The great playwright George Bernard Shaw once said, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing “. As an Anti-Aging Medicine doctor, I couldn’t agree more. For you to stay healthy as you get older, you have to both take care of your physical health as well as your social and emotional health. You can retire from a job but you should never retire from life.
That’s why, in honor of “National Active Aging Week” this November, I’d like to share with you the many health and social benefits of Active Ageing. I’ll also give you some recommendations as to what you can do to promote your own wellness in 7 key areas.
Are You Growing Old or Actively Ageing?
People over age 55 are the largest population group in our country today. And, they will continue to be that for at least the next 20 years. That’s a huge amount of people who can put a lot of strain on the healthcare system. Physical illnesses, as well as the emotional strain of disconnected lives, may really tax our resources.
That is, unless, seniors get active assistance in promoting wellness in several key areas. The International Council on Active Ageing was founded in 2001 to address just the specific physical, emotional and social needs of this large and diverse group of people. Their national conference held November 10-13, 2014, in Orlando, Florida will focus on these needs and ways they can help seniors continue to live well and contribute to society. Their simple philosophy, that’s also the core of Anti-Aging Medicine as well, is that everyone has the ability and right to lead a full life at any age.
There are 7 areas of Wellness that the ICAA, and Anti-Aging Medicine, focus on. They’re all areas that have a direct impact on you to ensure good health as you get older:
1. Emotional: Staying well and youthful emotionally as you get older hinge on a balance between physical health and social outlets. First, your physical health has to be good in order for your emotional health to follow. Things like too little sleep, nutritionally poor diet, conditions like type 2 diabetes, hormone imbalances, heart issues, too little exercise, can all take their toll on your emotional health. Depression, memory issues, inability to concentrate, etc can be secondary to physical health issues. Getting these physical conditions under control can help reduce emotional concerns as you get older.
2. Vocational: Many older people need to keep working instead of collecting retirement benefits just yet. Agencies dedicated to finding the older person meaningful employment are available. In addition, update your job skills to reflect the current job market and make yourself more marketable. If you’re technology shy, take a class in how social media works in business, or even new technological gadgets. Did you know that many people over age 60 don’t like to text simply because they just don’t know how to?
3. Physical: If your physical health is out of control, just about everything else in your life will be as well. The state of your physical health is the core of everything else you want to do. Do the best you can to ensure that you get enough sleep, exercise and optimal nutrition and see your doctor regularly to manage existing conditions better.
4. Spiritual: Research shows that older people who stay connected to others with similar spiritual beliefs are happier and feel less stressed. Chronic stress can undermine both physical and emotional health at any age. Learn how to meditate or even join a spiritually like-minded group that meets regularly.
5. Intellectual: Reading, taking classes, attending lectures, learning how to play a musical instrument or even just how to fix that leaky faucet are some of the ways to keep your brain neurons regenerating. Not only does your brain stay healthier and more youthful but the rest of you does too. Researchers recently revealed findings about genius Albert Einstein’s brain. At his advanced age at death, his brain had none of the damage that most brains his age do. In short, Einstein had the brain of a much younger person. They concluded that it was Einstein’s constant learning and problem solving that stimulated his brain cells to continually regenerate keeping his brain, and the rest of him, much younger.
6. Social: Your life is bound to change as you get older. Death of a spouse, or close friend, divorce, retirement, loss of transportation, can all create social isolation for older people. Loneliness and chronic depression can set in and affect your physical health. Research out of the National Academy of Sciences revealed that older people who are socially isolated have a 26% higher death risk than those who stay socially active. So, don’t watch other people live their life on television, get out there 2-3 times a week to do something you enjoy and meet new people. Volunteer, get a part time job, join a like-minded activity group (Meetups.com is perfect for this). Learning how to use social media can help you re-connect with friends who’ve moved.
7. Environmental: Staying connected to Nature helps people stay connected to life itself. You can do this by riding your bike, or taking a walk, growing a garden, joining “green”-focus groups, visiting wildlife habitats like your local zoo, or one in a nearby city you’ve never been to.
To stay healthy and happy as you grow older, it’s important to stay active, both physically and socially, and continue to develop new interests and friends to share them with. There are many partner agencies throughout the United States that are part of the ICAA. These are made up of diverse physical fitness, spiritual, social agencies who can offer you the resources you need. To find an agency in your community, visit their website (see the link below). They can help empower you to stay physically well, mentally happy, independent, and in control of your own destiny as you get older.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.
International Council on Active Ageing, http://www.icaa.cc/about_us/communityoutreach.htm
Social Isolation May Shorten The Lives of Seniors, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/social-isolation-may-shorten-the-lives-of-seniors/