As you age, your body experiences changes that can also affect your lifestyle. Aging also comes with its own set of rewards – retirement, self-confidence, and welcoming grandchildren. Despite some of the challenges of aging, there are simple steps you can take to make sure you thrive in your golden years.
Baby boomers become seniors
Following World War II the American population experienced an upswing, and a generation named “Baby Boomers” to describe the phenomenon. When taking Baby Boomers into account, there are now 46 million older Americans that make up the population. By 2060 that number will more than double to a whopping 96 million according to The Population Reference Bureau. Needless to say, the increasing presence of older Americans makes aging a hot topic.
Challenges of aging
The human body goes through natural changes as it ages. These include:
- Your bones become thinner and more brittle
- Your heart may grow slightly enlarged, the walls may thicken, and your heart rate may lower
- Your brain and nervous system can affect your reflexes and even your senses
- Your digestive tract becomes more firm and rigid and does not contract as often
- Your senses including your vision and hearing are not quite as keen as before
- Your enamel that protects your teeth can begin to wear and tear
- Your skin loses its elasticity and may start to sag and wrinkle
While bodily changes are a natural part of aging, but they don't have to slow you down. There's a lot you can do to protect your body and keep it as healthy as possible!
5 Ways to Thrive in Your Golden Years
Don’t get weighed down
As you age, you may lose muscle mass, and your metabolism may burn fewer calories. Maintaining a healthy weight is extremely important for any age, but even more important for adults reaching their golden years. An ideal fit weight varies from person to person, so ask your doctor what weight is right for you. They will also give you plans, tips, and tricks on how to achieve this weight healthily. Among older people, being underweight is a sign that may be related to not having enough to eat, not eating enough foods that are nutrient dense, or having an illness or disease. Being overweight or obese may increase your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and bone issues.
You are what you eat
As you get older, your body needs as many nutrients as possible. Nutrient-dense foods are essential to a healthy diet. They pack a lot of vitamins and minerals that your body needs. "Eating the rainbow," or selecting fruits and vegetables that vary in color, usually indicates the consumption of foods that are rich in different nutrients. Older adults should also try to incorporate the following foods into their diets:
- Fruits and vegetables (choose a range of types with vibrant colors)
- Whole grains like oatmeal, whole-wheat bread, and brown rice
- Fat-free or low-fat milk and cheese, or soy or rice milk that is fortified with vitamin D and calcium
- Seafood, lean meats, poultry, and eggs
- Beans, nuts, and seeds
Other types of foods have more calories and fewer nutrients. Older adults should eat less of these foods:
- Sugar-sweetened drinks and desserts
- Foods with butter, shortening, or other fats that are solid at room temperature
- White bread, rice, and pasta made from refined grains
For a nutrition plan and portion sizing specifically for your dietary needs, check with your healthcare provider.
Physical exercise is good for your health at any age, but it is especially important as you age. Regular physical activity may improve endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility. Being active may also help you live on your own for an extended period and help you maintain your overall healthy. Some ideas for exercises include but are not limited to:
- Walking at a comfortable to moderate pace. This exercise will burn extra calories without increasing your heart rate to an intense level.
- Swimming will help increase strength and burn calories with ease on the joints.
- Yoga is a holistic approach to fitness that will help build muscle, as well as improve balance, core stability, mobility, and flexibility.
Being active can be hard if your mobility is limited or you have serious health problems. However, you can find activities to meet your needs. If you do have mobility challenges or health concerns, consult your doctor or a physical therapist for exercise recommendations. Your healthcare provider can help you safely increase your physical activity.
Keep in contact with your doctors
Nobody knows you better than you, and that is why you need to let your doctors know when you feel any changes. Delaying medical care in your older years can turn a health concern into a crisis. Medical specialists will ensure you have all the information, medications, and treatment plans you need to live a happy, healthy life. Regular check-ups with your doctor, dentist, and optometrist are more critical than ever for adults living in their golden years.
Success with self-care
Self-care may help you improve your energy levels, and the "get up and go" needed for daily life. For various reasons, older adults may lose this "get up and go" mentality. Stress, health problems, loss of loved ones, or feeling lonely can take a harder toll on seniors. It’s important to make self-care a part of your routine, not just something you do during rough times. A consistent self-care practice can help you be more resilient and improve your golden years. A good self-care practice may include:
- Getting the sleep that your body needs
- Engaging with a faith practice
- Maintaining good relationships with friends and family
- Volunteering in your community
- Joining social groups
- Implementing positive coping mechanisms when you feel stressed
Taking care of your physical, mental, and emotional health is important at every stage of life. With a few simple steps, you can reap the rewards of a long life and enjoy every day. Now is the time to savor good health and happiness throughout your golden years!