What is healthy aging?

Recent scientific work defines successful aging as an approach that relies on three elements: good health (low risk of disease), high mental and physical functioning, and active involvement in life (maintaining social connections and participating in meaningful activities). There are a variety of daily actions that can promote these three elements, but it is important to integrate them into life consciously and regularly. In other words, it is important to turn these actions into new daily routines to enhance healthy aging. Here are some tips on how to do it in a way that creates a positive experience:

Humans are social creatures and biologically wired to connect for survival, attachment, and development. Studies have shown that social environment plays a key role in our well-being. This is true for all ages, and elderly are no different: we are not becoming less social because we grow old. It is important to know that growing old does not change our essence: a person who was social at 20 will also be social at 80. However, the type of relationships we create changes. First, our social circles shrink over the course of our lives. At younger age, we tend to create many social connections, both superficial and deep. Over time we focus on quality in stand of quantity, and abandon superficial relationships in favor of deeper ones. The ability to invest in a limited number of deep and meaningful relationships contributes to high satisfaction in life even in old age.

People who have been through a lot in life learn to separate the wheat from the chaff and invest their time in what really matters to them. When we reach old age, we have already accumulated many life experiences, formed a body of knowledge, and we know better how to choose our battles. This helps us to invest our energy productively and to look for creative solutions. In fact, there is an important key here: age gives us the opportunity to act wisely and use our mental resources on what is essential in life.

Older people know that attitude is more important than deeds, especially that with age the brain tends to become less sensitive to negative experience. A positive attitude that finds in everything the silver lining is a powerful tool that enhances enjoyment. With changes in life following retirement, this “bright” approach helps to go through this complex transition and into the next stage of development in an optimal way. A positive attitude, finding meaning and loving life, are essential in old age. In fact, many adults volunteer, create art or develop new hobbies. These occupations contribute to the sense of self-worth and give life a new taste, especially if it also contributes to the well-being of others.

Following the proverb “my body is my sanctuary”, we shall take care of our body in old age, meaning, to keep fit and healthy and have a proper diet. There is strong evidence that exercise improves health through neurovascular mechanisms. A healthy and balanced diet, tailored to our needs, will complement our physical habits, and serve as an important boost to your brain. Fitness and nutrition support us in staying healthy for a longer time, and recovering faster and better from injuries and illnesses. This is even more true if we also avoid smoking and over-drinking alcohol. Not particularly surprising, is it?

Finally, stimulating mental activity will keep our brain quick and sharp. A famous study found that nuns who maintained an active lifestyle, which included constant learning and community engagement, reached a very old age with a clear mind. Indeed, we need challenges to thrive and to become “super-agers”. Do not hesitate to push yourself mentally, whether it means puzzles, reading, writing, debating, playing an instrument, speaking a new language or computerized cognitive training. Humans constantly evolve and we need to keep evolving to stay strong, healthy, and sound. Life provides us with great opportunities to always learn something new, seize them !

 

As you can see, people can enjoy their lives at any age. The points mentioned above are important at all ages, but in older age they can certainly make a big difference.

The task of healthy aging is to add life to your years, not just years to your life.

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