February 1, 2018 Edition


There is a large body of evidence to prove we change as we age, something our own bodies can attest to and aren’t the least bit reluctant to remind us about. No matter how active we are – and let’s be honest, for some of us that’s not as much as when we were socializing in ways that involved dancing; parenting in ways that involved chasing toddlers, coaching elementary age kids and walking the floor over teens turned loose on the town; or keeping up with the demands of jobs, family and community commitments – we are probably not moving as much or as wisely as we need to in order to maintain strength, flexibility and balance.

For one thing, nature tends to work against us during a time in our lives when we used to tell ourselves time would work for us by freeing us for more pursuits we could enjoy. Our hip and leg strength has probably diminished. Our spines don’t quite measure up to some of the strain every day life piles on them. We notice that our balance leaves something to be desired. We worry about falls. Our joints protest the loads we’ve been putting on them through the years.

But we’re not ready to sit down and fall apart. We have lots more living to do and we want it to be filled with movement; good physical, emotional and mental health; and confidence that we can navigate the path before us successfully.

There are, of course, some basic things we can do for ourselves:

1. Walk as much as possible and do it in fresh air whenever nature cooperates.

2. Eat wisely, cutting back on volume and choosing fewer calorie-laden meals and treats if we have packed on a few extra pounds. Be particularly careful about keeping calcium and iron levels where they need to be. 3. Choose footwear that offers good support.

4. Avoid climbing, especially on less-than-stable chairs or stools.

5. Protect eyes, skin and ears from assaults by sun, loud noise and harsh chemicals.

6. Opt for clothing that does not restrict movement or blood flow, that does not pose a problem with balance and that features non-trailing hems or cuffs that might cause falls.

7. Practice good oral hygiene and visit the dentist regularly for professional cleaning.

8. Remind yourself not to sit in front of a computer terminal or hunch over a desk for extended periods of time.

9. Find those things that help with relaxation and practice them before a regular bedtime – a warm and gentle shower, a good book, caffeine-free dinner and snack menus for late in the day, a break from social interaction via technology, an absence of computer games and a refusal to listen to or watch any programs that will raise blood pressure or inspire the clenching of fists or jaws.

10. Exercise regularly. Check local health clubs, gyms, churches, senior centers and retirement home activity schedules and get going. If there is knowledgeable assistance available to help you choose areas you need to focus on, take full advantage. If not, contact your physician and ask for hints about the kind and intensity of exercise you need to be doing. Then discipline yourself to follow that advice, working up to the levels recommended if you’re not quite able to manage the full program immediately. Check out the local library for books and DVDs that focus on healthy exercise for seniors. Go online (briefly) and Google exercise routines for seniors. Read the reviews and order one that seems to meet your needs. “Aging Strong Pilates” or the “Walk Away the Pounds” videos might be good choices for you to do alone in your own living room or with friends you either invite over or make plans to meet in a church fellowship hall or similar spot.

11. If there are activities you have enjoyed in the past but have had to give up because they are a little too challenging, think about ways you could duplicate the experience less stressfully. Perhaps some of your pleasure came from the people who shared your fun. Maybe it’s a good time to suggest some other opportunity to get up and move together.

12. Volunteer. Contact local churches, community groups dedicated to providing assistance for those in need, schools that welcome tutors or mentors, hospitals, political groups or other organizations with a focus either on something you have always been interested in or something you have always wanted to learn about. Giving of ourselves to others always rebounds to our benefit in some way.

13. Read to stimulate your brain and engage your mind and heart. Indulge in puzzles and word games that keep your thinking sharp.

14. Write, paint, sculpt, carve, do needlework, perfect your cooking skills or simply learn some kitchen basics, volunteer to speak on something in which you have expertise or on something about which you are passionate, record your memories and your plans. In other words, create something that reflects part of who you are and leave it for those who come after you.

15. Travel – even if it’s only across town. But also check out places far and wide. Many tour companies cater to seniors and can accommodate a variety of needs.

16. Focus on what is positive in your life.

Life is a journey. Choose your highway carefully and set out with high expectation.

2018-02-01 / Features

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