This is the time of year that we assess where we have been, where we are and where we want to go on our life journey. As you ponder your life path, consider these 2019 stats from the American Psychological Association:
• One of every four 65 year olds today will live past age 90.
• One of every ten 65 year olds today will live past age 95.
• The fastest growing age group in the US is age 85+.
Aging Well is not only about how long we live but how well we live. We know that
moving our bodies more and and eating a whole food, plant-based diet are healthy actions we can take, but there are many other lifestyle choices that impact how well we age. Aging well is about making small changes that we can embrace for a lifetime and becoming mindful about how we move, what we eat, how we think and how we connect with others.
Here are eight small changes, in addition to nutrition and movement, that could lead to a simpler, happier and longer life.
1. Don’t believe the myths about aging.
We have heard the myths that as we age we will likely experience illness, disability,
cognitive decline, depression, multiple medications, and chronic pain. This would
lead us to believe there is not much to look forward to. But many of the conditions
that cause us to fear aging may be avoidable if we adopt healthy habits at any age.
2. Become curious about the world.
Learning and growing adds joy and meaning to life and keeps your brain active and healthy. Your options are endless; take a class, join a club, start a hobby, learn an instrument, travel somewhere new, spend quiet time in nature, volunteer in your community or begin a spiritual quest. Something as simple as taking a new route to work can boost your brain power.
3. Stay connected.
Loneliness is now considered an epidemic and has been determined to be more
damaging to our health than obesity or smoking 15 cigarettes a day according to the US Health Resources and Services Administration. Clearly, social isolation is a problem so reach out to family, old friends and make new friends of all ages. Turn off you mobile devices and offer your undivided attention.
4. Slow Down
Busyness overloads our mind, body and spirit. If the pace of your life is causing
imbalance and stress, it may be time to embrace life in the slow lane. Slowing down means taking time to experience everything happening around and within you. It is about prioritizing what is truly important to you and connecting with the present moment. Breathe deeply and create a life you don’t need a vacation from.
5. Be your own health advocate.
Be assertive with your healthcare providers. Ask questions, take notes, know what the numbers mean such as cholesterol, blood pressure, glucose, A1C, etc. Environmental factors account for up to 90% of our aging so we have some control on how we age through our actions and attitudes.
6. Choose optimism.
Humor, laughter and play are strong medicine. Surround yourself with people who light you up and make your soul soar. Optimism and happiness are a choice as are hopelessness and fear. Choose wisely!
7. Practice gratitude.
Spend a few moments every day quieting your mind in meditation or prayer and
reflecting on your blessings. If the only prayer we ever say is Thank You—that would be enough.
8. Search for meaning, purpose and joy.
To promote cognitive and physical health as we age, finding a purpose and connecting to something larger than ourselves is the key. This might be a simple as caring for a garden or a pet, participating in community service, volunteering or practicing random acts of kindness.
Incorporating some of the choices shared here, while practicing healthy nutrition and intentional movement, you will be able to do the things you love with the people you love most for as long as possible. It is never too late to make the small changes that can help you live a healthier, happier and longer life.
~Dr. Linda Peterson, PhD, NCC, CLC, CHC Life and Wellness Coach