If you think about it, positive aging and healthy aging are sort of the same thing. There are several kinds of wellness — seniors have not only their physical health to care for, but also their mental, social, financial and spiritual health.
If wellness in one or several of those areas is lacking, a person suffers. And suffering is ultimately what causes a person to lose his or her positive outlook on life.
At this year's Refresh Your Soul positive aging conference, to be held Monday, March 12, in Xavier University's Cintas Center, Tristate seniors and their caregivers will learn what they can do to promote overall wellness.
Today, we'll preview some of the topics you'll learn about with these 4 tips for healthy aging:
1. Stay curious. Keep learning.
The brain is a tremendous machine. It isn't static; it can change, rewire and adapt itself to new stimuli over the entire course of one's life. That's a concept called neuroplasticity — and it will be a featured topic at gerontologist Liz Tassone's special luncheon presentation at Refresh Your Soul.
What does that have to do with healthy aging?
Simply this: there's a strong body of evidence that people who continue to challenge their brains with new learning, new experiences, new social situations and the like may be able (to a certain extent) to prevent Alzheimer's disease, early-onset dementia and other cognitive disorders.
The supposition is that people who provide their brains with a steady stream of new stimuli over the course of their lives trigger the neuroplasticity effect; in a sense, they force their brains to continually remodel and refurbish themselves, keep them, from a biological standpoint, "younger" and less susceptible to cognitive degeneration.
Conversely, if this hypothesis is indeed correct, sitting in front of the TV all day and rarely doing anything new or exciting could actually cause your brain to "rot," just like your mother warned you it would.
2. Exercise regularly.
Again, the pantheon of brain stimuli doesn't just include reading books, taking lifelong learning classes, or travelling. It also includes physical activity.
The brain is your body's central computer — it tells your muscles when to move, it coordinates their movements, it maintains your senses of balance and spatial relation, and it regulates your autonomic functions (breathing, heartbeat, endocrine and excretory processes, etc.)
If you stay physically active, you're constantly challenging the brain to maintain its ability to perform all those functions. It's a bit like sending test signals down a computer's circuit pathway, to keep it primed and ready for when it's really needed.
And, we know that just like seniors who engage in lifelong learning, people who continue to exercise as they age keep themselves not only in good physical condition, but reduce their chances of developing early memory loss.
So, give yourself enough time to get good sleep every night. Wake up, have an egg white sandwich and some OJ. Then, devote 30 minutes to an hour a day to performing some sort of exercise.
And vary the exercises you perform. Don't walk everyday — walk on Monday, swim on Tuesday, do some light weight training on Wednesday, shoot hoops or play racquetball on Thursday. The more you vary your exercise, the less boring and routine it will be, and the more it will challenge your brain.
3. Get the right nutrition.
The body really is a temple. A temple you need. And if you allow it to fall into disrepair, you're not living well.
A significant component of healthy aging is giving your body the right building materials to maintain itself. As we age, it naturally becomes more difficult for your body to perform its cellular self-maintenance, so make things as easy as possible: eat right.
Eat a broad variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. Stick to healthy proteins like poached egg whites, grilled fish and shrimp, baked skinless chicken and, once in a while, well-trimmed cuts of lean beef. Eat a cup of yogurt or drink a glass of fortified 1% milk every day.
To give yourself more variety, mix in healthy plant-based proteins: nuts and seeds, seitan, tofu, jackfruit, and soy, rice, or cashew milk.
4. Don't try to live like an ascetic.
Remember, healthy aging depends as much upon emotional well-being as it does physical well-being. Every so often — say, Saturday evening — it's OK to indulge a little with a comfort food.
Have that baked potato, dish of ice cream, burger, or whatever you're jonesing for. Just don't make it an everyday habit. As they say, "everything in moderation."
Work diligently, but don't work constantly. Allow yourself some play time.
Go see the grandkids; take them out for a fun afternoon with Grandpa. Bake some cookies and eat one before you put them in the jar. Go on a nature hike. Kiss your wife or your husband. If you're a single senior, try dating again. Screw up the courage to sing some karaoke.
There's so much more to life than meeting obligations and performing to your own (or others') expectations. Healthy, positive aging requires allowing yourself the room to live a little.
Ready to learn more about positive aging? Come to Refresh Your Soul 2018!
Put the tips we've shared with you into practice. And come learn more with us in March, at #RYS2018.
Visit the conference's information page to find out more about our featured speakers and the topics they'll cover.
Then, click here to purchase your tickets. Registration is now open and early bird discounts are available through Feb. 12. All proceeds benefit Episcopal Retirement Services' community-based Parish Health Ministry.
See you at the Cintas Center on March 12!