We have a friend who commented to us the other day that she had no idea “how I got this old.” It is a common sentiment of aging baby boomers AND their parents who are approaching 90 – 100! It is something that brings with it unique challenges as our society attempts to figure out how to deal with its again population.
Many of our families are filled with people who lived to be very old or who died way too young! Our families have aalthy older athletes jogging and cycling several times a week. We have family members battling cancer … or fighting diabetes … or a myriad of other things. So we are often quick to jump to the conclusion that longevity is a matter of our genes and which genes we got. But not so fast. There is more to it than that and you CAN add years to your life.
First of all, people who are in their 90’s or more tell us that it is important to ACCEPT YOUR AGE. We are born to grow and change. We embraced that concept excitedly when our children changed and aged. Yet many of us compare ourselves NOW to who we used to be and what we could do back then. It is important to accept where you are in life and by doing so, studies show that we are happier, choose healthier behaviors and over-all live longer.
Second, watch your diet and the foods that you eat. Lots of fruits and vegetables help control weight which in turn helps health issues like diabetes, for example. It is a proven fact that eating protein builds NEW cells and repairs tissue damage. Many of us focus on meat as our primary source of protein but milk, eggs, beans and nuts all help our bodies function properly. And longer.
Third, be proactive and AVOID ACCIDENTAL FALLS. Accidental falls are the second leading cause of accidental death and not just from seniors. Painters, electricians and building professionals have higher rates of falls and they have learned to adjust to avoid them. We can do the same. Overall, healthy 60+ year olds have a higher risk of death from accidental falls than they do from illness. So when you look up and see that dusty ceiling fan or that burnt out light bulb, just let it be. Someone else will help you.
Fourth, KEEP AN ACTIVE BRAIN. More and more seniors living long lives keep as physically active as possible. Keeping your brain engaged is important too! So get out that puzzle book, play a challenging game, like Yahtzee, that makes you think and make choices. Find a card group … almost anything that challenges your mind will keep you living. It’s true!
Fifth, attend to PREVENTION INSTEAD OF TREATMEMT. Studies show that men are notoriously bad about seeing their doctors and while women report more regular visits, this neglect shortens life. Early detection of prostate and breast cancer are two good examples of disease that is often cured if caught quickly.
Finally, DON’T ISOLATE. Activity with friends and family is an important factor in longevity and retaining a sense of purpose. There is some “mind of matter” stuff that suggests when we keep busy we stay happier and live more meaningful lives. And thus longer. Plus, we have the opportunity to entertain our family and friends with our senior behaviors. Maybe the old adage is still true: Laughter is the best medicine.