Consumer Reports has recently issued a “guide to successful aging” that details healthful habits older adults can adopt to improve their physical and mental health in old age. Growing old is passive, but growing old gracefully is active – it requires action on your part. Following are the 9 points according to Consumer Reports Health.
- Exercise your brain. This one shouldn’t come as a surprise to those involved with aging services. People have been advocating this for a while. Exercising your heart, limbs, etc. is important, but equally important is staying mentally sharp. Your brain is like other muscles in older age – use it or lose it! Exercising your brain isn’t as easy as doing crossword puzzles (learn more on that). Staying mentally fit may require working in an unfamiliar field that requires new knowledge; it could be learning a new language, learning to play an instrument for the first time, or all of the above. The trick is to keep your brain challenged. Be a lifelong learner.
- Strong social ties can also help. I’ve seen this firsthand in elders I’ve served. The ones that volunteer, go out with friends and stay active with family have a more engaged, fulfilled lifestyle than those that don’t. Research indicates that older adults with strong social ties are less likely to show declines in memory tests. I think people that have strong social ties are generally more outgoing and active in nature, which contributes to being a lifelong learner.
- Keep eyes and ears sharp. This item was added to their list, because vision and hearing are senses particularly subject to declining in older age. Whether it’s hearing loss, glaucoma, macular degeneration or cataracts, all are best addressed if caught early. Advice for keeping eyes and ears sharp: protect your hearing and eyes with earplugs and sunglasses when appropriate, maintain a healthy weight and get regular hearing and vision tests.
- Stay young at heart. The Consumer Reports piece speaks to keeping your physical heart healthy through exercise, weight loss, etc. My view is that it’s equally important to stay spiritually young at heart. Everyone grows old, not everyone grows old and keeps their adventurous spirit fed.
- Guard your gut. Watch weight gain – it’s critical to the rest of your body’s health.
- Strengthen your back. According to the Washington Post piece on this subject, back pain is the nation’s second-leading cause of disability, trailing only arthritis. They recommend exercises that strengthen the back and abdomen and include Pilates and yoga for easing back pain.
- Protect hips and knees. Exercise is again key. Perhaps the Consumer Reports guide should have just included one point – exercise.
- Stay steady on your feet. Risk of falls is a major concern the older we get. Bones become brittle, so when balance becomes unstable and an individual falls, bones will often break and then complicate other areas of health.
- Sleep well, age well. People may not sleep as deeply as they did in their youth, but sleep is still critical to healthy aging. So ready . . set . . zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.