If I were to ask for a show of hands, I suspect nearly all would want their older loved ones to live long. We hear stories with some regularity about someone who is 100+ years old, and I have written about “super-agers.” I am going to share ten tips for healthy aging. Spoiler alert…the “aging” part is pretty easy if one attends to the “healthy” part.
You may recall from my post about super-agers that a defining trait is that they may be 70 or 80 years old, but they have the cognitive or physical characteristics of a person decades younger. I had a client whom I remember most for her comment at her 100th birthday party when she giggled a bit and remarked: “I guess I can start on my second century.” And she did!
If you are hoping for a longer age span for your older loved ones…or yourself, a lot of it is about choices more than genes. Let me to share some tips:
- Stress reduction – We all can agree that stress reduction is important at any age, but for our older loved ones stress actually can damage brain cells, precipitate depression, diminish our immune response to infection and even impair memory. A person is never too old to benefit from “talk therapy,” practice relaxation therapy or take up yoga. And just keep things in perspective…don’t sweat the small stuff.
- Prevention is better than a cure – It is more than the annual flu vaccine, but that is as important as good hand washing hygiene. It is important for your older loved ones to get their vision and hearing checked regularly. And do a home safety test to see if your loved one’s home is still “user friendly” as the “user” ages in place.
- Health is a lifestyle – We all can complain about the cost of health insurance or medical care or medications. The fact is that most of your older loved one’s health is about their lifestyle. And when they do have a doctor’s visit, make the most of it with lists of their meds and most important any questions they may have.
- Engage others – Reading a good book is great, but participating in a book club is even healthier for your older loved one. Getting involved in community events, committee work or a trip with friends and anything that gets a person out of the house and engaged is an investment in longevity.
- Sleep more than food – Humans are able to last longer without a meal than without sleep, and this does not change as they age. Some older adults talk about not needing as much sleep as they age, but what they really are saying is that they have more difficulty sleeping longer. Encourage good sleep habits that include 7 to 9 hours a night, just like we would encourage our kids to do.
To cover all ten tips, I am going to continue this into next week’s post. So, to learn more about living well…and therefore longer…please check out my post next week.
Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Advisor, Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.