On August 21, we are celebrating the National Senior Citizens Day. An important topic is in regard to positive aging, which is also known as healthy aging. According to the World Health Organization (2020), positive aging is referred to as “the process of developing and maintaining the functional ability that enables wellbeing in older age.” Many individuals have mixed feelings about growing old, as there are many changes in many different life aspects. Aging can be reflected in one’s physical appearance, such as getting more wrinkles and gray hair, as well as some changes in one’s health. While some changes may be unavoidable during the process of growing old, how can one age gracefully? This article will be featuring on several aspects of aging and strategies to guide people to achieve satisfaction in the journey of aging.
Aging and its Stereotypes:
According to research, 60 percent of individuals think that older people are less respected. In which, the lowest levels of respect for older adults were reported in higher income countries. Negative attitudes about aging and older people are known as ageism, which is a hot topic and a societal issue. An example of a negative attitude is that society may view older adults as less capable and provide a lesser contribution. As a matter of fact, some older adults may perceive themselves as a burden to others. Hence, the negative attitudes do not necessarily come from other age groups, older adults may view themselves negatively due to the societal pressure that has been put on them. Due to ageism, older adults have a significantly detrimental impact on their physical and mental health. The researchers have also found that age discrimination does have powerful impact on seniors’ lives.
Aging and Mental Health:
Many may find aging to be challenging to accept, especially when one’s body is no longer able to do the things when one was younger, bones are likely to break easily and cause aches and pains. As everyone has different encounters of experiences with aging, some individuals may have their mental health affected due to these experiences. In fact, the society that we live in today may view older adults as a less valued population. Many older adults struggle to find their place and often must redefine their identities and purpose of living. Along with all the possible experiences mentioned, other relevant signs of aging that affect one’s mental health include depression, loneliness, fear and anxiety, and severe mood swings.
Strategies for Positive Aging:
- Aging in Gratitude
- Based off of developmental psychologist Erik Erikson’s eighth stage of development integrity versus despair; a deeper look into the evaluation of one’s life. Gratitude is seen as the highest vibration, the positive thoughts will help older adults to reach a sense of appreciation of their life, as well as acknowledging all matters in life.
- Accept Aging with Open Arms
- Accept the fact that we are all going to age and decline. If we can accept what we are unable to change, the only decision left is for us to learn how to carry ourselves moving forward. Instead of dwelling on the things we cannot change and control, we can learn to accept them to feel happy and content about the changes.
- Regular Exercise
- There is no need to engage in high-intensity workouts, however, it is important to stay physically active. Enjoy any form of physical activity you usually love to do, as long as you’re getting decent exercise, for about 30 minutes a day, you are likely to reduce the chances of developing serious illnesses. At the same time, regular exercise can help to keep your joints limber and maintain a stable strength. Physical exercise has proven to boost your mood too!
- Healthy Diet
- Many older adults may tend to rely on quick and easy meals – processed canned foods have high sugar, fat, sodium, and preservatives. They tend to drink less water and may not know how to select healthy food choices. Drink plenty of water and keep yourself hydrated. If drinking water is challenging, you can always set an alarm every one or two hours to remind you of your water intake. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, select lean proteins and foods that are high in fiber. Keep an eye out on your calorie and sugar intake would be important as well.
- Sufficient Sleep
- It is true that some older adults may be sleeping less than they used to. Chronic pain, anxiety, and other issues can cause them to sleep less soundly as well. If you are having trouble getting enough sleep, make sure you spare some time for relaxation before going to bed. If you consistently have sleep problems or struggle with staying awake throughout the day, do speak to your primary care doctor for recommended treatment.
- Stay connected
- By nurturing relationships with your spouse/partner, family, friends, neighbors, and others in your community, older adults are less likely to feel lonely, isolated, and stressed. Research has shown that socialization can protect older adults’ brains from early signs of dementia. Engaging with others will help seniors to realize how to keep their health in check, they can all engage in other healthy behaviors together which promote healthy aging.
To read more on positive aging:
By, Jessica Lau, MHC Intern