Every culture and class understand healthy behaviors and define health in their own unique ways. There are, however, basic habits all people can adopt to lead a longer and healthier life. Here the focus will be aimed towards the needs and mindset of mature readers, but these suggestions could apply to most as well.
Those in their golden years make certain assumptions and have specific expectations about what a healthy lifestyle means. A recent study done by Social Science and Medicine interviewed 145 male and female rural North Carolina residents aged 70 and older. These interviews revealed seven key factors these participants regarded as important to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. They included: (1) Eating Right, (2) Drinking Water, (3) “Taking” Exercise, (4) Staying Busy, (5) Being with People, (6) Trusting in God and Participating in Church, and (7) Taking Care of Yourself. These domains are multi-dimensional and have overlapping content, but the four major themes are: “balance and moderation”, “the holistic view of health”, “social integration”, and “personal responsibility”(1). Staying healthy into your later years may allow you to be a better member of the community.
One key aspect of staying healthy is consuming the nutrients needed to create and maintain healthy bones, teeth, skin and body(2). This starts with conscious daily decisions to eat right. Key nutrients in the diet allow you to live longer and stay sharper mentally, plus you’ll have the energy to keep up with the younger generation. Some of these nutrients include B vitamins to keep you energized, vitamin D from the sun to help fortify bones, magnesium responsible for over 300 physiological processes and a big player in cellular vitality, fiber for healthy digestion, and omega-3s that support brain and memory(3). We all have different caloric needs based on weight, age and activity level, but the basics of healthy eating apply to everyone. A good place to start would be to consume 50% of your daily food in vegetables, eat fruit, some protein with every meal adding healthy fats to diet like coconut oil and avocados, limiting sugary and processed foods, and drinking lots of clean, filtered water. If these dietary changes seem challenging or difficult to swallow, start with a smoothie of banana, spinach, flaxseed, yogurt and apple juice. Try something palatable and nutritious. When applied in moderation choosing these foods will help you maintain your weight and feel great well into your later years.
Another component to healthy living for seniors is physical activity. To measure the physical needs of the elderly, the European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention, followed over 2,000 seniors to assess their ability to move from sitting to standing without aid. After 6 years, the study revealed a dramatic connection between physical abilities and longevity. It concluded that “if a middle-aged or older man or woman could sit and rise from the floor using just one hand or even better without the help of a hand they were not only in the higher quartile of musculoskeletal fitness but their survival prognosis is probably better than those unable to do so”(4). This study suggests that simply maintaining the ability to move from seated to standing unassisted greatly improves their chances at living longer. This is best achieved by maintaining fitness throughout one’s life. There is evidence to support that health maintenance in your later years begins by cardiovascular fitness and strength training in your younger years. Your ability to move, walk, stand and pick things up is the key to the fountain of youth. Instead of being sedentary, maintain your fitness through flexibility exercises like yoga, challenge your balance with exercises like qi gong or tai-chi; add in weekly weight training with practical exercises like push-ups, getting up and down from the floor and walking to keep your body and legs strong.
Many seniors may find a structured exercise program intimidating or difficult due to prior injuries or too many sedentary years. Consider getting the help of a chiropractor to help you move better and free up energy to feel your best. A chiropractor is trained to identify specific areas of muscular and structural imbalance and correct those imbalances to keep you moving efficiently and with ease. Gentle adjustments help restore range of motion and decrease pain, improving biomechanics of movement and awareness of the body. Chiropractors also make lifestyle recommendations to track progress in diet, exercise, sleep and mentality. Our gentle approach at Clear Point Wellness is designed to identify where stress and tension reside in the body and remove that interference through gentle pressure and mobilizations to help you feel like yourself again.
The spiritual component of aging is a journey that is both deep and wide. To create health and happiness in your life, do what Deepak Chopra suggests and “take it easy” by pursuing excellence, not success(5). Weaving spirituality through life experiences encourages wisdom and peace. It is our own responsibility to enhance our lives through spirituality. Doing something each day that brings you closer to nature, like deep breathing, meditation, attending church and laughing, all transform our inner life by showing us bounty and beauty and keep our stress levels under control.
Staying healthy as you age goes more than skin deep. Establishing healthy habits like eating right, exercising, and taking care in both personal and social responsibilities ensures graceful aging for a long and happy life(6). The tips above apply to all ages and can begin to be practiced now. If you’d like to learn more about how to integrate the wellness lifestyle into your life, our staff is able to guide you in your journey and help you discover the benefits of healthy habits. What habits do you have that create longevity in your life?