No one is going to argue the fact that we all get old. Ageing is an inevitable process, but one that can impact different individuals in very different ways. The key to ageing well is learning ahead of time what steps can make the transition easier, and keep your body in the healthiest and most functional form possible. Here are four essential tips to help everyone age happily and healthily.
Monitor your stress levels
Some degree of stress gives us that “get up and go” required to get more out of life and keep our brains and bodies firing on all cylinders. Excessive ongoing stress, however, can have adverse effects on our life in later years. A study in the Journal of Gerontology reported “adults who experienced greater work stress in midlife were more likely to show disabilities and physical difficulties in older age.”
Keep a check on your stress levels as you enter your late 40’s, your 50’s and 60’s, and, where you can make changes to ease the pressure points in your life, ensure that you do so. You’ll never regret these changes for the improvements in your well-being at the time of the change – and your health in the years to come.
Make plans for the future
Think about what you’d like to do in your later years, whether it is further study, learning a new language or creative skill, building something with your hands, working on a charitable cause or spending more time in the garden. Planning for a satisfying senior life is the only way we can be assured of a chance for one. Our ever-increasing life expectancy offers us an excellent opportunity for personal growth and fulfilment as we age.
Stay social and active
To remain healthy both mentally and physically, it is critical that we maintain active connections with friends, family and the community. Social isolation repeatedly proves to be a major negative influence on mental health, such as depression and general unhappiness. Increased social activity has also been linked with a significant increase in physical health in our senior years. This makes good sense, as being social and maintaining a close connection with others most likely means that you are out and about and being active.
Given that many in their senior years are no longer working or working at a reduced capacity, there is more time for social interaction. Social interaction gives us the benefit of improving our quality of life and brings opportunity for new activities and friendships. Family relationships may change and even mend if needed, and insights learned from both older and younger friends allow for a deeper sense of appreciation for, and satisfaction in, relationships.
Change your perception of older age
When we were younger, a few weeks of tiredness was laughed off or put down to over-exertion. For older people, it is easy to jump to the conclusion that fatigue is due to “old age”. The same can be said for ‘garden variety’ ailments such as aches and pains, joint stiffness, tight muscles or memory loss.
The constant bombardment of stereotyping messages from society about old age sometimes does nothing more than mask reality – or worse, hinder happiness. It’s important to challenge these stereotypes and make a fair and positive assessment of the situation. A certain amount of fatigue or wear and tear may well be due to old age, but not always. With awareness, it is possible to avoid becoming limited and negative regarding expectations or stereotypes about old age.
If you work at it, it is possible to change the mindset about the ageing process and try to view it as an opportunity – an opportunity to let go of what is less important and focus on what is more meaningful. Older age also provides the opportunity for release from high or unreasonable expectations that many people have taunted themselves with for decades.
There can be a peaceful surrender and a gentle acceptance that comes with age, which can be extremely gratifying.
With these changes in mindset, monitoring stress levels and staying social during, and in the lead up to, our golden years, we can stay healthy and become more relaxed as we age – and everyone would like to do that!
Sage Institute of Aged Care – it’s more than a job, it’s a rewarding career.
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