A Four-Pronged Approach to Positive Aging
Positive aging is about making better choices in the near term to improve the long-term quality of life. Longevity isn’t the sole goal. Living well matters most. When your clients reflect on their personal aging experiences, attitude can significantly impact the quality of their outcomes. A person’s mindset impacts their ability to recover from disease and injury, their risk of depression, and even their longevity. Researchers have found that people with negative attitudes about aging die seven and half years earlier on average than individuals with positive aging attitudes. Thus, opinions about aging can become self-fulfilling prophecies. Affirmative attitudes can also reduce your risk of developing dementia, even with confirmed genetic markers. Attitude can beat biology!
Beyond attitude, three overlapping dimensions play incredibly powerful roles in shaping the quality and quantity of seniors’ lives:
1. Physical exercise
2. Choice and independence, and
3. Social interactions.
Lastly, learn how to destress during a stressful time and this will help your overall well-being.
1. Physical Exercise
Physical exercise is essential for people of all ages. You may be able to support your clients’ desire for longer, healthier, and happier lives by helping them locate housing options that encourage active living.
BENEFITS OF EXERCISE
Psychological. Exercise improves mood and can be as effective as medication for treating depression, regardless of age.
Self-esteem. Improved muscle tone and strength contribute to a positive sense of self-worth.
Physicalhealth. Bodies that perform better, physically, enjoy improved longevity and quality of life.
Additionally, there’s new evidence that physical exercise can reverse brain aging. Earlier this year, researchers discovered that a protein produced by the liver during exercise called GPLD1 causes a chain reaction in the body that improves cognitive function, making older brains perform like younger brains!
GETTING PHYSICAL AND HAVING FUN
Exercise doesn’t have to be boring. Scientists have studied numerous activities beyond walking and found benefits to older individuals with and without physical limitations:
Tai Chi - This ancient Chinese low-impact exercise is suited to seniors with balance, coordination, and arthritis challenges. It can improve cardiovascular fitness and motor control and reduce stress, anxiety, and depression in seniors.
Dancing - Regardless of style, dancing can significantly improve balance, strength, endurance, and overall fitness in older adults.
Gardening - Seniors can enjoy moderate to vigorous exercise through gardening, improving overall flexibility and strength. Community gardening can also boost social connections.
SilverYoga - This senior-oriented yoga style was found to reduce body fat percentage and systolic blood pressure while improving balance, range of motion and quality of sleep in women ages 60–86.
Games - Croquet, horseshoes, corn hole, shuffle-board, golf, badminton, and other games encourage physical activity through fun and competition. When practiced outdoors, these activities also provide Vitamin D and fresh air.
2. Choice and Independence
In the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. founding fathers argued that choice was essential to an individual’s right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
They didn’t define how anyone’s pursuit should occur, just that everyone has a right to follow their path.Independence is the ability to make personal choices without waiting for permission from someone else.
It’s a confidence booster. Among elderly individuals, a sense of control is often a predictor of good health and a higher quality of life.
THE SCIENCE OF CHOICE
Over four decades ago, researchers began studying the importance of personal control for people of various ages.
One study of nursing home residents broke participants into two groups. One set of residents was given choices about furniture arrangement, their movements in the facility, and who they spent time with. They were also given an option to select and care for a house plant. The other group was told the staff was there to care for them, including caring for a plant that was chosen for them. Over the 18-month study, the first group showed health improvements, while the second group experienced more deaths. Independence is one of the top social factors proven to correlate to a longer, better life. Simply put, the ability to make decisions and choices can form the foundation of “a life worth living.”
Studies on U.S. public health point to poor diet, smoking, and obesity as three of the highest contributors to an early death. However, when Brigham Young University took a closer look at another factor—loneliness—it found health damages that meet or exceed the risks of smoking, obesity, alcoholism, and lack of exercise.
2020: THE YEAR OF SOCIAL CHALLENGES
Seniors have spent a lifetime building precious relationships. The coronavirus pandemic has made it incredibly difficult for older, high-risk populations to enjoy face-to-face social interactions with friends and family. Protecting them from infection has come at the cost of an increasing sense of isolation.
This year, technology has gained even more importance from a social perspective. Several options can help seniors stay “connected” even while restrictions are in place: Telemedicine - Although many people shied away from online doctor visits in the past, 2020 pushed telehealth into the mainstream. It made it easier for seniors to talk to their doctors, even when they hesitate to make a trip to the office. Software and services - Products such as Zoom, Skype, Facetime, Duo, and Google Meet help families stay in touch, regardless of distance or COVID-19 restrictions. Multi-player online games - Many of the most popular online games focus on cooperation instead of competition and offer social components that appeal to seniors. In addition to forming new online friendships, online games can provide a mutually enjoyable way for grandparents to interact with grandchildren across great distances. Exergames – Motion sensing exercise consoles like Nintendo Switch (or the original Nintendo Wii platform) can offer physical activity and vital social interactions
4. WAYS TO DESTRESS:
1. TAKE DEEP BREATHS
Several times a day, hit the pause button and reconnect with your breath. Take in slow, deep breaths through your nose, filling your lungs until your diaphragm expands. (You can usually feel this around the belly button area.) Then, slowly push the air out through pursed lips, until your lungs are completely deflated. Repeat 2-3 times.
2. TAKE BREAKS FROM THE NEWS AND SOCIAL MEDIA
Step away from the stress-provoking information prevalent in the endless news cycle and the bombardment of social media. Both outlets rely heavily on triggering negative emotions, including anger, fear, disgust, and fear of missing out. In an instant, you’re hooked and encouraged to worry about things over which you have no control. You don’t need to permanently turn off the news and social media (although that might be nice!). Try picking one day a week when you disconnect entirely. One day to be “here and now” in your own life.
3. CREATE A DIGITAL OASIS
Power down all screens (televisions, computers, tablets, and phones) at least an hour before you go to bed and keep them off for the first hour after you wake up. Give yourself the gift of being “unavailable” before bed and upon waking and enjoy some quality family time, couple time, or precious “me” time.
4. GET ENOUGH SLEEP
Your to-do list may be endless, but sufficient sleep comes first! It will improve your physical health, your mental health, and your emotional well-being. Adequate sleep will also help you be more productive and efficient. Sleep is when toxins are removed from your body and your brain. Plus, failure to get enough sleep has been tied to dementia and other health issues.
5. TRY MEDITATION
Simple meditation techniques can help reduce stress by restoring your sense of calm and benefiting your mental, emotional, and physical well-being. As little as five minutes a day can make a noticeable difference.If you are new to meditation, try a guided meditation app on your phone or a guided meditation program on YouTube.