We’re bombarded by anti-aging and health product ads. Someone’s always sharing the next superfood or high-tech face cream. But, we’ve seen the REAL secrets to aging well in our many years working with elder clients and families.
Your Future? Picture Your Aging Parents
For a glimpse into your future, start by taking a look at your parents. Are they living the kind of life you want for yourself when you get to that age? What concerns you? Maybe one or both died much too young so you keep an eye on your risk factors. Or perhaps they suffer from chronic disease or take a pill box full of medication? On the other hand, your aging parents may be fairly fit and independent.
Most importantly, are your aging parents happy? Are they enjoying life in all its stages? Do they “fight” aging every step of the way or hate asking for help? Have they refused to do any planning or talk about what they want? Did they make you swear you’d take care of them at home no matter the cost? Have there been family rifts due to caregiving situations, money, etc.?
Your parents can be ideal role models for aging well. In which case, ask them their “secrets”. We bet they’ll match up pretty well with what we’ve seen. Or, they may provide instructive examples of what you’d like to change. You can do things differently if they’re not living the kind of life you’d want. Now’s the time to make those changes.
To get a quick assessment of how you’re doing, Click Here for the Aging Wisely quiz and checklist.
Steps to Building the Life You Want
Get (and Stay) Healthy: It's Never Too Late
Activity: Movin’ and Shakin’
Researchers study the “blue zones” for their unusual longevity. We can gather simple lessons from them. The first being that consistent, moderate activity should be part of daily life. Health and longevity isn’t so much about intense sessions with a trainer, but about less sitting on the couch. Healthy elders have always been on the move...gardening (or farming), cooking, walking, etc. Start by adding one physical activity into your day (even if you already exercise). Do something outdoors when you can.
Nutrition: The Proven Longevity Diet
Another common factor in the “blue zones” is a plant-based (and natural) diet. I heard this refrain again and again from Johns Hopkins’ doctors at a women’s health seminar. Despite all the diet trends, the experts are well aware of the real “secret”. And, it’s less meat, more fruit, veggies, and beans...less processed food, more whole foods. And, less of it all.
We know this is easier said than done. Here are some resources to get you started:
Nutrition Tips for Healthy Aging (plus how to eat healthy on a budget)
Plant-Based Cooking and other websites offer tons of recipes, tips and more.
Meal Delivery Services take the work out of cooking healthy meals. They tend to provide nutrient-dense food with varied flavors so you don’t get bored. Many also offer various diets. A few good ones are Peach Dish, Blue Apron, and Home Chef. There may be some services in your local area too. Some counties even run programs designed around affordable, healthy, local eating. So, check around and taste test for the one you like best.
Get a personal shopper/chef! Our EasyLiving companions can be hired to do your shopping and/or meal preparation. They’re trained in senior nutrition, so if you’re worried about how your aging parents are eating this can be a great option. But, they can help no matter your age.
Mental Health & Socialization: A Happy Brain=A Happy Life
Loneliness and isolation are associated with poor health, cognitive decline and even early death. Social stimulation protects your brain. And, unsurprisingly, strong social ties were common in those blue zones too. Nurture your relationships and continue to learn, grow, and take an active part in your community.
Preventative Care: The Old Ounce of Prevention
- Organize your health history. This helps you and your providers know your risk factors and target treatment.
- Get your health screenings. Take advantage of preventative care benefits.
- Improve your outcomes with coordinated care. Get a primary care physician. Communicate changes to all providers. Consider using a patient advocate, especially when dealing with chronic disease, a new diagnosis, or surgery.
Check out our Healthy Aging roundup for more great resources, such as handy health apps. Technology offers new opportunities to track health, keep motivated, stay connected and more. Follow us on Facebook for the latest and greatest.
The reality is you can’t control everything, especially when it comes to getting older. What you can control is how well prepared you are to deal with what comes your way. Because we deal both with people in crisis and preparing ahead, we see the impact this makes. Here are a few ways to “take control” of aging:
- Execute advance directives and complete estate planning.
- Get your financials in order. This includes knowing what you have and where. You may want to simplify if you have various accounts spread out all over. It also means building up your resources. A financial professional can be your best ally for this.
- Cover your gaps. This goes hand-in-hand with #2. When you know your resources, you can determine any gaps. Explore insurance needs or potential assistance programs. Don’t be caught off guard.
- Talk about it. Share your wishes with your kids. Talk about scenarios. Make sure your appointed decision makers feel comfortable making those decisions.
- Know where to turn. What would you do if a crisis hit? Have some trusted resources to turn to, rather than having to start from scratch when you're vulnerable.
- Make sure your home doesn’t hinder you. Remove clutter and get organized. Review home safety and falls prevention. Don’t think this is something that only 80+-year-olds need to do. Home accidents and falls cause disability in many younger people. Your home should be comfortable, safe and manageable. Downsizing or moving to a place with less upkeep or more amenities may make sense.
- Don’t ignore reality. It’s likely we may all need some help as we get older. Some people joke that they hope to just die quickly on the golf course. But, more of us will live longer and need some assistance. Ignoring the possibilities won’t make them go away, it will just limit your options.
- Don’t ask for (or make) unrealistic promises. It’s great to promise to care for your loved one, but don’t promise specifics. You may not always be able to do so at home or by yourself. Similarly, don’t ask your loved ones for things that may make life worse for them (and you).
- Don’t just follow what your neighbor or friend does. Your situation may be very different. Get professional advice when needed.
- Don’t ignore potential conflict. Tell your professional advisors if certain family members don’t get along. They can advise you about how to plan. You may want to set up family conferences with the help of a care manager to work through disagreements.