May is Older Americans Month and this year’s theme encourages older adults and their communities to:
- Connect with friends, family, and services that support participation.
- Create by engaging in activities that promote learning, health, and personal enrichment.
- Contribute time, talent, and life experience to benefit others.
Studies show that people who stay active and have strong social networks live longer and happier lives. Yes, having good genes certainly helps too, but we all have good and bad longevity genes and often they average out. Importantly, those who live longer tend to have good adjustment or coping skills, maintain solid relationships, and exercise their mind and body.
With this in mind, here are a few tips to help you age well:
- Take a class. Continual learning can slow cognitive decline. As you age, you may have more free time perfect for exploring interests you set aside during your working/raising children years. Local colleges, community groups, senior centers, professional associations and other organizations can provide classes on most anything. Even online classes are useful. Even better is to learn something completely new – a language, playing an instrument, ballroom dancing, etc.
- Start a business. An AARP study found that 3 in every 10 entrepreneurs are now over the age of 50. Seventy-eight percent of business owners 50 and older said the top reason they’d recommend starting a business was the satisfaction of working for themselves and 85% say they are highly satisfied doing so.
- Volunteer. Research shows that older adults who volunteer are less likely to have high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease, face a lower risk of cognitive impairment, decreased depression and less social isolation. For example, in one study of more than 1,200 first-time Foster Grandparent and Senior Companion volunteers, 88 percent reported less social isolation and depression.
- Spend time with young people. A survey of 180 intergenerational programs found that among adults, “97% indicated it allowed them to feel happy, interested, loved, younger and needed. Children involved in the programs demonstrated higher levels of empathy and a greater ability to regulate their behavior than those who hadn’t participated in such programs.” Whether it’s with your own family members or strangers, reach out to children and adults younger than you for benefits to both of you.
- Ask for help. Many seniors feel isolated especially if they don’t have family nearby. There are numerous community resources available that can help with home repairs, housing, transportation, health care, socializing and other areas. The Eldercare Locator, a public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging, is a good resource for finding help in your area.
Aging well also means planning for the good and bad in your future. Where do you plan to live as you age? What resources do you have? Have you considered what happens if you are hit with a health crisis (short- or long-term)?
I advocate for being a PRO CHOICE SENIOR, which means saying YES to –
- Aging with an informed attitude
- Creating an aging support system
- Having ‘difficult conversations’ when necessary!
It’s important to plan ahead for your own and your family’s sake. For help, contact me for a consultation.
For more Older American Month resources, see https://acl.gov/oam/2019/resources.