Aging often has a negative connotation rooted in cultural stereotypes or discrimination that is based on an individual or group's age; this is known as ageism. As it turns out, many of the myths and shameful feelings we associate with aging are both untrue and unnecessary. While we may not always be “spring chickens,” we can in fact teach “old dogs new tricks” and continue to live vivacious, and even more meaningful lives.
Myth Debunked: "It’s all downhill from here"… Definitely not!
Satisfaction surveys have found that happiness actually increases after middle age, and this pattern shows up around the globe; referred to as the Happiness U-Curve, the data shows that on average, life satisfaction drops during midlife and begins its recovery
around age 50, reaching its peak toward the end of life.
However, aging is definitely “not for the faint of heart”, meaning there are inevitable aging obstacles that take strength, courage, and thankfully, wisdom. While exercise and a nourishing, balanced diet are clearly high on the healthy aging priority list, let’s consider some other ways we can elevate our elder years.
1. Mind Fitness
Brain teasers, puzzles, crosswords, and other games that require a good amount of brain power for at least 30 minutes a day can actually create new neural pathways in the brain and reverse cognitive decline! At a time in our lives when our brain power "should be decreasing", we can actually gain brain cells by improving those neural pathways.
The mind also loves music! Feeding the mind with music as a method of mind fitness is a small, but powerful action. Many studies show that music therapy can be an invaluable tool to regain memory function. Whereas the brain can forget words, names, and places easily, melodies are harder to forget. Music can allow for improvements in auditory and verbal memory, focused attention, and mood. So queue up your favorite songs and line up those fun brain-boosting games!
According to public health expert Cathleen M. Connell, Ph.D., M.S., “Social support has long been linked with positive physical and mental health outcomes for people across the lifespan and pets provide a naturally occurring sense of support.” For those of you who have had pets before, you know how much love and light comes with pet ownership. Studies show that pet ownership goes beyond providing us with cute companionship, giving us both emotional and physical support.
Pet ownership is linked to positive health outcomes across a wide variety of metrics. In addition to heightened self-esteem, pet owners tend to be more physically fit, less lonely, and more extroverted than individuals who do not own pets, according to Allen McConnell of Miami University in Ohio. The American Heart Association has even found a correlation between owning a dog and having a lowered chance of risk for heart failure and heart disease! See Youtube video about How Pets Contribute to Healthy Aging
Everyone loves a good massage, but according to studies, the health benefits of massage go beyond just a nice feeling. There is specific research that shows that massage is especially helpful for the health of seniors. There are many benefits ranging from pain relief, to improved immune function, and feeling more connected and cared for. While deep tissue may not be the route to go for seniors, gentler massages such as Swedish Massage, Manual Lymphatic Drainage, and hand and foot reflexology can be the perfect therapeutic touch. For example, hand massages and reflexology can help immensely if you suffer from arthritis, carpal tunnel, or other chronic hand pain issues; mobility and range of motion can also be improved. Foot massages and foot reflexology can help with neuropathy and improve circulation, energy levels, sleep and so much more.
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No matter where you are on your health journey, and no matter what age you are, you can always improve your quality of life. Work to be physically, mentally, and socially active. We need to put the work in to ensure that our bodies, our minds, and our relationships are strong. Don’t let physical setbacks or judgements from society tell you how to live your life. Older folks are a huge asset to our society, not a burden. With age often comes experience, wisdom, stability, and other unique qualities that younger people just don’t have yet. Seniors, try to help and support other seniors AND try to show the younger folk how to really live!