The secret to Aging Well is……… there is no secret! Everyone is looking for some magic formula but what I have found is rather one’s attitude toward aging affects the way your mind and body will function in later life. With over 35 plus years working with the aging adult, I have observed, assisted and had many conversations with octogenarians who agreeably offer insight into the road they have traveled. This is what I have observed in those that Age Well:
Your Thoughts create your Reality
If you view aging as negative and as an illness that needs to be cured, this will become your reality. Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can’t, you are probably right.” Stop clinging to unhelpful thoughts towards aging – embrace aging with its good and bad. Replace each negative thought of aging with five positive thoughts. A study done by The Journal of the American Medical Association demonstrates that people who have a
more positive view of aging do better on memory tests, walk faster, and are likely to recover from severe disabilities than those who think of aging as an illness and something that needs cured. For people caring for these oldens, it is important we carry the same positive views of aging as you can activate or modify the view the person has on ageism.
Have a sense of Purpose:
One of our female clients had severe physically debilitating arthritis, she was depressed and in constant pain. Every encounter we had with her was surrounded around these concerns until we helped her find a sense of purpose. She had always enjoyed sewing and knitting and with our encouragement, began making crocheted walker tote caddy’s. Through this process, she had a reason to get out of bed, discovered what she had control over, and making these totes gave her a sense of empowerment. Her spirit didn’t have to be governed by her illness, her mood improved and she took significantly less pain medication.
Have an attitude of Gratitude and Forgiveness:
Having a sense of gratitude makes it easier to graciously accommodate to changes in life that occur with aging. Being positive in the face of life’s challenges brings compassion for self and others that allows conflicts to be resolved through forgiveness and love. While revenge, anger and fear are corrosive emotions that harm our bodies and our spirit, gratitude and forgiveness bring healing and hope. To age well oldens must possess a clear capacity to unselfishly guide the next generation; this we call wisdom.
Aging well and gratitude are intertwined, so if you aspire to age positively you can begin by adopting two simple, but powerful, daily rituals to help strengthen and inspire your soul:
• Start each day with thoughts of appreciation and positive expectations.
• Send blessings daily to those in need, especially those needing forgiveness.
Eat less and stay Active:
Food is medicine and nutrition plays a significant role in how your body ages. The latest research shows that a low-glycemic diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein is healthiest,” says Dr. Jeffrey Benabio, Physician Director of Healthcare Transformation at Kaiser Permanente Primary Care. One great example is the Mediterranean diet, rich in plant-based foods, whole grains, nuts, and red wine (in moderation!). Maintaining a nutrient-dense diet is critically important for older adults because of the impact of food intake on health. Years of research have demonstrated that diet quality has a huge effect on physical condition, cognitive condition, bone health, eye health, vascular function, and the immune system. In almost every dietary survey conducted over the past few decades, older adults have inadequate intakes of some essential micronutrients. I found this book helpful as it focuses on diets for those over the age of 70.
New research shows that regular physical activity can reduce the inflammation in the body that comes with aging, which could also help decrease your risk of developing related diseases and conditions. It’s important to exercise not only the body but also the brain. Probably the most exciting findings about exercise and aging in the last five to 10 years center on what exercising the body does to the brain. Exercise helps keep brain cells healthy, keeps the blood vessels delivering plenty of oxygen to the brain, enhances the connections between brain cells, and may even help grow new brain cells.
Really Live Instead of Merely Existing:
“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside of us while we live” – Norman Cousins
Fall in love with who you are. Right now.
Don’t wait until you lose ten pounds, finish your degree, learn a second language, climb Mt. Everest, or even finish your morning coffee. Commit to loving yourself as you are right now.
Commit to treating yourself kindly and gently; allow yourself to become aware without judgment. Try to release yourself from unreasonable expectations about how you “should be.” Give yourself the freedom to be positive and enjoy what ever life brings!