Tips for aging well increasingly focus on mental health as well as keeping active.
Living a healthier lifestyle is the most common New Year’s resolution. It’s a resolution that takes on even more importance as we age. Losing weight, eating healthier, quitting smoking, and exercising are all important factors in staying healthy.
But research now shows that a positive attitude, social interaction and mental exercise may play an even more important a role in aging well.
Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine’s New England Centenarian Study found that people who were less uptight and friendlier lived longer, healthier lives. Other researchers including University of California Irvine psychologists conducting a study of people over 90 years old agree that mental engagement such as doing crossword puzzles, reading books, and even playing bridge prevents memory loss. Social connections including interaction with friends appear to play a critically important role. In isolation, a healthy human mind can go blank and quickly become disoriented, psychologists have found.
Laurie Edwards-Tate, MS, President and Founder of At Your Home Familycare, says she’s also found this to be true, based on her experience working in the home care field for 26 years. Edwards-Tate says maintaining mental toughness, choosing a positive outlook and forging close ties with family and friends can set the stage for healthy aging.
“We cannot always control what happens to us, but we can control our reaction to what happens,” said Edwards-Tate. “Gratitude and acceptance, taking personal responsibility and choosing to overlooking the negative and be happy despite life’s imperfections help people maintain a good quality of life.”
Edwards-Tate says resolving to push back against ageism is a resolution all of us can keep. “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you actually are in numbers? Paying attention to both your physical and mental health, having a purpose in life, connecting with others and above all, embracing resilience allows us to age well.”
Edwards-Tate says it’s not about denying aging or trying to stop the clock. It’s defying society’s negative expectations about what age means.
Edwards-Tate offers up her personal “Aging Well Checklist.” How many of these traits do you possess?
• Strong self-esteem
• A well defined inner compass
• Strong ethics and personal integrity
• Mental toughness
• Close loving ties with supportive family and friends
• Knowing your passions
• Doing activities you truly enjoy, not necessarily the ones others expect you to do
• Being able to sometimes say “no”
• Giving of yourself to charitable causes and to others
• Healthy eating habits on a consistent basis
• Caring for mind, body, and spirit
• Having a purpose to your life
• Taking personal responsibility for the quality of your life
• Acceptance of life’s ups and downs, including losses
• Gratitude for the good and even the “not-so-good”
• Overlooking the negative and embracing the positive
• Facing life realistically without losing your sense of wonder and discovery
• Choosing to be happy despite life’s imperfections
• Experiencing growth by working through the painful aspects of life
• Not settling for less than what will make you truly happy and healthy
• The determination to survive no matter what
• Resilience in the face of any challenge – the ability to pick yourself back up no matter what
• Rejecting ageism!