Active Aging Week for 2021 will be held from October 4th through October 8th, so now is a good time to think about what it really is and how you or your loved one can get started with active aging. In Oxford and elsewhere around the country, seniors and their family members will be participating in events intended to increase awareness of active aging and to encourage others to embark on a regular lifestyle that emphasizes active aging. Senior home care professionals can encourage their charges to become more active within their social circles and to reach out to others in order to enjoy a higher quality of life and greater personal enjoyment.
What exactly is active aging?
Active aging is just what it sounds like – according to the World Health Organization, it’s characterized by a “process of optimizing opportunities for health, participation, and security, in order to enhance quality of life as people age”. What that means is that active aging is comprised of the central components of health, cognition, and personal well-being. These factors all change of course, as people become older, especially in the area of cognition.
Aging generally affects a person’s ability to focus, remember things, and process information quickly. There is considerable research ongoing right now which is aimed at analyzing the changes that take place in people as they age so that it will be possible to promote active aging and provide greater assistance to older adults.
What that boils down to in everyday living is a handful of high-priority issues: prevention of injuries, increased physical activity, social interaction, elimination of tobacco, and healthy eating. Much of the research being conducted at present centers around finding ways to help seniors achieve a lifestyle involving active aging.
How to begin active aging
One of the ways to embrace the active aging lifestyle actually does not involve genuine activity – it’s called reminiscence therapy, and it contributes to active aging by establishing a social environment that permits and encourages individuals to reflect on their past histories. This activity can promote a sense of integrity and self-esteem, and it can also increase the satisfaction of life by reminding individuals of all the value they encountered in their lives, as well as the profound meaning attached to it.
Group-based reminiscence therapy can also promote social connectedness and establish relationships, thereby minimizing withdrawal and isolation. Reminiscence therapy also significantly decreases the potential for depression in older adults and keeps them involved with others on a regular basis.
Other ways to begin active aging
A major study conducted in 2017 reported that individuals who were active for at least 30 minutes a day, five times a week, reduced their risk of developing heart disease and premature death by 25%. The activities involved in the study were simple household routines such as gardening, household chores, or walking, and all of them contributed to an active lifestyle that enabled individuals to live longer and enjoy better health.
It’s also very important to engage in social activities whenever possible, because it has been found that lack of social connection can lead to higher blood pressure and lower quality of sleep, thereby increasing the chances of premature death. Another way to become more involved with active aging is to stimulate your brain by learning something new whenever possible. This helps bolster your concentration and memory, keeps your mind sharp, and reduces the risk of dementia.
Another major component of active aging is maintaining a healthy diet. While aging individuals may require fewer calories, they still need as many nutrients as when they were younger, and perhaps even more. With a healthy diet and regular exercise, diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even some cancers can be staved off.
It can also be very helpful to embrace a positive attitude about aging, rather than to be intimidated or discouraged by it. A study conducted at Yale University found that seniors who had a positive attitude about aging lived more than seven years longer than individuals who had a distinctly negative attitude about it.
Another great way to embrace the active aging lifestyle is to volunteer your time and services regularly. Helping others is a great way to make yourself feel better, and it has physical benefits as well, such as lowering your blood pressure. One last way you can embrace the active aging lifestyle is to take a nap for an hour each day because this can actually improve your memory and your ability to think clearly.
This is especially true for individuals who frequently find themselves fatigued at the end of the day because late-day fatigue will make it difficult to maintain any kind of activity at that time. All these things can help you have more of an active aging approach to life, so you should try to include as many of these activities as possible in your daily routine.