All living people are aging. It is an inevitable and natural process that comes with the cycle of life. The good news is that we have some control over how we age. The better news is that we don’t need to deny or express regret to others about natural changes to our bodies.
If you are in your 50’s, 60’s, or beyond, there is no need to apologize for the following:
Struggling with memory loss.
Natural Progression: As we get older, our body begins to deteriorate, including the brain. Inescapably, our brains will shrink, especially when cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, poor sleeping habits, and anxiety are present. Our memories and mental sharpness will begin to diminish and our ability to learn or multitask will become faulty.
Helpful Tips: With advanced aging, it is especially important to take proper care of your health and well-being. To maintain or strengthen your brain function, focus on eating healthy foods, exercising on a regular basis, meditating, avoiding stressful situations, sleeping 7 to 8 hours each night, and having regular check-ups with your physician and other healthcare professionals.
Having problems hearing.
Natural Progression: We gradually experience age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) that often affects both ears equally. Over time, it may become increasingly more difficult to hear certain voice pitches or to be in areas with poor acoustics. Loud blasts, excessive noise exposure, injury to the ear, viral infections, shingles, and diabetes are also common reasons for hearing loss that may become more prevalent with aging.
Helpful Tips: To protect your hearing, be particularly cautious around continuous noise pollution. If some hearing loss has occurred, get your ears tested by a trained audiologist and be willing to follow-up with any recommendations that make sense to you. Don’t hesitate to ask people to repeat themselves or stay in situations that inhibit your ability to hear.
Adjusting your style of exercise.
Natural Progression: As our muscles, joints, and bones change with aging, our body loses both strength and mobility. The bones become less dense and more brittle with the loss of calcium and minerals to support them. Our posture, gait, and ability to stay balanced will be affected by these changes.
Helpful Tips: Staying physically fit and active through exercise is a vital part of aging successfully. To improve your immune system, blood pressure, and bone density and to lower risk for such diseases as diabetes, heart failure, osteoporosis and certain cancers, keep moving. Change out the way you once exercised in your 20’s and 30’s by implementing a daily exercise program that works best for your lifestyle now. You may want to consult with a trained professional to come up with a sound regiment that accommodates for your changing body.
Protecting your finances.
Natural Progression: Following retirement, most people live on multiple income sources, including a retirement pension, social security, investments, real estate, and/or inheritance. Given today’s longevity, the rising cost of living, medical expenses, and other unforeseen financial demands, what initially seems like a good sum of money to retire on might easily be depleted over the years to come.
Helpful Tips: For financial security after retirement, invest in managing your health and well-being as your first line of defense. In addition, establish a realistic budget and stick to it. Look for ways to reduce costs by downsizing your home or consolidating property. Speak to a financial advisor about maximizing your retirement savings and investment portfolio. Be hesitant to lend money to anyone, even your loved ones, unless you can afford to write it off as a loss if you fail to get it back.
Changing how you socialize.
Natural Progression: Being in certain social environments can become increasingly more difficult to tolerate as we age. While research evidence suggests that social isolation and loneliness are significant health risks for the elderly, so is putting ourselves into stressful or unhealthy situations. Loss of hearing, poor eyesight, mental and physical disabilities, illnesses, and deaths of a spouse or other loved ones all play a role in how we socialize as older adults. Therefore, discovering our own meaningful ways to interact with others is an ideal practice for keeping social.
Helpful Tips: To promote your mental, physical and emotional well-being, it is important to stay socially connected as you age. However, pick and choose opportunities you find to be enjoyable and fit with your mental and physical changes. Consider taking classes to learn something new, joining a gym, volunteering, becoming a member of a group with a focus on something fun, exercising with others, and/or spending time being with the people you love. Engage in rewarding activities that give you a sense of happiness.
Natural Progression: Old age begins in our 20’s when our mental powers first begin to decline. As time progresses, our mental and physical abilities start to deteriorate, causing us to slow down. We will no longer be able to think as quickly, move as swiftly, or react as fast as we did in the past. In our 50’s and beyond, these changes will become more evident as we match up against the younger generations in both our personal and professional lives.
Helpful Tips: Focus on creating the best version of yourself. Start sooner than later to promote a healthy lifestyle. Initiate physical activity into your daily routine, eat a healthy diet, manage stress, get enough sleep, maintain your ideal weight, and avoid substance abuse. Learn to be flexible and make the necessary changes to your regiment as you age.
Being you…just the way you are.
Natural Progression: Whoever we are today is a culmination of our past. Over a lifetime, we have experienced a mixture of optimism, love, apprehension, awe, disapproval, remorse, and contempt. Our lives have been defined with times of triumph and moments of failure. We have learned to grow strong through adversity and wise with each life passage. Despite what aging brings, we will continue to be ourselves, a living wealth of discovery.
Helpful Tips: Age gracefully by living your life to the fullest. Be mindful of the present and thankful for each day you grace the earth. Focus on healthy and productive ways to keep mentally, physically, and emotionally strong. Refuse to mourn your past by learning to accept and enjoy who you are now. Think of yourself as a blessing to you and others. And, live your life accordingly.
Just remember: For societies infatuated with youthful beauty and vitality, there is often an accompanying stigma to getting older. The idea of becoming old is often unthinkable and easily deniable to these individuals. As you move into your own advanced aging, make it a priority to educate your physical, mental, and emotional changes to the people who are most important to you. Limit your conversations to the facts as they pertain to you and don’t turn them into gripe sessions. Most younger people feel immortal and have no clue as to what it means to get older. Therefore, the onus is on you.
Written by: Patricia K. Flanigan, Smart Strategies for Successful Living
Patricia K. Flanigan has worked in higher education for over 28 years. She holds a doctoral degree in Organizational Leadership from the University of La Verne as well as a M.A. in Latin American Studies and B.A. in Anthropology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Before retiring and moving to Idaho in 2015, she served as the dean of online education and learning resources at Saddleback College, a large community college in Southern California. She currently consults in higher education, writes for local magazines, and serves as an Affiliate Faculty member at Boise State University. She works in collaboration with LEARN (Lifelong Education and Aging Resource Network). Since February 2017, she has been the founding director and an author for Smart Strategies for Successful Living, a community-based website designed to promote quality aging. As an educator, her focus is to inspire others to live and age well.
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