Successful aging matters. People are living longer world worldwide – many now exceed 100. Here’s how to benefit from and enjoy our extended life. It makes sense then to look at successful aging.
Growing old tends to be viewed with sadness. But a lot is not necessary, or realistic, not all loose physical and mental capacity – or libido. Not all age into ‘grumpy old men and women,’ but some do. So what is inevitable, common – or just myth?
Some is handed down. Younger adults can believe are dull, dogmatic, ugly, and less worthwhile generally. Moreover think only of their ailments. Conversely, however, American humorist, Mark Twain noted this. ‘When your friends begin to flatter you on how young you look, it’s a sure sign you’re getting old.’ But when do we really become ‘old’? Is it when we retire, become 120, or when?
Successful aging matters – the statistics
Statistically, average Australian life expectancy is now 77 years. At the beginning of last century it was 55. But it is not the same for all Australians. Our Aboriginal people still die about 20 years younger.
Individuals’ differences among the elderly are greater than at any other time in their lives. The maximum documented life is 122 years. Amongst the oldest was Misao Okawa. She died in 2015 at the age of 117.
Successful aging matters – how we age
Factors affecting successful aging are not only genetic and environmental. It was previously believed our genes substantially determined how long we live. Lately, however it was proven that genetics is responsible for only 25% or so. The remaining 75% – that assists successful aging – is up to us and our lifestyle.
Successful aging matters – but it’s not always fair. For example, higher socio-economic status helps successful aging. Also assisting is a diet low on fat and high in nutrients. Furthermore, our bodyweight, blood pressure, and blood cholesterol need to be within normal range.
Regular exercise assists successful aging. Ideally, we need a lasting marriage, and family and friends. We need social networks and active involvement in the community. We need also to have meaningful projects, In addition we need things to be passionate about.
It is important to be able to live independently. We need plans and stimulating creative leisure pursuits. We need low stress levels, optimistic and flexible personalities and be open to change. Also, for successful aging – to limit tobacco, alcohol and drug use.
Enjoy your time with many friends and family Pic: http://rewiretoretire.com/
Successful aging matters – retirement is becoming irrelevant
Retirement is not what it used to be. Here’s what the Australian Bureau of Statistics has to say. ‘The notion of normal retirement will have a decreasing relevance for Australians over 50 as many people move from full time to part time and casual work. Others face redundancy and increasing difficulty to gain access to the labour market.’
The (2003) statistics showed that 32% of all workers were 45 – 64 (possibly older than many suspect). Meanwhile, ‘Australians aged 55 and over contributed almost $74.5.billion per annum in voluntary and unpaid caring work to the economy.’ So Australia very much needs its older people. Many say ‘retiring made me busier than ever before’.
Successful aging matters – learning, mental exercise and creativity
Successful aging matters mentally. The human brain behaves much like a muscle. The more we ask from it the better it thus performs. Lifelong learning enables us to learn new facts and skills. It helps us understand new ideas. It helps us to develop a broader world perspective, often enabling new friendships. ‘Many people with deeply ingrained stereotypes of aging start to see themselves differently when they realise that those in their seventies and eighties can still engage in complex learning’ (notes Laura Berk in ‘Development Through the Lifespan’.)
As we become older we excel at extracting a messages’ essence. We enrich it with our own symbolic interpretations by drawing on extensive life experiences.
Creativity requires openness to challenges. It requires willingness to test problem-solving skills. Furthermore, to arrive at unique solutions. Doing something creative also develops skills that affect us in other areas. We get a buzz from travelling, learning new things, languages, creating our own artistic masterpieces, finishing the crossword or Sudoku puzzle. All keep our brains sharp,literally regenerating new brain cells. A really good workout for the brain is to learn something totally new.
Successful aging matters – nutrition
Successful aging matters include what we eat. Healthy eating, for example, is extremely important. Studies prove that high calorie; fat-laden food does not assist. Extensive research with mice continues to show severely restricting food intake improves longevity. It is typically by 30%. (It’s not yet certain this is true also for humans). The current advice is: eat moderately and include three veggies and two pieces of fruit a day.
Good nutrition is not only beneficiary for the body. It affects the brain.
Successful aging matters – exercise
‘Unfortunately, sedentary individuals have a tendency to attribute the negative bodily changes they experience to ‘aging’ rather than to their sedentary lifestyles.’ This then becomes self-fulfilling prophecy. ‘Regular physical exercise can prevent or dramatically reduce many of the physical and psychological declines that are commonly attributed to ‘normal aging,’ says Lakehead University’s Brian O’Connor (in his paper ‘Physical exercise and experienced bodily changes: The emergence of benefits and limits on benefits’).
O’Connor states (re successful aging matters) ‘Regular physical exercise does not only keep our body in good shape. It actually keeps the old brain cells working and produces new ones.’ World Health Organisation guidelines tell us ‘that regular participation in physical activity is associated with significant physiological, psychological, and social benefits for older persons.’
Successful aging matters – friends
For a healthy and happy life we need many friends. We need close relationships with family and neighbours. Pets too add to the sense of wellbeing. The biggest boost for successful aging is a marriage or significant-other relationship. Men benefit disproportionally from this. On average it adds seven years to their lives. Women gain only two. Any kind of social contact boosts our immune system and brain development.
Successful aging matters – positive optimistic outlook
The motto of ‘Laugh more, live longer’ has academic respectability! Part of successful aging really is to be able to have a good laugh. It really does help toward lowering stress.
Our capability to cope and move on when experiencing hard knocks helps us live long. It also assists being healthy and happy. Doing so requires learning to see problems from ‘outside one’. Not to internalise them. We need a little excitement as well.
We need to take some risks. Novel intellectual challenges keep our brains sharp and boost our immune systems. As English poet T.S. Elliot said. “Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.’
Successful aging matters – mind, body and spirituality
Activities such as ‘music, imagery, meditation, yoga, tai chi, qigong, pet therapy laughter and humour, a positive sex life and calm cheerful environment’
Thompson, Sierpina & Sierpina’s ‘What Is Healthy Aging’) extends that. It states that deep breathing increases your sense of well-being. That, learning to play the didgeridoo combines the therapeutic qualities of learning something new, playing music and learning circular breathing. It adds that it’s proven to reduce snoring. And assist the less dangerous forms of sleep apnoea.
Amongst elders in all backgrounds, ‘religious involvement is linked to many positive outcomes. This includes activities and social roles as diverse as exercising and feelings of closeness to family and friends as well as psychological well-being.’ (Laura Berk).
Attitude is important. Those that say that they are aging well are not necessarily the healthiest. What sets them apart is optimism and good coping strategies.
Successful aging matters – the odd vice may help!
The odd vice can spice things up: but needs to be chosen carefully! If feeling like staying in bed then do so. Have a good read and even chocolates within reach. Fighting natural sleeping patterns is not good. If you are a morning lark or a night owl, follow larkish or owlish sleep patterns – but obtain at least 7 to 8 hours sleep. That often-loved chocolate can reduce blood pressure and chances of having a stroke. For some, it induces similar feelings as being in love. But keep that chocolate (at least) in moderation or you’ll be happy but seriously fat. Small amounts of wine or beer is actually better for one than not drinking its at all. But if we enjoy such in excess, it’s usually at the expense of well-being and longevity.
Pleasure and pleasurable feelings are good for us. They counteract stress and also boost the immune system. Pleasurable feelings release a chemical that is itself antibiotic. Many younger people think once you become older, you neither enjoy nor have sex. This is untrure. Research shows older adults continue to like sex as long as poor health does not affect sexual desire. In particular, there is no decline in female desire. Sex keeps us feeling good. It helps us stay young in body and mind. So enjoy.
There are a myriad ways to live a long time and enjoy life at its fullest and best. We just need to pay attention to our nutrition. To exercise the body and mind. We need to have a rich and varied social life. Essential is an optimistic outlook, assisted by good laughs along the way.
Given the above you have healthy, happy and successful aging in the bag.
Successful aging matters – how I can help
I practice what I preach! In my late 50s I earned my BA in Counseling, and a second BA in Psychology]. In my late 50s I earned a Master’s degree in Art Therapy. To keep body and mind fit I swim long distances, speak four languages and currently learning one more. Retirement is not an option!
For consultation call me (Maarit Rivers) on 0417 462 115 – or email Maarit Rivers