New Year’s resolutions that lead to aging successfully
By Annette Sandler • Aging Services Director
Welcome to 2019 – the time of year when many people are making New Year’s resolutions, and doing their best to keep them. I researched the most common resolutions for seniors and they are as you would anticipate – eat healthy, exercise more, keep busy. It is easy to make those resolutions, but difficult to keep them. Below are a few tips to help you age successfully.
Don’t make resolutions where you need to deny yourself too much – they are difficult to keep. Instead, pick resolutions where you are easily motivated to succeed. For example, remaining independent or being healthy.
In my graduate school thesis, “Adding Life to Life Expectancy,” I recommend four key items that promote successful aging: 1) Avoid disease and disability 2) Maintain high mental and physical function 3) Maintain a social support system, 4) Remain actively engaged in life and/or lifelong learning.
There is a hierarchical order among these components of successful aging. The absence of disease and disability makes it easier to maintain mental and physical function. Maintenance of mental and physical function in turn enables (but does not guarantee) active engagement with life.
If you choose one of these as a resolution, here is some information you may find interesting:
- In order to avoid disease or disability, you must become mindful of several risk factors. Think only about things that are in your control, like maintaining strength in your legs and core, which can significantly help prevent falls that can cause injury. Other things in your control include maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding addictive activities like smoking, drinking to excess or using drugs that can lead to debilitating diseases.
- Most scientific literature thinks there is a strong connection between the mind and the body. Remaining physically fit can reduce your risk of dying prematurely. Even mild exercise in advanced old age is helpful. Staying active can lead to what is called “compression of morbidity” (having a shorter time of frailty).
- Social support is defined as information leading people to believe that they are cared for, loved, esteemed, and a member of a support network of friends and family. It is not important to have a large social support system, just one that is reliable. Seniors need 2-5 people that they can count on to help if they need it. People with strong social support are less likely to have problems with depression, alcoholism or other addictions.
- Lifelong learning is a crucial pre-requisite for longevity. Active involvement in life gives people a sense of purpose; they feel their presence in the world makes a difference. Unhappy people tend to make unhealthy choices.
So how can you “Add Life to Life Expectancy?” Set realistic New Year’s resolutions that help you avoid disease or disability, maintain your mental health, stay socially active and engage in lifelong learning.
For seniors who are also caregivers, it can be overwhelming to think about these goals. Many feel there is not any time in their own life because it is consumed by the lives of their loved ones. We all need time to care for ourselves. We all need to prioritize our own health and well-being, as well as the health and well-being of our loved ones.
JFCS can help. If you are feeling overwhelmed and not sure how to get help to care for your loved one, we offer Care Planning Consultations. These consultations are designed to articulate the issues, find resources that can help and assist you in prioritizing these recommendations. In the ever-changing landscape of caregiving, the issues may change from day to day. JFCS can help in this area as well, by providing a “caregiver coach.” This staff person can help you maintain your mental well-being by assisting you to become a better more competent caregiver.
For more information call us at 952-546-06016 or click here.