Although Pew Research suggests that 10,000 baby boomers retire each day, many of us would love nothing more than to stay young forever. But eventually, we all have to face the ways in which our age affects us—physically, mentally, and emotionally.
That doesn’t mean the situation is hopeless, though. There are countless ways that seniors can take a proactive role in preserving their youth and health through the choices they make on a daily basis. The “secrets” outlined here may seem like common sense, but you might be surprised by the number of seniors who don’t heed this advice. If you want to remain young in mind, in body, and in spirit, you should consider the following.
Understandably, many seniors are concerned about their health and the potential expenses that come along with it. Doing ample research and obtaining Medicare quotes can allow you to ensure your healthcare costs are covered once you reach retirement age. That way, if the worst should occur, you won’t have to face both a physical and a financial burden.
But preventative methods can preserve your health and your bank account. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the two leading causes of death among people ages 65 and over are heart disease and cancer. Diabetes also affects 23% of the older population. By making healthier choices now, you may be able to reduce your risk of developing those conditions later.
Adopting a healthy diet and giving up smoking are great ways to improve your quality of life. Prioritizing physical activity is another. The CDC recommends that adults over the age of 65 should fit in at least two hours and 30 minutes of physical activity per week. Walking, swimming, indoor exercise classes, tai chi, and dance lessons have all proven to be beneficial for seniors. In fact, studies have found that dance can significantly improve muscular strength, balance, and endurance among older adults. That just goes to show you’re never too old to learn new tricks.
Mental health and cognitive issues can be major concerns for older adults. According to the CDC, more than 16 million people throughout the US were living with cognitive impairments in 2011. An estimated 5.1 million Americans over the age of 65 already had Alzheimer’s disease by that time—a number that could reach 13.2 million by 2050.
There’s evidence to suggest that people with a higher level of education have a lower risk for developing Alzheimer’s. Some scientists believe that those with occupations that provide mental stimulation have a lowered risk of developing this condition, as well. Studies have also suggested that remaining mentally active may reduce the risk of dementia development, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Reuters also reports that seniors who play mentally stimulating games, craft, or use the computer on a regular basis may have a lower risk of developing cognitive impairment than their peers who do not engage in these activities. Clearly, making an effort to keep the mind sharp through ongoing education and enjoyable endeavors can pay off.
You might be surprised to learn how isolated many seniors are. The U.S. Census Bureau found that in 2010, 11 million people aged 65 and over were living alone. While that doesn’t necessarily mean these seniors experience complete social isolation, it does increase their risk along with some undesirable side effects.
One study found that social isolation and loneliness are associated with a higher risk of mortality among those aged 52 and over. Feelings of loneliness have also been tied to cognitive decline, physical health issues, and depression. Depression reportedly affects 7 million older Americans, many of whom never receive treatment. Suicide rates among the 85 and older demographic are the highest among any group, according to the National Council on Aging.
But social interaction holds the power to change a lot of that. The National Institute on Aging notes that social relationships typically correlate with the markers of good health. Staying social during retirement can improve one’s mental and physical well-being. There’s even evidence to suggest that social well-being may correlate with lower interleukin-6 levels. That’s key, since interleukin-6 is an inflammatory component of Alzheimer’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers. It’s no surprise, then, that social interaction can make a world of difference for seniors.
Short of discovering the Fountain of Youth, there’s no guaranteed way to remain young forever. But by focusing on mental stimulation, physical fitness, and social opportunities, you’ll be able to stay vibrant and healthy for many years to come.