Healthy Aging

By Sheila Kun RN, BSN, MS, CPN, FCCP

According to Dr. Judy Salerno of the National Institute on Aging, “Disease and disability are not inevitable consequences of aging.” In fact, the medical community as a whole has a lot of research dedicated to the concept of “healthy aging.” Dr. Salerno says, “Maintaining good habits and positive attitudes is what we should all be aiming for.”

Perhaps we should review some commonsense suggestions such as eating a balanced diet, exercising, and maintaining contacts with family and friends.

Nutrition: it is a known fact that most vital organs gradually become less efficient with age. The kidneys are also become less able to keep your body hydrated. This makes exercise, water intake, and a well-balanced diet increasingly important over time. It is not uncommon for seniors to prefer only donuts/toasts and coffee in the morning and forget that this type of breakfast is not well balanced. Receiving proper food and liquid gives you an edge to be sharp mentally and heal better. You need vitamins and micronutrients to sustain a healthy body. Be open to new approach in picking your food choices; bear in mind the type of food that is good for your body. The taste bud might need to come in second in choosing the best food for you.

Exercise: we are not asking you to jump the rope or ride the bike for miles. A simple scheduled morning walk might suffice. Choose an activity that you like and stick to it. You have heard us before: “Exercise is medicine”. If you are recovering or coping with a chronic condition, do adapt to activities that enhance your energy level. I was surprised to find out that this is standard of practice now for knee or hip replacement patients to get out of bed within the same day of the surgery. Knee surgery is no longer an inpatient procedure. It seems like the sooner you can get back to an active level, the better.

Connections: maintaining contact with families or friends has been stressed as one of the most important elements for longevity. Remember the TV story on the folks from Sicily, Italy? The community connection is the haven for the seniors; they share their bread, their wine, and their favorite pastime games together. They have many life stories to tell to their families and children. At the other end of the spectrum, you can image the loneliness, the isolation and desperation of a new widow or widower. Depression comes in very handy; the sight of a big bed, a breakfast with no one to share, a movie that you will forego because no one goes with you. Your world is not the same. Until you adjust and adapt to the new norm of scheduling a new routine, sadness creeps unannounced at any moment. Maintaining contact with families and friends is the antidote to this inevitable life experience. Hopefully with our social media and technology, you are not alone – stay connected.

Thus far, we reviewed the “healthy aging” in the context of our physical wellbeing. Is there such a thing as “spiritually healthy aging?” We will explore this concept together next week.

Your homework assignment from the Care Ministry this week: Take inventory of all your healthy habits in promoting healthy aging and share with a friend.

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