Written by Elise Theriault
September is National Healthy Aging Month. What is Healthy Aging Month, you ask? It’s a time set aside to focus national attention on not only aging, but the positive aspects of aging. Yes, there are many positives! Keep reading for some information on better practices to make you shine in your golden years. Aging doesn’t have to be something to fear when better health practices are observed, and in fact it can be something to look forward to.
With over 76 million baby boomers in our US population over the age of 50, and generation x-ers slowly coming onto the scene with more than 82 million turning 50 in 2015, it is now more than ever an important topic to discuss and reflect upon.
There are many myths about aging that this month and the many topics around it are hoping to debunk. One of the first being the myth that once you reach a certain age, it is “too late to take control of your health.” Many people have changed their lives and health in their later years with significant gains in good physical and mental health.
With a healthy frame of mind, you can refocus and change the course of your physical, social, and mental fitness. Here are a couple ideas to kickstart your re-invention journey. If you are feeling unhealthy, unhappy or lonely in your later years, you are not alone and more importantly, you are not destined to remain that way.
1. Re-invent the voice in your head. Take a minute to evaluate how you talk to yourself at this stage in your life. Is it negative self-talk? Is it encouraging? Our own voice is the one we spend the most time with, and what you tell yourself affects your health. If you felt your best at 30 or 40, try to remember what that felt like and live in that head space! You are still you and your thoughts can have a major impact on aging healthy.
2. Keep your mind engaged. While studies about “brain training” and the effectiveness of “working out your brain” are not conclusive in improving cognitive function or inhibiting mental decline, you really can’t go wrong with engaging your brain in a variety of activities. Puzzles, reading the news, reading books, and learning a new hobby are not only mentally stimulating, but can reduce stress which is a proven way to age positively. Have you always wanted to learn an instrument? Now is your time! Want to finally take on that foreign language? Sign up for a class at a local community college. The possibilities in this area are endless, and can make each day something to look forward to.
3. Move to improve. Exercise can be intimidating at an older age, especially if you have a condition or have not exercised your body in a long time. Talking to your doctor about exercise is the first step towards taking many actual ones. Your doctor will always be the best resource to figure out what is right for you. It doesn’t take much! Just 30 minutes of walking or low impact swimming could mean a world of difference in combating heart-disease and other age-related illnesses.
4. Don’t neglect your social network. The one in real life, and not just in an app! Socializing is a surefire way to stave off depression caused by isolation. Reach out to friends and get together at least once a week. It can be for dinner, brunch, a card-game or even a movie. Reach out to a different friend once a month on the phone to have a good catch-up. If you are lacking in the social department, try volunteering or taking a class in your local community. Taking a class will automatically put you in a group of people who are all working on achieving the same goal.
5. Put that annual checkup in your calendar! Also fill your calendar with all of your other regular check-ups as well. If you feel something is amiss, do not wait until the bad feeling or pain “goes away.” Keeping up with annual check-ups and exams such as routine dental exams and mammograms can be preventative in age-related degenerative diseases or can catch certain cancers in the early stages. The more you stay on top of your health, the more satisfaction you will have in later years.
There are many resources coming out this month that will continue to provide education on how to make the best of your best years ahead. September is a hallmark of new and positive growth in life with Back-to-School being on the minds of children and young families. Make this September a Back-to-You month, remembering how far you have come and looking forward to days of health and opportunity ahead.