Most people know the adage: “You’re as young as you feel.” And as baby boomers swell the ranks of the over-50 crowd in ever-increasing numbers, you can bet this generation isn’t aging without a fight.
Baby boomers had a wide variety of interests and activities as young adults, and they have no intention of slowing down now. They’re redefining what it means to age well and seem to understand the secret to staying youthful and healthy later in life.
What exactly is healthy aging?
Sometimes referred to as successful aging, positive aging, effective aging or even anti-aging, healthy aging is defined as: the absence of disease and disability; high cognitive and physical functioning; and active engagement with life. Within these general categories, there are many things you can do to look and feel great as you age.
Listed below are some lifestyle tips to help you age well. Some of these may be surprising—and surprisingly simple.
- Stay positive. One of the best-known ways to keep feeling young is having a positive mental outlook. For a healthier and happier life, surround yourself with positive, vibrant people – and be one yourself. Cheerful people are less likely to get sick. They also live an average of 7.5 years longer.
Do the things that make you happy more often, and try to let go of negative emotions like anger, guilt, resentment, grief and shame.
Negativity saps vitality and creates stress, which affects your health and well-being. If you need guidance in recharging your happy engine, find a qualified therapist or certified coach who can help you redirect negative emotions.
- Stay active. Regular exercise lowers the risk of heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, obesity and dementia. And that’s just for starters. People who walk briskly for just five hours a week are more likely to retain mobility and mental sharpness as they age. Exercise also keeps bones strong and helps the brain release depression-fighting serotonin.
Exercise at least four times a week, focusing on low-impact exercise like yoga or resistance training. The key is to choose something you enjoy – you’ll keep up with it more successfully, and have fun, too.
- Stay connected. Studies show that people who are more socially connected live longer. As people get older and are faced with things they can no longer do, they can become depressed and start to feel “useless.” But friends and acquaintances can offer new things to think about and do. Stay connected with old friends, and make new ones at places like the local rec center. Take classes. Set up a morning coffee klatch with the people you meet. Check the internet for get-togethers and social groups in your area.
- Eat the right foods. Studies show that eating wisely is a key to staying younger both physically and mentally. A healthy diet can reduce your risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer. You’ll feel and look better when you eat more fruits and vegetables, especially the deep-colored and green leafy kind, which contain age-fighting antioxidants.
Lean proteins, low-fat dairy products, beans, nuts, green tea and fish are all linked to longer life and lower incidence of disease. Avoid sugar and processed foods, and drink plenty of fresh, purified water every day. These simple food tips will put pep in your step and a sparkle in your eyes.
- Try something new. The brain never stops learning. It thrives on new experiences and sensations. By cultivating your own curiosity and creativity, you open the door to a healthier brain and richer life journey. Jump in and do things you’ve never tried before. Take classes in an unusual craft, folk dancing, painting, photography or sculpture. Try learning a new computer skill. Travel to new places and make custom scrapbooks to document them. Visit a new museum every week. Enjoy free movies in the park. Explore local nature sites, or join a local group that dines out every week or plays games.
You can't control every physical change in your body as you age, but you can control your outlook and lifestyle choices. By incorporating these tips in your life, you might discover that aging well is possible.
Do you have any tips on looking and feeling young?
Tell us in the comment section below.
To promote healthier aging, Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center San Pedro has established the Center for Optimal Aging. For more information click here.