More and more of us are living longer these days. The number of Americans 65 and older grew by 34% between 2010 and 2019, and the number of people 65 and older is expected to increase by 69% by 2060. During the same time frame, the 85-and-older population is projected to triple.
Seniors and older adults are also discovering many different ways to age gracefully. The even better news? It’s never too late to make some positive changes to your life. Here are eight things you can start doing now to remain healthy and age well — no matter how many candles were on your last birthday cake!
#1: Embrace Your Age
As it turns out, feeling good about your age is also good for you! Researchers from Yale University found that seniors who’ve accepted the aging process and maintain positive attitudes about aging had a lower risk of dementia. Even those with strong genetic risk factors were able to cut their likelihood of getting the disease by half. A positive outlook may help you live longer and lower your risk of heart attacks, depression and other conditions.
So instead of yearning to be 25 again, celebrate the life you have now! Rejoice in the experiences you’ve had and the people you’ve met so far. Be proud of all you’ve learned and all you’ve accomplished. Enjoy the company of people you care about, participate in activities you enjoy and offer a helping hand to others when you can.
#2: Eat Healthy & Nutritious Foods
Seniors and older adults need the same nutrients as young people do, but they don’t need as many calories. If you think that means giving up foods you like, think again! It’s all about balance – making sure to get enough healthy and nutritious foods that help you feel good. A good starting point is a Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish.
Protein preserves muscle and gives you energy. Good sources include fish, chicken, beans and Greek yogurt. Vitamin-D-fortified dairy products, like fat-free milk, help you maintain strong bones and muscles.
Fiber cuts your cholesterol and lowers your risk of diabetes, heart disease and colon cancer. High fiber foods include whole grain breads, beans, nuts, fruits and dark vegetables.
By the way, don’t forget to drink plenty of fluids! A refreshing glass of water gives you energy and helps your brain. Limit caffeine and alcohol, which make you more dehydrated.
You’ll also want to cut back on fried, processed and sugary foods. That doesn’t mean you have to give up dessert completely. Moderation is the key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle as you age!
#3: Exercise Regularly
Remember, there’s no such thing as too old to exercise! Staying physically active may actually help you stay independent longer, boost your brain power and reduce your risk of falls. It lowers your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, dementia and some types of cancer.
In order to stay fit as you age, choose activities you enjoy and aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity on most days. A 30-minute walk is one of the simplest ways to get some endurance exercise. It increases oxygen to your brain, improves your mood and helps you sleep at night. Other great cardio exercises include swimming, dancing or riding a bike.
Include strength training in your routine at least twice a week, using hand weights, resistance bands or your body weight. For balance, try standing on one foot while holding onto a sturdy piece of furniture, or sign up for a tai chi class. Gently stretch your muscles at the beginning and end of each workout to keep your muscles flexible and maintain range of motion.
If you’re new to exercise, start slowly and gradually build up. Ask your doctor what would be appropriate for your ability level and any health conditions you have. If you have mobility limitations, ask about modified exercises that you can do safely.
#4: Get Enough Sleep
Researchers have noted that older adults are more likely to experience insomnia. Too little sleep puts you at greater risk of depression or experiencing a fall. It affects your memory and ability to focus on a task. On the flip side, getting enough sleep improves cognition, reduces stress and cuts your risk of heart disease and stroke.
In order to achieve healthy aging, try to get between 7 and 8 hours of shuteye per night. Maintain a consistent schedule so that you go to bed and get up around the same time each day. Keep your bedroom dark and quiet, and shut off electronic devices as bedtime approaches. Avoid caffeine and alcohol in the evening, as these can interfere with the quality of your sleep.
If you continue to have trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor. Insomnia is often related to health conditions such as sleep apnea, acid reflux or depression. It may also appear as a side effect of some medications.
#5: Prioritize Quality Time
One of the best things you can do for your mental health is to spend quality time with family, friends and neighbors. If you can’t visit in person due to the risk of COVID-19, stay in touch through video chat, phone calls, email or even old-fashioned postal mail. Social isolation in older adults has a negative effect on both physical and mental health and increases the risk of premature death. A healthy social life, on the other hand, may lower the risk of chronic disease, dementia and heart disease.
#6: Challenge Your Brain
It’s also essential to challenge your brain as you get older. Take up a new hobby, practice a musical instrument or learn a new language. Sign up for an interesting class or join a book club to enjoy socializing with others as you learn. Another fun way to keep your brain flexible? Be an explorer! Take a different route when you go on familiar errands like the grocery store or doctor’s office, or even on walks around the neighborhood.
#7: Quit Smoking
All nicotine products are harmful to your health, including both cigarettes and chewing tobacco. Smoking raises your risk of heart disease, lung cancer, gum disease and other conditions.
But even if you’ve been smoking for decades, it’s never too late to quit. Your risk of a heart attack begins to decrease within just 24 hours of your last cigarette. The longer you stay smoke-free, the more you will lower your risk of diseases caused by smoking.
If you’re having trouble quitting, ask your doctor about smoking-cessation programs that may work for you.
#8: Stay in Touch with Your Doctor
A large part of aging well is staying up-to-date with medical checkups. Don’t wait until you feel sick to go to the doctor! Early detection makes many illnesses much easier to treat, including high blood pressure, diabetes and many cancers. It’s also essential to stay up-to-date with vaccinations, such as shingles and your annual flu shot.
At the Terrace Retirement Community, we offer many ways for seniors to enjoy an active and healthy lifestyle. You’ll have lots of opportunities to socialize with your neighbors, including games, movie nights and book clubs. Stay in shape in our fitness center, take a walk outside or exercise your brain by taking an educational class. Enjoy delicious, healthy meals at one of our three onsite restaurants.
Want to learn more? Contact us at any time to schedule a visit or to request an information packet!