The basic goal of aging individuals is to age gracefully or to age well. Aging well requires stimulating the brain and using the body in a manner that keeps it strong. Basic everyday activities are not enough to keep both body and mind in a stable functioning state. We all become “set” in our ways and usually do not seek out new, challenging activities. We park in the same area of the parking lot of a store we frequent so we do not need to look around for the car. If you take off your socks, you may not put them on the floor because you know you will have to bend over later to pick them up. Both of these activities reduce opportunities to stay mentally and physically fit.
Aging Well is Not Easy
The aging body will nudge you to do things differently. It has aches and pains, a reduction in the distance you can reach, difficulty opening bottles and even the tendency to sit and relax more hours of the day than you ever did before. The natural inclinations of an aging body actually encourage faster aging! If you find that you and your body are arguing about what you should be able to do, then perhaps it is time to step out and set your intention to create a new daily routine. Aging well takes planning and persistence rather than plodding along.
Keep the Mind Stimulated
Keep your mind stimulated by learning something new. Learn how to use email or FaceTime with the kids and grandkids. Staying connected to the family and seeing the pictures they post and responding to their activities will require you to learn about the software program. Post pictures of your activities for your kids to see. Maintaining and starting new relationships are some of the most important components of aging gracefully. New friends have new stories to tell and hobbies to share, which may stimulate you. There are computer classes available at an entry level so you can learn from the ground up, so to speak. If you feel overwhelmed with the computer, take it as a huge opportunity to grow your brain! Your brain is sitting there waiting to be challenged. Adult centers and libraries are wonderful resources to learn how to work with the computer or another new adventure in which you may be interested.
Keep the Body Strong
The body requires activity and nourishment to cope with the changes going on. Find a group of people going out on walks or hikes and ask to join them. The group will help keep you motivated and create opportunities for mental stimulation. Blood flow to the brain is a must! If the outdoors is not calling, you can try either online or video recorded classes for exercises that focus on specific parts of the body and are designed for various age groups. Create the time and dedicate it specifically for exercise every day. Change it up so you don’t get bored. If you have not been exercising, it will take more of a nudge to start in that direction, but it can become a new habit for you. Health clubs offer a variety of activities and are happy to share a schedule and take you on a tour of their facilities. A healthy body is created and then maintained; not simply a one-time gift.
Stay Mentally Connected to Others
The brain is stimulated as you move through the day. One of the easiest ways of stimulating the brain is to hear what is going on around you. You do not need to be speaking to someone to get benefits from hearing well. A dog bark, wind in the trees, the TV and other daily sounds help keep the brain alive. It is well documented that individuals who hear well into their later years have less issue with memory and staying connected to the external environment. Hearing in controlled quiet environments must be mastered before you will be successful in a noisy family gathering. Have your hearing tested to see if you will benefit from hearing augmentation. The newer hearing aids and the assistive technology available are slowly taking the stigma away from needing to wear hearing aids because of defect and replacing it with a means of staying connected to life! You can stream the phone, TV, computer or tablet directly into your ears. It is an exciting time for trying out the new hearing solutions! QCBN
By Dr. Karon Lynn, Au.D