Our Bodies As Homes: Caring for Ourselves As We Age

 

Our bodies are the first home that we live in and no matter how many places we move to over the years, it is the one that stays with us. All the more reason to take very good care of ourselves as we age. As part of our August topic of the month, "The Spaces We Live In", Sound Options is sharing a few tips and busting myths about the link between aging and our bodies.

How we live in our bodies, dramatically influences how we age in our bodies. The partnership that we share with the physical part of ourselves also impacts our mental and emotional states regardless of our age. There is no question that our bodies do change over time, but many myths have normalized unhealthy lifestyles in seniors.

POP QUIZ

Which of the following statements are true:

A. Aging always mean decreased health and increased disability.

B. Dementia and memory loss are a normal part of aging.

C. The choices I make don’t change how I age.  

D. None of the above.

If you answered D. None of the above, you’re right, and what’s more you are past the first barrier of good health, which is having the mindset that your choices affect your quality of life. Your energy, vitality, mobility and independence, and general fulfillment are all increased with a little intentionality in the way we live and consistency in the decisions we make every day.

10 TIPS | Elements of a Healthy Lifestyle As you Age

As our bodies age, they naturally will have different needs. Different vitamins, more water, more sleep, etc. Any healthy lifestyle starts with listening and responding to our bodies. Building a customized health plan and goal is a great way to hold yourself accountable to creating the life that you want, now and in the years to come. Here are a few tips to shape your plan.

No. 1: Move Your Body: Traditional exercise or the thought of a gym may make you run for the hills, but maybe that is just what the doctor ordered. Getting outside and enjoying nature can be a much more engaging way to increase your stamina, lung capacity, joint health, and much more. Walking just 30 minutes a day 3-5 times a week dramatically reduces your risk for common diseases. The good news is that 30 minutes doesn’t have to be all at once. Break it up into 15 minute segments, and the benefits are the same.

No. 2: Manage Your Chronic Illnesses: The better you manage your chronic illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc. the better your quality of life will be as you age. There are recent studies that link diabetes with a high risk of dementia later in life.

No.3: Stay Flexible: While exercise is important for overall health, adding in practices that increase strength and flexibility, such as yoga, are important ways to reduce the risk of falls. 1 in 3 seniors will experience an injury related to a fall.

No. 4: Eat Like Your Life Depends On It: Our bodies are built for renewal. The human body entirely rebuilds itself, cell by cell, every 7 years. Now, like building any beautiful home, that process relies on quality building materials and cues from the inhabitants on how they use the space. How we use our bodies tells it what it is important and what is not. For example, if we are not physically active and bearing weight in our daily activities, our bodies take the cue and don’t rebuild a strong bone structure, because they see it as not necessary for our lifestyle. Equally important to activity is giving your body the right nutrients that we get from our diet and supplemental vitamins. If you’re using cheap inefficient materials to build your house, you’re probably not going to be featured on the cover of Architectural Digest.

No. 5: Make Your Doctor Your Partner: If your current doctor is not someone who you feel comfortable disclosing information to, or someone that listens and supports your health goals, find another doctor. Period. As we age, we need to keep up with appropriate test and often we have be proactive advocates for our own health, but you want someone in your corner who can equip you with a customized plan to manage your chronic illnesses and stay healthy and help you track your progress.

No. 6: It is Never Too Late: Regardless of where you are in the aging process it is never too late to quit unhealthy habits, such as smoking, excessive drinking, poor diet, etc. and it is never too late to start health habits in their place. The benefits of a healthy lifestyle can begin NOW.

No. 7: Assess the Financial Impact: When we’re planning for the future we always have to talk about money. It is often a foundation to our goals. Your long-term health plan should take a look at the funds needed to care for yourself and/or your spouse into the future. The better you care for yourself the more money you will save in healthcare costs later in life. A healthy lifestyle is the greatest investment you can make in your future and the biggest money saver.

No. 8: Communicate Your Goals: We are much more likely to bring about a goal that we want when we share it with others. Write down your health goals and your specific plans to get there and share then with your doctor, your loved ones and friends. The positive energy, encouragement, and accountability will be an asset to your journey.

No. 9: Make It Doable: While our intentions always remain good, it is our behaviors that will make lasting change in our lives. Your customized health plan should be easy to follow, fun, and creative. Consider making a checkup & tests calendar to remind yourself to check in with your body. Make exercise activities fun and fold in your hobbies to give yourself variety in the ways you stay active. Be creative in the ways you work in your new health habits. For example, bring your walking shoes to book club and have a walk and talk day. Take a yoga or kayaking class with a group of friends. Engage in travel or art museums that naturally include a lot of walking as you enjoy.

No. 10: Advance Directives: Getting our end-of-life affairs completed early in life is a huge gift to ourselves and our families. It takes the guess work out of a traumatic situation and reduces the stress put on family members. Document your wishes and have a family conversation about what you want and the role you would like them to play in the event that you are unable to make decisions.

There is no space that you will live in that is more important than your body. We encourage you to take very good care of yourself. A Certified Geriatric Care Manager can be a wonderful partner in this process. As an RN or MSW, they are can assess your living and health situation and create a customized plan of care to ensure that you enjoy the highest quality of life you possibly can at every stage of life. Call today to begin with a one hour consultation with a Care Manager to get you pointed in the right direction. Care Managers are able to meet individually in the privacy of our offices or with the whole family at home. We’re here when you needs us. 800.628.7649  

Published on August 21, 2013.