September is Healthy Aging Month!
September is Healthy Aging Month, a time to examine how well we are promoting health in our mind, body and soul. How well have you been treating yourself in the past and how would you like to improve your health going forward? You’re never too old to create or re-create a new positive change in your life that makes you happier and healthier moving forward. This could include changing careers, going back to work part-time, starting your own business, exploring a new hobby, getting out and socializing more, or working on personal health issues. Let’s look at ways to stay active and vibrant as we continue into our senior years.
Feeding Your Mind
Many studies show that keeping your brain active can help promote health and reduce the onset of memory disorders, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s. Just as we exercise our physical body, we need to exercise our brain to keep it agile and functioning at peak performance. Challenge yourself with crossword puzzles, brain games, trivia games, chess, scrabble, sudoku, card games and jigsaw puzzles. For those comfortable with video games, perhaps having young grandchildren who play them, it can be a great way to keep only good hand and eye coordination as well as sleuthing your way through puzzles in an adventure setting.
There are also some great online websites that promote brain health and testing. Luminosity.com is one of those sites where you start by taking a baseline assessment and through a scientific process they present you continuously challenging puzzles that keep increasing your mental acuity.
AARP also has a portal, called Staying Sharp, for online brain challenge activities, too. They state that science has discovered that trying new things and learning new things are necessary in helping to strengthen our brains. In an interview with AARP, Harvard Brain Scientist Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor reiterates these findings by stating that it’s probably in our brains best interest for us to veer off our regular path and break the mold every once in a while: “As we get older, we routinize our self so we have this lovely little routine that fits in a box. So what you’re saying to your brain is ‘it’s okay, you only have to be the size of the box.’ But that’s not what we want. We want new—new [and] unfamiliar. And that’s what you want to do, you want to keep your brain cells excited.” (1)
You can also break out good old fashioned board games to engage others in sleuthing and strategizing your way through an adventure. It’s also a great way to get your grandchildren or other little ones exposed to hands-on board games that foster interactive social engagement instead of the isolation that might occur with current video games.
On a personal note: I enjoy both board and card games as well as video games. While I do have some video games that are single player adventure games, I try to have several multi-player games around to wrangle in the kids and friends to use as a social and bonding tool. These include 1 to 4 player sports and adventure games that they find interesting too. We also try to equally break out board games (Monopoly, Clue and Scrabble) and card/dice games (Uno, Yahtzee) to keep us challenged and socially engaged!
Feeding Your Body
As we age our metabolism and bodies change. We must adapt to those changes to keep ourselves healthy and happy moving through our senior years. Here are some areas we need to examine to see if positive changes need to be made going forward:
Make sure to mark the time for your annual physical at the doctor’s office. This is the time to get your joints, blood pressure, weight, blood work, and other health items checked to either make sure you are in tip-top shape or address any ailments to restore your good health.
Are you eating well enough to support your current lifestyle? Be sure to eat plenty of veggies, leafy greens, healthy fats and protein to maintain good muscle tone and gut health. Limit your carbohydrates, especially sugars, to avoid blood sugar spikes and the potential of developing Type 2 Diabetes. Try to make sure your food is fresh, like from a local farmer’s market or farm, and preferably organic and non-gmo (genetically modified). Try new recipes and spice up your meals to keep mealtime interesting and pleasing to the palette.
How about your nutritional supplements? Are you taking daily multi-vitamins or other essential supplements to make sure your body is getting what it needs to maintain a healthy system? These could include vitamins and minerals like D3 for strong bones and healthy skin, magnesium for strong muscles and joints, vitamin C to support your immune system or others your doctor may have prescribed to help you boost or maintain healthy body functions.
Are you watching your weight? Maintaining a healthy weight range will help with better mobility, reduced wear and tear on joints, especially the knees and hips, and reduce the chances of contracting diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes.
Vision and Dental
Make sure you make those annual check-ups to ensure your vision has not changed or you do not need glasses or a stronger prescription. The world around us is beautiful and we want to make sure we can continue to take in those images as crisply and cleanly as possible!
Equally important to our vision is our ability to eat a variety of textured foods. Getting our annual dental check-up and cleaning is important for maintaining healthy smiles and chewing healthy foods. Is it time for bridges, partials or even full dentures? Work with your dental team to get the best solution to support your eating and smiling needs.
As we age our skin tends to lose its elasticity and become more wrinkled, creating a “crepe paper” type effect. Your skin is the largest elimination organ in your body and sheds about a quarter of its cells each day. Make sure you treat it well from the inside by eating a good healthy diet low in sugars and drink plenty of water for proper hydration.
Apply hydrating moisturizes to your skin after bathing to maintain supple skin. Apply a sunscreen when spending time outside. We need to avoid the risk of burns and skin cancers from overexposure to the sun.
Bring any changes in your skin to your doctor’s attention immediately for proper examination and care. This could include reactions to bug bites and bee stings, color changes of existing beauty marks and skin tags, changes in skin texture (leather-like), scratches, cuts or wounds that don’t heal normally, changes to skin pigmentation (like red or purplish in color), and any unexplained bruising.
Stay active! While trying out new things is fun and exciting, know your limits and avoid exercises that cause injury, pain or harm. Challenge yourself by increasing the amount of steps or distance you walk during the week or perhaps laps you swim in the pool or even your bicycle distance. Whether you do stretching (Yoga, Pilates, etc.), walking, swimming, biking, hiking, cardio, or other type of preferred exercise plan be safe and keep moving. In fact, invite a friend to join you to make the exercise routine more enjoyable.
Feeding Your Soul
This is an important, but understated, need we have in addition to making sure we have healthy bodies and minds. What motivates you to get up in the morning? What makes you happy and is something you look forward to doing? Do you have a passion for arts, crafts, travel, companionship, starting a business, visiting family and friends, music, working with your hands, shopping, or other activity? Do what makes you happy and fuels your passion (as long as it is legal and you don’t hurt anyone else)!
Surround yourself in positivism. Think and speak positive thoughts and check any negative ones at the door. Find new friends if your old ones are overly negative and don’t bring you joy and happiness. Thinking positive thoughts and exuding positive feelings really helps your overall mental and physical health. Studies show that it also lowers blood pressure and stress levels and bolsters the immune system. This is something we need at any age!
Make sure you are feeding your mind, body and soul all the good things life has to offer! Find your passion(s) and live life to the fullest going forward in your senior years!
To Your Improved Health!
- (1) AARP – Staying Sharp
- AARP – Global Council on Brain Health
- SeniorAdvisor.com – 6 Classic Games that Are Good for Your Brain
- Healthy Aging – Celebrate September Is Healthy Aging® Month By Reinventing Yourself!