Aging Well Is Aging Gracefully

What it means to each generation to age well has changed throughout the decades.  As societal norms change, expectations for how people should feel or act also change.  The goal of successful aging is always to age gracefully.

So what does it mean to age well or gracefully?  Aging gracefully is finding the optimal balance between the physical, social (friendships), mental (cognitive), psychological, and spiritual aspects of aging.  Each aspect of aging is important and interacts with the other.

We must be intentional in how we grow, develop, and maintain these five aspects of aging because of the multifaceted nature of our beings.  Each aspect will likely be a focus at different times and seasons.  Like a garden, our lives (and specifically these five basic attributes to graceful aging) go through the necessary seasons and cycles.

As a physical therapist, my primary role is to help older adults improve their physical abilities so they can continue to participate in the other aspects of living a full and graceful life. Daily activity and maintaining strength are vital components to aging well.  Implement the following tips for staying active and aging gracefully.

4 Tips to Help You Stay Active and Age Gracefully:

  1. Walk Everyday. We all need daily activity.  A daily walking program is critical to healthy aging.  Research has shown that walking after meals is an excellent way to lower blood glucose.  This is critical to avoid diabetes and maintaining your cardiac health.
  2. Weight Train. Maintaining strength as you age is a key factor in healthy aging.  All aspects of mobility require adequate muscle strength.  Research on strength training is very clear.  It’s safe for anyone at any age, and older muscles respond well to strength training.  It’s never too late!  If you are nervous about adding strength training to your weekly routine, then get help from a professional.  Making this one change could be the most important thing you could do to insure you maximize your body’s physical ability to age well.
  3. Keep Socializing. The number one thing you can do to prevent cardiac disease is to maintain healthy friendships.  Whenever possible, combine different aspects of aging well.  Exercise is more fun in a group.  Take a walk with a friend.  Get personal training sessions in a group with a couple of friends who also want to stay strong. Perform moderate intensity exercise at least 150 minutes a week and maintain a healthy diet by avoiding the SAD diet (standard American diet) in order to prevent cardiovascular disease.  Eat fresh vegetables and healthy meat portions and avoid processed foods and grains.
  4. Be Proactive. As a physical therapist specializing in older adult care, a common scenario I see is that people wait too long to get assistance for those nagging aches and pains that are preventing them from maintaining a healthy active lifestyle.  Most conditions are more easily treated the earlier they can be addressed.  If you are suffering from persistent pain that is preventing you from doing the activities you love, then don’t wait to get assistance!  Waiting longer can not only make the condition harder to treat and prolong recovery times, but it can also cause additional issues to arise as one attempts to compensate because of pain and abnormal movement patterns.  If you don’t already have a physical therapist or other medical provider to help you address your painful areas, then The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) has an excellent resource for learning more about physical therapy as well as locating a physical therapist in your area.

Take charge, and empower yourself!  Aging gracefully is possible and will be different for everyone.  You must be your greatest advocate.  You have control over most of the aspects in your life that affect your ability to age well and gracefully.  Start today by implementing these 4 tips to help you stay active and age gracefully!

Written by: Ben Shatto

Editor’s Note:  This article was written by Ben Shatto, PT, DPT, OCS.  Ben is a physical therapist and Executive Director of Bluebird Home Health as well as the founder and editor of the website www.thePhysicalTherapyAdvisor.com. His website is dedicated to help proactive adults of all ages to understand how to safely self-treat and manage common musculoskeletal, neurological, and mobility related conditions in a timely manner so they can reach their optimal health.