Are you growing old gracefully? Or are you fighting the aging process tooth and nail? Either way, you’re not alone — especially if you’re a Baby Boomer. Members of that cohort will all be 65 or older by the year 2030. Or maybe you’re a GenXer and have recently discovered a few gray hairs or the seemingly sudden existence of crow’s feet bracketing your eyes.
Even if you’re not bothered by the passage of time and the changes it’s causing to your body, it’s still a good idea to follow a few simple guidelines for taking care of yourself into your 50s, 60s, and beyond! Read on to learn the keys to growing old healthfully – if not gracefully.
There’s no denying the fact that as we age, more maladies and health issues arise. From osteoporosis to early-onset dementia, from a sluggish metabolism to that snap-crackle-and-pop chorus that occurs when you rise from bed in the mornings, the physical toll of simply being a human begins to make its mark.
You may well have to resign yourself to taking some medications to keep your system running smoothly and pain-free, but true health starts on the inside. That means it’s more important than ever to eat a nutritious, wholesome diet. Get your energy from lean protein and plenty of vegetables, cut back on refined sugar and wheat, or eliminate them entirely.
Whenever possible, make your own meals rather than relying on packaged foods like microwavable entrees or canned soups. Any food that comes from a factory rather than a farm could be high in sodium, preservatives, and other not-so-good-for-you stuff.
While we’re on the subject, how’s your hydration level? Making sure you drink enough water – or other benign beverages like herbal tea or seltzer – is one of the best things you can do for your aging body.
It turns out that seniors not only start out with a lower percentage of water in their bodies than their younger counterparts, but they also lose their sense of thirst. Dehydration is among the most common causes of hospitalization for this age group.
Get in the habit of keeping your water bottle handy now, and you’ll reap the rewards later in life.
At the risk of overstating the obvious, we’re duty-bound to emphasize exercise as a vital part of staying healthful and youthful. You already know that getting regular aerobic exercise is great for keeping excess weight off, but weight-bearing workouts will also protect your bones and the integrity of your joints.
In addition, getting your sweat on is vital to cardiovascular health, muscle strength, improved immune reponse, and better digestion. It also does wonders for your mental health and emotional well-being!
It doesn’t much matter what you do for exercise, as long as you’re getting your heart rate up and maintaining a regular workout schedule. So don’t feel obliged to jog if you don’t enjoy it. Instead, try a Zumba or African dance workout. Ride your bike or take a hike. Or try something new and different like bungee fitness, aerial yoga, old-school rollerskating, or even just jumping on the trampoline with your kids!
You can guzzle water all day long, train for an ultramarathon six days a week, and eat the cleanest diet possible – and still not feel your best, if you are ignoring your emotional and mental health.
Women often have an especially difficult time embracing the aging process, in large part because we are societally conditioned to equate our appearance with our worth as a person. But kicking and screaming your way to senior citizen-hood is ultimately not beneficial to your state of mind. Acceptance of what is – and continued optimism for what will be – can be the best coping mechanism when it comes to aging gracefully.
Rather than bemoaning all the things your body can no longer accomplish – doing a split, bouncing back from a late night, drinking more than two glasses of wine without a hangover, digesting greasy bar food, looking good in tight jeans – try honoring that body for everything it has done for you in the past or continues to do. Giving birth and breastfeeding, hugging your parents, partner, children, and friends, seeing you through all of life’s experiences, allowing you to appreciate the sights and sounds and smells of this wonderful world: it’s easy to find reasons to feel gratitude once you get in the habit.
There are plenty of additional reasons to embrace aging. You are likely wiser, less prone to drama, more forgiving of others’ faults, more comfortable in your own skin, and better off financially and professionally. Make the conscious choice to focus on the substantial advantages of your current age, and you’ll be better equipped to meet both milestone birthdays and everyday challenges.
Let’s say there is some aspect of your appearance that’s truly bringing you down. Even those who are experts at eliminating negative self-talk when they see their own reflections might be bothered by an emerging double chin, yellowing teeth, or lackluster skin that’s lost its elasticity.
If you have the means, there’s no reason not to consider professional teeth whitening or a simple, non-surgical skin care procedure like Botox or a VI peel. Such treatments can go a long way toward restoring one’s confidence and self-image, which in turn will help motivate you to take care of your body in other ways.
When it comes to getting older, we don’t have a lot of say in the matter. The wrinkles will develop, the knees are going to creak, and menopause is on its way. What we can control, however, is the way that we treat ourselves – body, mind, heart and soul – even as the march of time is taking place. Stay optimistic, give your system the nutrition and hydration it needs, and live in appreciation for the amazing adventure we call life.