Why do some people seem to be healthier, others adapt to changes better and others are as enthusiastic as ever? Much of how we age isn’t just in our genes but how we’ve taken care of ourselves through the years. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Life is a journey not a destination.”
Roger Landry, a physician expert on aging, offers the following advice. He is a former chief of Aerospace, Occupational and Preventive Medicine for the U.S. Air Force and the founder of All Ways Healthy, a consulting firm for population health for all ages.
- Enjoy the children in your life. Children bring wonder, renewal and a sense of optimism to our lives, just as we bring wisdom, order and stability to theirs. Make the most of your encounters with children because they enliven you as much as you empower them.
- Keep moving. Physical activity is the closest thing to a fountain of youth. Staying active can help prevent or lessen heart disease, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, dementia and more. The latest good news is that short amounts of activity can add up throughout your day. Aim for at least 30 minutes a day. Be sure to visit with your doctor before starting an exercise program.
- Eat for the long haul. Avoid skipping meals. Research shows lack of nutrition may result in dementia later in life. Mom was right – eat your fruits and vegetables! Adjust what you eat as your metabolism slows.
- Wherever you are, be there. Don’t let your chattering mind take you from this moment. Find pursuits such as music, art, writing or enjoying nature, which will help you express yourself.
- Lower your risks. By identifying health risks and working with your doctor to eliminate threats, you can likely function at very high levels for a longer time. Don’t skip on regular physicals, and be proactive about your health through the years.
- Use it or lose it. If you want to have the ability to do something as you get older, you must do it now. Challenge yourself physically, mentally and socially to always be at your best.
- Challenge your mind. A lot of mental ability may be lost with age because of a lack of use, but by continuing to learn throughout life, we can grow new connections in our brains. To stay mentally alert, do things such as take courses, converse with friends, play word games, sing or play music, and read.
- Never act your age. Age is an attitude – not a number. Following your heart and acting how you feel will keep you dynamic, creative and living life to the fullest. Go ahead, dance in the kitchen.
- Stay connected. Having a network of friends and being part of a community is the thing most associated with happiness. People who are socially connected have much lower risks for all diseases. People living in retirement communities have ample opportunities for interaction, lifelong learning, exercise and activity, and healthy dining.
- Laugh. In studies on people who have lived to be 100, the most commonly displayed traits are humor and optimism. Laughter stimulates the immune system, protects us from disease and is a good work-out.