Five Great Research-Based Resolutions for Happier, Healthier Aging

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? A Hand in Hand poll showed that many of our readers resolve to make lifestyle choices that promote healthier aging—including exercise, healthcare management, socialization and a nutritious diet.

For your 2017 list, check out these five resolutions, all based on recent research studies:

  1. Talk to your doctor about your family health history. A recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology took a look at factors predicting a longer life. The research team, led by University of Exeter scientists, found that having a parent who lived to a ripe old age lowers a person’s risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. According to the researchers, “Our chances of survival increase by 17 percent for each decade that at least one parent lives beyond the age of 70.” Yet if a parent suffered from a genetically linked health condition, lifestyle changes and targeted healthcare sometimes can delay the onset in our own case, or lower the impact. Knowing your family health history can help you and your doctor be alert for signs of disease so that effective treatment can begin early.
  2. Cultivate a sense of purpose. Research has shown that feeling we have a place in the world provides a powerful health boost. Here’s the latest: Rush University Medical Center reported that it can even lower our risk of stroke. Said Professor Patricia Boyle, Ph.D., “Positive psychological factors, such as having a purpose in life, are emerging as very potent determinants of health outcomes.” Boyle’s co-author Lei Yu, Ph.D., offered this advice: “Purpose in life differs for everyone and it is important to be thoughtful about what motivates you (such as volunteering, learning new things, or being part of the community) so you can engage in rewarding behaviors.”
  3. Get the help you need to stay independent. Staying active and engaged is easier when we feel that we have control over our lives and can make our own choices. But as we grow older, we may need care support to remain as independent as possible. Before you need them, check out the services and adaptive activities offered by your local senior services office, senior center, parks department and so forth. For an extra measure of independence, many seniors use professional home care. Services range from skilled nursing, such as wound care and administering medications, to less costly non medical care, which can be tailored to your needs—help with bathing and dressing, shopping, meal preparation, light housekeeping and the companionship of the caregiver that fights isolation and depression.
  4. Improve your expectations about aging. In our culture, it’s hard not to encounter a lot of negative clichés about older adults. Seniors are crabby, negative, grumpy, crotchety, say the stereotypes, and internalizing these messages not only can diminish our contentment in later years, but can also make it less likely we’ll be healthy. Instead, consider this: According to University of California San Diego’s Dr. Dilip Jeste, people in their 20s and 30s actually have a higher level of stress and depression than their older counterparts, perhaps, as he says, because seniors have learned “not to sweat the little things, and a lot of previously big things become little.” In a long-term study, Jeste reported that aging adults “seem to get better over time. Their improved sense of psychological well-being was linear and substantial…they felt better about themselves and their lives year upon year, decade after decade.” If a senior has symptoms of depression or persistent bad mood, it’s important to get help. These symptoms are not a “normal part of aging.”
  5. Think about healthy aging before you’re old. Though we can make changes to improve our health at almost any age, it can really pay off to lay the healthy-aging groundwork early on. A recent study from Duke University School of Medicine found that the best way to preserve our strength and endurance is to work on it before we turn 50. If you wait until your 70s or 80s, “by then you’ve missed 40 years of opportunities to remedy problems,” said researcher Miriam C. Morey, Ph.D. “People often misinterpret ‘aging’ to mean ‘aged’, and that issues of functional independence aren’t important until later in life. The good news is, with proper attention and effort, the ability to function independently can often be preserved with regular exercise.” If you are reading this newsletter, chances are that you either provide care for an older loved one, or work with clients and patients who are older. Keep in mind that any advice you would offer your loved one pertains to you as well! Exercise, a good diet, maintaining a healthy weight and managing health conditions all raise the odds that you’ll be healthy and independent in your later years.

Assisting Hands wishes you and yours a very happy holiday season and a healthy 2017!

Source: Assisting Hands Home Care in association with IlluminAge. Copyright © IlluminAge, 2016.