generation of the super-ager. You got this.

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