Healthy Aging – Part One: Change
by Robin Bush, ISR Communications
In 2022, we focused on three guiding words to living well as we age, “Courage, Care, and Kindness.” This year, we will continue to offer inspiration and resources to help you live your best life, connect with those around you, and celebrate healthy aging by “Moving Forward Together.” It’s a way we can all live a better life. These three words guide us to remember the importance of moving through both the good and the unexpected with others by our side.
One of the aspects of healthy aging is our relationship with change. As we age, the number of life changes adds up. We may have had multiple career changes, children or grandchildren who arrived or left home, partners may have changed, some loved ones are gone, and we may be facing questions about our independence. The key to adapting to change at any age is finding balance by seeking positive factors that equal or exceed the challenges. That’s healthy aging.
“Are the changes in aging inevitable?” Healthy aging is recognizing you can make choices that influence your outcome. You’ve been told:
- Your health will decline – While some diseases may become more common as we age, poor health and lack of mobility are not inevitable. You likely have more available time in your day than when you were younger, and if you choose to fill a large part of your day with eating healthily and moving your body, it will do much to keep you strong, flexible, and less apt to injure yourself.
- Loss of memory is unavoidable – It’s not. Learning new skills, adventuring, and daily interaction with others can help keep your brain sharp and your memories clear.
- You will become disconnected – No. Getting involved in community programs, organizations, or schools will keep you connected and build friendships as you share the valuable skills you gained through life experiences.
When things are challenging and change is at your door, here are some healthy aging suggestions to try:
- When you feel tested, focus on things you are grateful for.
- Don’t take things for granted; enjoy what you have, even if other things are lost. Express your feelings to someone you trust. Denying feelings can lead to resentment and even depression.
- Practice acceptance. We can’t change some things that happen, but we can actively choose how we will react.
- A good belly laugh is often some of the best medicine. Not everything is appropriate to respond to with laughter, but when you can, it helps to laugh at the absurdities of life.
- Don’t ignore problems; take them on in small steps. With each success, you will feel more confident in your ability to cope.
It won’t always be easy, but your attitude toward change does make a difference in the outcome.
When I met Herb, I couldn’t believe it when he told me he was 78 years old. He walks with purpose and has a smile on his face even though his life is not without challenges. His adult children recently moved across the county, two years ago he lost his partner and soulmate of 49 years, and his frozen shoulder has stopped him from golfing, which for years had gotten him together regularly with friends. He could have slipped into a lonely, isolated existence. Instead, he volunteers in the auto-mechanics class at the local high school, is learning Italian in preparation for a trip to Florence next spring with a buddy he met at the car club, and enjoys a men’s lunch group every Wednesday. Each time I see him he is uplifting, inspiring, always has something kind to say, and tells great stories that make me laugh. My cousin Tom on the other hand, who I see on a Zoom call every week, complains endlessly about the world around him, his neighbors, his grandkids, his newest ache or pain, the barking dog next door, the lines at the grocery… Everything irritates him, and nothing seems to make him happy. He sits at home alone all day, and when we talk, he sounds far older than his biological age of 78. Herb and Tom are the same age. Which person would you want to spend time with, and which person do you want to be?
Practice choosing healthy aging. Embrace it. You will be glad you did!
Next month: Healthy Aging Part Two: Purpose and Joy