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HEALTHY AGING MONTH: IT'S EASY TO DO WHEN YOU KNOW HOW!
September is designated “Healthy Aging Month” to bring focus on the many positive aspects of growing older. Wisdom, self-discovery, and maturity are just a few that come to mind. Being over age 50 or beyond doesn’t mean we have to be “over” having fun and living our best lives. Healthy aging in midlife and even into our senior years doesn’t require complicated or expensive regimes. Rather, we simply need to find ways to fit more good habits into our lives and let the bad ones go!
As we say goodbye to the leisurely pace of summer days and hello to the promise of crisp, invigorating fall weather, September is the perfect time to take stock of where we are in our lives and what we’d might like to change or add in the coming year. Rather than focus on what we could have done better in the past, let’s look forward to a “fresh start” and the opportunity to try something new!
Just as kids everywhere head back to school and begin a new grade to further their education and development, we more “mature” students 😊 can also challenge ourselves by taking on a new “subject” or two to continue our own personal growth. Adults actually have an advantage over our younger “classmates,” in that most school-age kids have little choice about what they can learn. They’re required to learn the same basic subjects…math, language, history, and science, etc. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like or do well in a particular subject… you still must take and pass the class to progress to the next level.
On the contrary, adults can choose what, when and where we want to learn! By learning something new and mindfully applying that knowledge in our daily lives, we stimulate new, brain cell growth and improve cognitive function, keeping us healthier and happier as we age. In turn” healthy adults are known to remain independent longer and better connected to the people, places, and things they love. That myriad of benefits is more than enough motivation needed to take a good look at ourselves, our interests and passions, and commit to trying a new activity. Below I’ve shared a few personal experiences and tips from my own, “healthy aging” journey I hope will encourage and inspire you to learn something new!
6 ESSENTIAL “BE’s” FOR HEALTHY AGING
As I get older, I’ve found great strength in starting each day with spiritual reading and reflection. When we take time to be “quiet” each morning, we better equip ourselves to handle whatever stress the day brings and have more energy for “outside the box” problem solving.
Some years ago, I was feeling overwhelmed and anxiety-ridden during a particularly challenging life situation. I knew I needed to make a significant change to better cope and find meaning in life’s inevitable ups and downs, as well as stay healthy and be there for my family. It was then I made the commitment to begin each day with quiet time, prayer, and inspirational reading before allowing anything else to permeate my private space…except coffee, of course…lots of coffee! Emails, messages, daily news, etc. all wait until I’m ready to take on the day. Keeping faithful to this seemingly small habit continues to pay huge dividends, enabling me to approach each day with intention, positivity, and a healthy perspective!
In addition to emotional well-being, recent studies suggest that positivity is associated with improved health and immunity to disease. Surround yourself with positive people and avoid the naysayers!
Just one of the many ill-effects of the restrictions brought on by the pandemic was the gaining of unwanted pounds. Many of us were not used to being homebound and whether we overindulged in baking our own daily bread or became addicted to 1000-piece puzzles, we somehow ate more and moved less. Tired of just complaining and accepting our Covid weight gain as inevitable, a very dear and clever friend decided to do something about it. She organized and hosted a “Biggest Loser” contest and put up $500 prize in prize money to be awarded to the winner. We had weekly weigh-ins and she gave out silly prizes for different categories to keep us all accountable. Week after week, our “can-do” host encouraged and rewarded us whenever we made the slightest bit of progress. When the contest ended just before Thanksgiving, many had lost significant amounts of weight, including our beloved hostess. Although I’d struggled throughout and only lost 3lbs, I realized I’d gained a precious gift of unexpected camaraderie, levity and a sense of purpose during a very lonely, confusing and frightening period. That prize…priceless!
Most people understand the benefits of staying active, especially as we grow older. However, it’s often easier said than done to keep disciplined. The key is to find an activity you love to do!
After Covid restrictions kept me away from my neighborhood gym and favorite fitness classes for more than a year, I had trouble motivating myself to return to the “bare bones” classes being offered once they re-opened and I was fully vaccinated. Being a group exercise devotee my entire adult life, I knew I had to find another exercise program I could be passionate about but felt stuck somehow. I was running errands in town one day when I happened to pass by a boxing gym. I’d seen it before and had briefly remembered how much I’d enjoyed kickboxing classes in my early 40’s, before dismissing the memory as just something I “used to do.” This time, however, I felt a strong urge to pull over and check it out. Inside, a friendly instructor greeted me, explained a bit about the program and invited me to try a class the next day. I showed up, though leery when I noted the other participants were all 20, 30 somethings, I pushed myself to keep up. The 80’s disco party playlist blasting was silly but energizing, and I didn’t even realize how hard I was working. After class I immediately signed up and committed to 3 classes/week and haven’t looked back! I’m feeling stronger and more empowered with each class I take and am filled with gratitude to have re-discovered an old passion that’s making me feel “new” again!
Flexibility is defined as the quality of bending easily without breaking. Indeed!
My 82-year-old mother-in-law recently moved into a senior’s community, something she probably never planned on or wanted to do. Summoning the courage to move forward with the support of family and friends, she found the strength to adapt and found a lovely community just right for her. Because of her friendly attitude, she was immediately selected to be the “RA” of her floor, enabling her to meet many new and interesting people. A couple weeks ago she hurried my husband off the phone citing “I don’t want to be late for “bocce!” a game she’d never played before. Though she’s currently challenged with two unrelated, health crises, she continues to be open to change and thrive in her new home. During a recent visit, she excitedly asked us if we knew how to play Mahjong (no) as she had just learned how to play. Talk about flexibility and a desire to learn new things!
Kindness means offering your best self to others without expecting anything in return.
At the end of the day, when your head hits the pillow, there’s nothing more satisfying than to know you showed kindness to another person in need and made a positive difference in their day. Few people realize, however, how being kind benefits the “giver.” Our well-being and good fortune are improved when we give of ourselves, giving us strength to try new things. Kindness pushes the body to produce serotonin, the “feel-good” chemical that provides healing and calm, and also lowers blood pressure. Kindness also decreases pain, by generating endorphins, our body’s natural “painkiller,” and kindness reduces depression and can even delay mortality. Though the list of benefits goes on, I think the case is made. Remember, smile and the world smiles back at you!
Take some time to reflect on the essence of who you are, your strengths and gifts and what you really love to do. Then act on it!
Over the course of the pandemic, most of us have had time for some personal reflection. It’s important to contemplate the true essence of who we are and how to use our unique gifts to improve our own lives, and hopefully others as well. I’m blessed with the roles mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, caregiver, and realize I’m happiest when I’m able to encourage others and bring joy into their lives. Pretty simple stuff, but I see myself as a lifelong cheerleader of sorts and strive to project a positive attitude no matter what the challenge. I’ve even started practicing cheerleading “jumps” at age 60 and am delighted at how much fun it is to literally jump for joy!
Capital City Nurses provides companionship care and in-home nursing care, servicing the areas of Washington, DC, Great Falls, and Alexandria, VA, and Potomac, Chevy Chase, and Bethesda, MD. To learn more about our home care nursing, or to learn more information on Healthy Aging Month reach out to our team today by calling us at (866) 807-7307.