Living the Good Life After 60:
How to Protect Your Mental and Physical Health as You Age
Life after 60 may be known as the golden years, but for many, growing old presents more strife than joy. Aging adults must contend with failing health, the passing of family and friends, and economic challenges on top of coping with their changing role in the world. It’s a lot for anyone to deal with, and it’s part of the reason that depression and substance misuse are a growing problem among today’s elderly. But the idea of “golden years” doesn’t have to be a myth. By taking charge of growing old, you can enjoy a high quality of life into your later years.
One of the smartest things you can do as you enter the senior years is move to a more accessible home. By eliminating barriers like front steps and dim lighting, you can create a safer living environment for aging. As a result, you’re less likely to suffer a fall or other home accident that compromises your ability to live independently.
Moving also provides an opportunity to relocate to a more tight-knit community. Social connection is incredibly important for older adults; seniors who are socially isolated are at increased risk for a number of serious health problems. Single seniors might consider moving in with roommates or turning to organizations like A Little Help that connect seniors to helpful neighbors for everyone’s benefit: Older adults get company and a helping hand with things like transportation, landscaping, and home repair, while neighbors get to hear seniors’ stories and gain a sense of community. However, it’s hard to lean on your neighbors if they’re not nearby. Seek out urban neighborhoods, condominiums, and other dense communities to reduce social isolation.
Of course, it’s not just about where you live — it’s about how you live. If you’re inactive, have a poor diet, and don’t make an effort to get out, your physical and mental health will suffer. Physical activity is key for maintaining muscle mass and bone density, both of which seniors need to stay mobile and stable as they age. Getting moving also protects mental health; it not only keeps depression and anxiety at bay, but maintaining an active lifestyle also protects against dementia, ScienceDaily reports.
Diet matters too. Many seniors let nutrition fall by the wayside because their sense of taste has diminished, it’s hard to get to the grocery store, or they feel uninspired to cook when eating alone. But eating well isn’t just for the young: As the National Institutes of Health explains, older adults’ nutritional needs actually increase, because their body is less efficient at absorbing nutrients. Because caloric needs are lower, seniors must ensure every meal is as nutritionally-dense as possible, paying special attention to intake of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, dietary fiber, vitamins B6, B12 and E, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. While supplements can help fill the gaps, the best source of nutrients is a varied diet that limits refined grains and highly-processed foods.
Responsible use of substances, including medications, is another key to healthy aging. Older adults have a reduced ability to metabolize alcohol. As such, moderating alcohol intake is more important than ever. Seniors should always follow instructions provided by their prescribing physician when taking medications; if you think a dose should be changed or a medication is causing unwanted side effects, talk to your doctor before making a change. Substance misuse is a serious problem among seniors, and the results can be fatal. Addiction can not only cause damage to your health and support system but also ruin your personal finances making it hard to bounce back after recovery. To get your finances back on track check out this guide.
It’s a shame to reach your retirement years and be unable to enjoy them due to poor health. However, many of the problems faced by older adults can be mitigated or avoided completely when seniors take an active role in their mental and physical well-being. If you’re worried your senior years won’t look the way you hope, don’t wait to make a change. The sooner you get on a healthy path, the better off you’ll be.
Feel free to contact me for a complimentary wellness evaluation if you are looking to make changes in your health.
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