Weekly column in the Washington Times Communities by Laurie Edwards-Tate

We all know by now that losing weight, eating healthier, quitting smoking, and exercising are all important factors in living a longer, healthier life.

Research now shows that a positive attitude, social interaction and mental exercise may play an even more important a role in aging well than your physical wellbeing.

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.

These findings do not surprise me. After working in the private duty home care field for 27 years, I have learned from observing our clients that maintaining mental toughness, choosing a positive outlook and forging close ties with family and friends can set the stage for healthy aging.

The truth is that we cannot choose our gene pool. We cannot always control what happens to us. But we can always control our reaction to what happens. 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.

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. Isolation and depression are killers as deadly as cigarettes or obesity.

Based on my observations, I’ve put together my own “Aging Well Checklist.” How many of these traits do you possess?

  • Strong self-esteem
  • A well defined inner compass
  • Having a purpose to your life
  • Close loving ties with supportive family and friends
  • Mental toughness
  • Acceptance of life’s ups and downs, including losses
  • The determination to survive no matter what
  • Giving of yourself to charitable causes and to others
  • Strong ethics and personal integrity
  • Taking personal responsibility for the quality of your life
  • 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
  • Knowing your passions
  • Being able to sometimes say “no”
  • Doing activities you truly enjoy, not necessarily the ones others expect you to do
  • Healthy eating habits on a consistent basis
  • Caring for mind, body, and spirit
  • Experiencing growth by working through the painful aspects of life
  • Not settling for less than what will make you truly happy and healthy
  • Resilience in the face of any challenge – the ability to pick yourself back up no matter what
  • Rejecting ageism!

Until next time, enjoy the ride in good health!

NEXT WEEK: A Memorial Day Message

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