Is Healthy Aging Possible?
5 action steps you can take now to promote healthy aging.
The population of older adults is growing faster than in the past. Many older adults are living with chronic conditions and or decreased mobility. To address the aging population the United Nations and World Health Organization (WHO) launched the “Decade of Healthy Ageing” in 2021 to focus on helping people age well. WHO defines healthy aging as “the process of developing and maintaining the functional ability that enables wellbeing in older age.” (WHO, 2020)
“Healthy aging is not the absence of disease or disability; rather, it’s someone’s functional ability and capacity to do what one wants and values.” - Marcia Ory, Center for Population Health and Aging
Healthy aging is about creating habits, environments, and opportunities to do the things you value. There are things we can do now to promote healthy aging.
Assess your modifiable risk factors
Modifiable risk factors are factors that impact our health and that we can change. There are nonmodifiable risk factors such as race, gender, age, and genetics that we can't control. But the good news is there are things we can actively choose to do to improve our health.
Exercise - Motion is Lotion
Staying physically active is one of the best things you can do to support healthy aging. A body in motion stays in motion. Staying active not only helps your mental health, but it also reduces arthritis pain and increases your range of motion. Studies have also shown that exercise improves bone health by increasing oxygen and blood flow to help nutrients circulate joints. Movement strengthens muscles around your joints, while decreasing bone loss. The trick is finding ways to stay in motion that fits into YOUR life. Look for activities that are fun and easy to do. If you have joint pain, look for activities that are low impact like swimming, yoga, and pilates.
Eat well (You are what you eat)
As we age our bodies need FEWER calories but MORE nutrients to perform well. Eating well can not only support your health but can even prevent conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Look for foods that are nutrient-dense to get the most bang for your buck. Some food high in minerals and nutrients are:
Fruits and vegetables- the more variety of colors, the better
Whole grains like whole wheat bread, oatmeal, and brown rice
Low fat milk and cheeses
Lean meat, poultry, and eggs
Beans and nuts
Smoothies and protein shakes are a great and easy way to pack in fruits and vegetables. Check out these recipes below:
Sleep Well - Be Well
Sleep is as important to health as diet and exercise. Getting good sleep improves your brain, mood, and health. Adversely, not getting enough sleep can increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and dementia. The National Institute on Aging recommends 7-9 hours of sleep each night. For more information on sleep, including tips to help you get a good night's sleep click here:
Social isolation and loneliness can have a major negative impact on your health, mood, and cognition. Staying connected with your family, friends, and community can help you stay physically and mentally healthy. Staying connected can be as simple as calling your friends. We are all in this game of life and aging together. We are better together! Follow our Facebook HERE for more ideas and resources to stay active in your community.
As an occupational therapist, I usually look at 3 different ways I might be able to help someone keep doing the things they value.
1. Adapting the activity
2. Modifying the environment
3. Providing exercises or activities to improve factors like balance, strength, or activity tolerance
The WHO emphasizes creating opportunities and environments to do what you value. Sometimes the easier solution to a problem might be adapting to the activity or environment. With that being said, I see many clients who report feeling not successful if they have to adapt. There is no shame in adapting or modifying to reach your goals. I am here to help and support this process.
“The wise adapt themselves to circumstances, as water molds itself to the pitcher.” – Chinese Proverb
The aging process can be overwhelming and taxing. If you are struggling, please reach out to your primary care physician or trusted healthcare provider. You are an expert in you! Make sure you are taking care of yourself and seeking help when you feel like something isn't right.
P.S. - I recommend taking a look at the Decade of Healthy Aging report from the UN and WHO. I have it listed below in the references. It is pretty cool to see all the work being done to support older adults and healthy aging.
Thank you for being here,