This article provides information and practical tips on successful aging. These suggestions for healthy aging are based on current research and data. Each section is broken down into a specific topic and may include links to online resources and recommendations of places in Denton County that can help you thrive as you age.
First, it is important to maintain good physical health by working with your doctor to make sure your blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, thyroid, and more are all within a healthy range. If you take medications make sure to take them as prescribed and talk to your doctor if you experience side effects or want to change your prescriptions or dosage. Abstaining from smoking cigarettes and using recreational drugs are of course another aspect of physical well-being.
Also, if you can maintain decent vision and hearing that will benefit you as you get older. It is important to make appropriate accommodations if that is something you are struggling with. If you notice your hearing is getting worse, then you might want to research your options for getting hearing aids. The unfortunate reality is Medicare and most private insurers do not cover the cost because it is deemed elective and not essential. Some insurance companies might pay for a small percentage, but it varies. There are a few assistance programs for people who cannot afford to pay out of pocket for hearing aids. See link at the end of this article. Also, hearing aids are usually tax deductible.
Vision loss occurs in old age as well and some people require prescription glasses or contacts. Some insurance plans or vision insurance will help pay for this. As you likely know, check with your insurance plan to go over benefits and what will count toward your deductible. There are also assistive technology devices for people who are blind. That link is placed at the end of this article.
It is important to engage in physical exercise that includes cardio, strength training, and stretching for approximately 30 minutes 5 days a week. It has been shown that getting adequate exercise has a positive impact on cognitive brain health. Chair exercises especially with light weights and resistance bands are great for older adults with limited mobility.
You can combine physical exercises with brain games. Make sure to check out the links to a few videos. Take time to research which exercises work well for you at your current strength and stamina. Exercise has been shown to help people live a longer, healthier, happier, and more independent life. You don’t have to go to a gym or run a marathon! Take a walk at the park or do chair exercises while streaming your favorite series or listening to a book on tape.
Eating a healthy well-balanced diet rich in nutrient dense foods like whole fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, beans, nuts, and whole grains as well as limiting sugar and processed foods are generally recommended. However, be aware that there are several diets people promote and a lot of misinformation out there even within the health and wellness community. Be skeptical of people who claim they are an expert but talk in absolutes and tell you to buy their miracle supplement and see instant results without having to change your diet or lifestyle. If it seems too good to be true it probably is. If someone uses fear mongering tactics, they are not the expert the call themselves.
Also, food can be expensive. Especially those labeled natural or organic. Try not to stress about that. You can still eat a reasonably healthy diet without buying organic ingredients. In fact, organic foods still use pesticides. They are just organic approved pesticides. There is not a major difference in health benefit of organic ingredients compared to conventional ingredients. So, if your budget does not have room to purchase organic that’s perfectly okay! If you want to learn more about nutrition, see studies linked below. Also, I have listed a few dietitians myself and others deem trustworthy and knowledgeable.
Staying hydrated and making sure you are getting the vitamins and minerals you need are essential. Aim to drink at least half your body weight in water. Also, try to get the vitamins and minerals you need from the foods you eat. Vitamins you purchase are not regulated meaning you have no way of knowing whether they contain what they say they do.
Also, despite prior recommendations about alcohol consumption and drinking in moderation, new research indicates there is zero benefit to moderate drinking or even drinking just a little. A link to an article explaining this new research and why previous studies were riddled with bias can be found at the end of this article.
Another pillar for healthy aging includes cognitive exercises that stimulate your brain and keep you engaged such as learning a new skill, playing a musical instrument, learning a new language, doing puzzles and word search books, joining a book club, and taking an online course. If you do these activities in a group setting you also get the benefit of social engagement. There are also smartphone apps and computer programs you can check out like Posit Science, Cognifit, CogMed, Brain Age, My Brain Trainer, Lumosity, and Elevate.
Getting good quantity and quality sleep is fundamental to having positive physical health, cognitive health, and mental health outcomes. Having good sleep hygiene, going to sleep and waking up at the same hour, limiting screen time, and not drinking alcohol prior to bedtime are important. If you want to know more about the stages of sleep and how sleep can enhance learning and memory make sure to check out the resource section of this article.
Many seniors are lonely and socially isolated. Finding ways to stay connected with family, friends, and peers is another important component to healthy aging. Being part of a community of like-minded and supportive individuals who help you grow and better yourself may also help you improve in other areas of successful aging. Volunteer Match, your local senior center, church groups, and other clubs are a few places I would suggest checking out.
Doing what you need to do to take care of your mental health is another pillar of healthy aging. Depression, anxiety, and grief are all too common and have a direct impact on people’s overall health. Having depression may make it difficult to engage in physical exercise even though exercise boosts mood. Someone with social anxiety might be hesitant to reach out to their peers thus losing out on social engagement. If you want to learn more about anxiety disorders and managing worry, make sure to check out one of my previous articles. Additionally, you can find several psychologists who have YouTube channels where they post mental health topics.
The last topic I would like to discuss is home safety. Seniors are more prone to falling and need a living space designed with safety in mind. For example, you can get rid of clutter, add better lighting, and add a ramp and grab bars to help with mobility and balance. Making these improvements give older adults a better chance of remaining in their home. If cost is a concern, I recommend checking out Hearts For Homes in Denton.
I hope these suggestions were helpful. I welcome you to share your own stories on aging with dignity and grace in the comment section below.
Current Research on Alcohol
Exercises for Seniors. Also includes brain training games to incorporate into fitness routine.
Learn about Nutrition
I recommend these experts! If you do not have an Instagram, you can probably find them on other social media platforms.
Erin aka Food Science Babe is Chemical Engineer and Food Scientist:
Dr. Adrian Chavez has a PhD in Nutrition and is an expert in the gut/brain connection.
Dr. Idz is board-certified in lifestyle medicine and has a master’s in nutritional research.
Calculate the serving size of fruits and veggies you would need to consume to experience any adverse effects from pesticide residues.
Short Form Video (Less than 30 minutes)
Successful Aging-7 Pillars of Brain Health- Dr. Lauren Bennett- Clinical Neuropsychologist
Long form videos (30 minutes or longer)
Learn about Sleep
Gina Poe: Use Sleep to Enhance Learning, Memory, and Emotional State- Huberman Lab Podcast
Learn about Nutrition
Debunking the Dirty Dozen (w/ Food Science Babe- Food Scientist)