How Older Adults Are Aging Happy & Healthy
We all want to stay healthy and happy as we age. Yet some of us seem to navigate the retirement years better than others. What’s the secret to success? The answer isn’t our genetics, although that plays a part. Healthy aging depends on how we engage in the following health behaviors: physical activity, mental stimulation, social connections and purposeful activities. According to a decade-long study, 70% of our physical aging and around 50% of mental aging result from the lifestyle we lead based on those behaviors.
The effect that strong social connections have on health is far-reaching. Strong social networks help us thrive. Without them, we feel lonely, and loneliness brings with it serious health effects that rival those of smoking, obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle. It causes our body to respond with increased levels of stress hormones and inflammation, weakening our arteries and immune systems. In this way, loneliness has been linked to arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, depression, and even risk of early death.
Staying connected with others creates a sense of belonging and improves our overall outlook on life. We feel happier and more positive about the world around us. Social connectedness is also good for our brain. A study by the Global Council on Brain Health found that older adults who are socially active tend to have a higher level of cognitive function.
When we make social connections a priority, we’re healthier, happier, and we live longer. It might be as simple as scheduling a regular outing with a friend, visiting with family, or saying yes to a social event even if you don’t know anyone there. Try focusing on an activity where you know you’ll meet new people, such as an exercise class at your gym, or a local interest group such as a book club, gardening or crafting group. Volunteering your time for a cause you care about is another good way to add like-minded friends to your social circle. Structured social activities like these add variety to your life and give you something to look forward to.
There’s something unique about leading a purposeful life that adds life to our years. Seniors who feel a higher sense of purpose sleep better, stay on top of medical appointments and health checks, and persevere with behaviors such as diet and exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle. In fact, according to a study published by Psychological Science, when we have a meaningful life, a sense of direction, and set goals for what we want to achieve, we lower the risk of mortality more than any other factors used to predict longevity.
Finding a new direction in life can be challenging after leaving the workplace or other occupation that added structure and organization to our days. Our priorities also change as we get older, and we reevaluate what’s important to us. Rekindling a sense of purpose can take many forms. You may find fulfillment in a daily practice of yoga, meditation or prayer. Through volunteerism, you may contribute to something bigger than yourself. You may choose to express your story in writing, music, or other creative arts. You could use this time to go back to school and dive deeper into a subject that interests you. Or maybe it’s travel where you’ll find the answer. Charting your purpose involves broadening your horizon and learning new things.
A Holistic Lifestyle
Are you confident that your current retirement lifestyle supports every aspect of health — physical, intellectual, mental, social and spiritual — so you can continue to thrive well into your later years? Achieving an optimal life balance is challenging, because it takes knowledge, planning, effort and time. And it’s difficult to know when we’re getting it right. Senior living is an all-inclusive solution to the need for healthy aging. Chief among its advantages is a maintenance-free lifestyle that removes time-consuming daily chores such as housekeeping, laundry and yardwork.
A residential senior living setting offers:
Physical benefits: You’ll find it easier to get into a regular fitness routine with access to amenities such as a fitness center and pool on-site. Communities offer a range of exercise and wellness programming, such as yoga or strength building, designed specifically for seniors. They also provide new culinary experiences and freshly prepared meals for healthy eating. Most communities also have enjoyable outdoor spaces for exercise and recreation, including walking trails and paths.
Social benefits: Participating in activities in a community setting allows you to meet new people and make new friends. Residents are encouraged to be friendly and inclusive to build a close-knit community feeling. A hidden benefit of living in senior communities is also how it lifts the burden of care from family members, so residents can reconnect with their friends and family in a relationship that doesn’t involve caregiving.
Mental benefits: Lifelong learning in a community allows you to challenge your mind by taking part in classes, outings and performances. There are usually clubs and events that cater to different interests, such as book clubs, arts and crafts, and travel.
Spiritual benefits: From activities and volunteerism to devotional services and support groups, communities offer you many ways to add more meaning and life satisfaction.
Living Well at Opus Communities
Find your individual balance in a healthy aging lifestyle at Opus Communities. We support all aspects of your wellness so you can determine your goals and set the pace. Through Flourish, our wellness program, you’ll have the opportunity to follow your interests and discover new passions through lifelong learning cultural programs. Contact us to learn more, and ask how you can become a priority member.