"Birds who fly faster, live longer."
Positively Getting Older
We hear much about the negatives of aging - the pull of gravity and wearing down of systems. What are the positives?
With age, sociologic changes occur between aging individuals and family and friends due to the loss of peers and contemporaries -- a spouse, siblings, other relatives, old friends, and neighbors. This can lead to isolation unless a concerted effort is made to stay socially active. Getting out and being involved presents opportunities to meet new people. New friends may never replace the lost closeness shared with someone who knew you before your hair turned grey, or before your first child was born. But the support network that comes with sharing life with peers can counter loneliness and goes a long way toward dispelling feelings of isolation. The more people you interact with daily, the more chance there is to form new bonds. The more people there will be to bond with in years to come.
Being involved and busy, focuses on the present and future.
If we lose close contemporaries, we have less opportunity to touch others. As babies thrive when cuddled and touched, so do adults. Opportunities to hug and be hugged diminish with losses. It's important to create new ones. A handshake or pat on the back helps. Go out of your way to practice these, making it okay for others to touch you. Grandchildren can provide opportunities for physical closeness. If you don't see them often create opportunities through surrogate grandparenting. Retirement can be a beginning, not an end.
Physical Changes of Aging
Physical changes of aging are the easiest to recognize. Diseases that affect the elderly are not the same thing as changes which occur as part of the aging process.
Want to better understand some of the changes that accompany aging?
US Deaths by Age and Disease
Below is the Global Burden of Diseases (GBD) data for the United States from 2013. More on this topic here.
UPDATED DATA at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation: check it out here.
source: Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). GBD Cause Patterns. Seattle, WA: IHME, University of Washington, 2013.
Metabolic Slowdown with Age
The slowdown and changes in metabolism that occur with age can result in more than needing to eat less and exercise more to keep the pounds from piling on.
As we age, we may process drugs more slowly, or become more prone to drug reactions and interactions, than the younger population.
Add to this the fact that many of the elderly are seen by a variety of specialists, each who prescribe drugs that treat their field of expertise. But some of these drugs interact with other drugs. Each physician, or one physician needs to accept responsibility for reviewing the regime of drugs taken, and reviewing it against possible drug/drug interactions. Drug/Drug, Drug/Food and Drug/Laboratory Test Interactions information is available on this page by the Federal Drug Administration.
Physiological Changes in Sedentary Adults
Physically active people are able to reduce the course of the physiological effect of aging.
Here are some known changes to be aware of:
A Positive Attitude
New stimuli and a positive attitude are attributed to "successful" aging. (It's not enough to just tick off the birthdays.) Specifics to think about to achieve this are:
New Attitude on Successful Aging
Researchers have defined successful aging as an absence of or low level of disease and disability. A study of more than 500 elders aged 60 to 98 challenges that notion. It turns out that people who think they are aging well are not necessarily the healthiest individuals. Optimism and effective coping styles (or attitude) were found to be the keys to aging successfully rather than traditional measures of health and wellness.
The study used subjective reports by the participants, all of whom lived independently, and the sample of individuals matched the national averages of medical and mental health conditions. Also, those who regularly engaged in such activities as reading and writing and community socializing gave themselves higher scores than those who did not. And in contradiction to longtime received wisdom, volunteer activities were not found to exert the same influence on participants. Thus, those things leading to successful aging are well within an individual's control. The key is adopting personal coping mechanisms as difficulties come along, and remaining as physically, socially, and mentally active as possible in one's circumstances.
This study was released at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology's (ACNP) Annual Meeting, the research was conducted at and funded by the Sam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging at the University of California-San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine.
Overcoming Obstacles to Happiness
Can seniors who are unfulfilled and dissatisfied find new and effective methods to achieve happiness? The answer is YES. For most people, a conscious desire to change plus learning a few techniques is all it takes. Whether you wish to become more creative, more loving, develop new friendships, or find new and inspiring hobbies, such changes are within reach.
You must become a believer in the power of your mind to change negative attitudes to positive ones in all that you do. Now is a time to look at growing older as a blessing and not a handicap. Retirement is a truly unique period in our lives; not to avail yourself of ways to become more creative and happy is tantamount to giving away your greatest opportunity to achieve fulfillment and well-being.
You need to overcome any residual belief that your life is now impoverished. It isn't and won't be. You haven't lost your spirit or inner resources that have guided you during your life. You must not become a victim of conditions that are now mainly out of your control. You need to believe that you can and will rise above any difficulties through the power of your own thinking.
Learn to use mental imagery exercises to overcome negative mindsets or beliefs and convert them to positive mindsets. Similar techniques are used by artists, actors, athletes, writers, teachers, salespeople, and others. By believing in the exercises and in your own power you can change your mind and behavior. It is not difficult to achieve.
The following is an example of a mental imagery exercise:
Sit in a comfortable chair. Close your eyes. Take several deep breaths and feel your body relax. Now breathe normally. Visualize your entire body relaxing. Feel the tension draining from your mind, as well as your body. Focus on any negative beliefs that you feel are making you uncomfortable, less efficient, negative, or disturbed. Whatever your beliefs are, such as boredom, laziness, or procrastination, see yourself as bored or lazy or unable to do anything. Exaggerate how you look and feel.
In an instance, quickly change your feelings and appearance and see yourself as very positive, upbeat, and the opposite of your negative self. You have completely changed into a positive person. Some people see themselves as leaping into the air or even flying.
Now, convincingly, repeat, "I will never feel bored or lazy again. I feel wonderful and ready to find my place in the world."
Imagery is a powerful mental tool. If the idea appeals to you then you need to practice every day. The entire exercise takes about ten to twelve seconds and can be repeated several times at a sitting. I suggest you do it 5 to 20 times a day and continue it as part of your program to make your retirement fulfilling and satisfying.
By realizing that you have the power within you to change, you will already have started on a new path. You will be surprised at what you can accomplish and the gratification you will achieve.
- Provided by Marvin H. Berenson, M.D,. Clinical Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at the USC Keck School of Medicine.
Healthy Aging (nutrition)
Getting enough fruits and vegetables is essential to maintaining a healthy diet as you age. Still, many seniors find it important to add a multivitamin to help round out their diets. Whether you choose multivitamins formulated for seniors, or you simply choose a vitamin that meets your specific needs, vitamin supplementation can be a great way to help support immunity and improve overall health.
Remaining Socially Active
For you females, the Red Hat Society™ offers an excellent venue to stay socially active. This society has evolved into a worldwide women's movement, changing the perception of aging women. This organization uses the iconic Red Hat to have fun and bond as sisters as they travel through life together.
Red Hatters are focused on women over 50. This worldwide sisterhood has nearly 40,000 chapters across the US in all 50 states and in more than 30 foreign countries. Each chapter averages about 20-25 members. Their full regalia for outings include red hats and purple clothing. Membership includes a diverse network of women including working women and retirees, grandmothers, golfers, attorneys, teachers, Olympians and entertainers.
For more information, visit their website.
Creating Better Lives for Seniors
A very cool example is something we found in England: ExtraCare Care Homes enables older people to live a healthier, active and independent lifestyle in a network of inspirational communities that represent a modern alternative to the traditional care home. The trust operates 12 retirement villages and 17 smaller housing developments across the Midlands and the North. Each ExtraCare resident can expect a safe, secure future, renting or buying a spacious and affordable home with care and a wide range of social opportunities to enjoy. ExtraCare was established in 1988. The Charity (The ExtraCare Charitable Trust, registered charity number 327816) supports over 3,700 older people in 17 housing schemes and 12 villages across the Midlands and the North of England.
Check out our Housing Section for a wide range of housing options open to Seniors in the U.S..
Education for Senior Citizens
Did you know that taking a class in just about any subject can improve your cognitive abilities, rejuvenate your memory, and have fun all at the same time? Recent scientific studies clearly show that senior citizens who stay mentally active enjoy all of these rewards. Get more information with links to low-cost classes in our senior education section.
Drunk Driving Awareness
Drunk driving is one of America's deadliest problems. Too many people still fail to understand that alcohol and driving don't mix. Impaired driving is no accident, nor is it a victimless crime.
Much of the tragedy from drunk driving can be prevented with a few simple precautions before going out to celebrate:
And remember, Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Drunk. If you know someone who is about to drive or ride while impaired, take their keys and help them make other arrangements to get to where they are going safely.
National Health Care and Resource Organizations