When is it too late to start “healthy aging”? According to Healthy Aging®, a national health initiative, it’s never too late. September is National Healthy Aging Month, so why not start or improve your healthy lifestyle now? There are a number of things you can do to improve your physical, mental and even social health as you age.
• Save your eyes The most important thing you can do for yourself is to get an annual eye exam. Most Americans do not know the risks and warning signs of diseases - like diabetes, glaucoma, cataracts and age-related macular degeneration - that could blind them if they don't seek timely detection and treatment, according to recent findings of the Survey of Public Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices Related to Eye Health and Disease.
• Get regular exercise Regular exercise is even more important for seniors than other age groups since the risk of disease and lost mobility is greater and the positive effects are realized more quickly. But, as we all know, the hardest part is getting started, so look for daily opportunities to exercise in work and play. Park several aisles away from the store or your office and walk briskly; team up with a buddy or join a group.
• Eat healthy foods We tend to think of healthy foods as bland and flavorless, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Find healthy foods you enjoy, experiment with new recipes, play with spices and seasonings to find unexpected new tastes you like. Grains, especially whole grains, are rich in dietary fiber, several B vitamins and minerals such as iron and magnesium. They help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and keep the digestive system functioning properly.
• Keep your memory active The processes of normal aging do not rob you of your memory. A decline in memory is not always a function of serious disease, like Alzheimer's. Sometimes memory loss is caused by factors that can be changed -- such as diet, medication misuse, depression, etc. Research showed that the very gradual declines in memory take place until age 70 -- when the pace increases, but not so much as to impair us. So keep your memory active by seeking out variety and challenges in your daily life: Take a class, play games, be with people. Pick up the phone now and call someone, just to chat.
• Stay socially active
Travel, watch television quiz shows such as Jeopardy!, laugh loud and often – start the day off with your newspaper’s comics section – volunteer your time and talents, get involved in a religious organization, team up with friends and find outings you enjoy as a group.
Grace Vickerie, RN-BC, BSN, WCC is the Director of Nursing, Bergen Regional Medical Center Long Term Care Division