September is Healthy Aging Month, and in the ever-shifting landscape of our lives, it’s more important than ever to take care of yourself in order to thrive. The good news is you have more power over how you age than you might think! While some circumstances are beyond your control, many others—like a healthy diet, effective workouts, positive outlook, and thriving social life—are actions you can take now to enjoy your life for years to come.
You have the power!
As you navigate the unique challenges of getting older, remember what you can change and what you can’t. You can’t turn back the clock and keep reliving that 29th or 49th birthday. But you can take small, powerful steps today through simple lifestyle changes—like adding in healthy workouts, focusing on good nutrition, and connecting with others—for a healthy lifestyle now that extends through your elderly years. Let’s dive right in and take a look at 10 secrets to healthy aging that you can start applying right now.
1. Be optimistic
Did you know your mindset has a huge effect on your overall health? Numerous studies show the power of a bright outlook on life. Positive thinking can help you get started on new habits by helping you to feel effective—it’s easier to start something new when you believe you can do it! Optimism can also decrease your stress and increase your everyday happiness. A sense of hopefulness is an essential aspect of the healthy lifestyle of the elderly in particular. Older adults who practice positive thinking are more likely to have better health, more social connections, and greater overall well-being.
2. Focus on nutrition
You are what you eat—health experts constantly teach the importance of healthy meals as a secret to a long, healthy life. But it’s all too easy to feel overwhelmed when trying to clean up your eating habits. Rather than focusing on complicated dieting rules, it’s important to realize that focusing on just a few key principles can help you prevent disease and optimize your wellness. Small shifts can help you eat balanced, healthy meals. Here are a few simple changes you can make that have been shown to promote a healthy lifestyle and healthy aging:
- Eat an abundance of fruits and vegetables to make sure you are getting a broad spectrum of vitamins and minerals. (Certain vitamins like potassium can slow the loss of muscle mass.) Try adding a vegetable and a fruit to each meal!
- Including fish in your diet a few times a week introduces healthy fats that promote brain health, cardiovascular health, and healthy vision.
- Minimizing consumption of red meat and unrefined white sugar can help you maintain cardiovascular health and healthy blood sugar levels.
As you fine-tune your healthy diet, making sustainable changes by adding healthy foods that you enjoy, you are giving your body the tools it needs to function smoothly for a long time.
3. Go outside
Like a plant, you need sunlight for optimal health! Your body uses sunlight to synthesize vitamin D, an essential nutrient that may protect against depression, bone decay, some cancers, and cardiovascular disease. In addition, more time spent in the light can help regulate your sleep and prevent you from feeling isolated. And while you’re enjoying those benefits, be sure to protect your skin by wearing sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat when you spend time outdoors! This will ensure you can enjoy the benefits of sunlight for healthy aging without damaging your skin and contributing to wrinkles and age spots.
Water is our most essential nutrient—without it, we can only live for a matter of days. Despite this knowledge, the majority of adults do not drink enough water each day. Hydration is good for your skin and joints, helps improve your energy, and flushes toxins from your body. Older adults have a particularly high risk of dehydration due to a normal decrease in kidney function, decreased natural water stores in the body, and decreased thirst sensation. Making sure you drink enough water is key for the healthy lifestyle of the elderly. If you’re concerned about your sleep, make sure to stop drinking water a few hours before bedtime so you don’t have to get up to use the bathroom.
5. Breathe deeply
It’s easy to get wrapped up in stress, especially in this unfamiliar, chaotic year. Using your breath to calm your mind and focus on the present can decrease stress in the moment. By taking a few deep breaths and grounding yourself, you can quiet anxieties and slow your heart rate. Take it a step further by setting aside regular time each day to sit in quiet and focus on your breath for five or ten minutes. You may find that setting this small goal for Healthy Aging Month this September is the beginning of a ritual that will bring you peace and calm throughout your life.
6. Engage your brain
Challenging your mind can be protective against memory loss and mental slowing. Find something you enjoy that will engage you mentally. Do you love numbers? Do a Sudoku puzzle each day. Are you a wordsmith? Download a crossword puzzle app or get the daily paper (and a pencil with a good eraser!). Read research papers in fields that interest you. Learn a new skill. Play a strategy game with a friend. This healthy habit can be as enjoyable as it is beneficial.
7. Keep moving
Individuals who engage in an active lifestyle as they age are better able to maintain muscle mass, enjoy overall good health, and avoid many of the typical strains and pains associated with “weekend warrior activities.” You don’t have to be running marathons or doing triathlons—although if that’s your thing, more power to you! Your healthy workouts should be suited to your comfort level, ability, and interests. Here are a few ideas on how you might be able to add a little more movement into your life for healthy aging:
- Improve your flexibility with a yoga class, whether online or in person.
- Take a walk in your neighborhood—and double the benefits by getting some vitamin D too.
- Workout in the water by swimming laps or joining a water aerobics class.
- Find a YouTube video with simple body weight or dumbbell exercises to maintain muscle mass.
- If you’re adventurous, try learning to kayak or exploring a hiking trail for an outdoors workout!
The possibilities for healthy workouts are truly endless—just make sure you choose something you will enjoy so it’s easier to stay consistent.
8. Sleep tight
As your body gets older, sleep can be elusive. You may find yourself waking at night to use the bathroom or lying awake in your room with worries racing through your mind. Here are a few ideas to optimize the level of sleep you’re getting for healthy aging:
- Be sure to turn off devices and stop drinking water a couple of hours before going to sleep.
- Make sure your room is dark and quiet enough—if you’re in an area with a lot of light or noise pollution, you may need to invest in blackout curtains, ear plugs, or a white noise machine.
- Start an evening routine to prepare your mind for sleep. You may enjoy a bubble bath, reading a book, or deep breathing before settling down to sleep.
Sleep is a crucial pillar to health. What better way to celebrate Healthy Aging Month 2020 than by making sure you’re getting enough rest?
9. Stay connected
Social connections are essential to ensure healthy aging as you’re getting older. They bring meaning and joy to life. This year, many older individuals at risk for COVID-19 have had fewer opportunities to connect with family and friends due to being at high risk for the disease. Fortunately, some studies show that virtual connections can also be powerful for your well-being, so even if you need to keep your distance physically, you can still spend time with those you love through video chat, email, and phone calls.
Other strategies to stay social during a pandemic include going on socially distanced walks, sitting in a parking lot in lawn chairs spaced six feet apart, or creating a “quarantine pod” of friends and family who keep their circle small and restricted only to each other to prevent unnecessary exposure to disease. It may take some creativity to stay connected these days, but it is possible, and will keep you feeling more joyful, connected, and youthful.
10. Explore your passion
As you get older, life changes like retirement or family moving away can change your day-to-day activities and leave you wondering how to spend your hours. One way to find purpose and fulfillment as you age is to discover (or re-discover!) what you are passionate about.
You may want to tap into your former career. Are there volunteer opportunities to use your talents? What about skills or leisure activities you’ve always wanted to learn or pursue but haven’t had the time? Consider taking an online class in an area that interests you. You can take a variety of classes online through YouTube or other platforms like MasterClass or SkillShare—everything from cooking to writing screenplays. Getting older doesn’t signify the end of learning. On the contrary, it presents new opportunities!
Choose a healthy aging resolution for Healthy Aging Month 2023
Healthy aging doesn’t have to be complicated. Making simple tweaks to your lifestyle for healthy workouts, a healthy outlook on life, and a healthy overall diet can point you in the right direction for joyful, abundant aging for the years to come.
Let this September 2023 Healthy Aging Month be a touchstone for you to make a few simple resolutions. Even the tiniest changes can have amazing repercussions on your nutrition, your friendships, and your optimism. You can promote a healthy lifestyle for the elderly years now by getting 1% better each day.
Celebrate September 2023 Healthy Aging Month by choosing one thing that can bring you closer to the joyful aging experience you imagine!
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