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Don’t Just Age Gracefully… Age Gratefully!

Aging gracefully is one thing… we all must come to terms with our aging bodies at one point or another. Whether we do that with grace or a grimace sometimes depends on the events of the day.

Instead, let’s make a choice to age gratefully. To have gratitude for all that has come before today and use those experiences to live an intentional and meaningful life for the rest of our days on this planet.

Never Stop Learning

One in eight adults in the United States over the age of 65 has Alzheimer’s disease or some form cognitive decline. A lifestyle that includes cognitive stimulation through active learning can slow cognitive decline, and in some cases, even reverse it.

Think of your neural connections as forest paths. Ones that are traveled often and with vigor are wide, smooth, and easy to travel. But once these paths are abandoned, they quickly get swallowed up by the surrounding forest until you can no longer even find them.

Activities that keep your neurons firing, help keep your brain’s communications pathways clear and strong. Picking up old hobbies and learning new skills not only strengthens decaying neuron pathways – this reinvigorated neural activity can actually create new pathways in the brain, making your brain “younger” and more fit!

Try taking dance lessons, learning a new language, attending lectures at a nearby college, learning to play a musical instrument, joining a book club, taking up photography, or taking an art class.

Take A Stand

Many seniors report they no longer feel needed or important now that they are older and beginning to slow down. Losing your life’s “purpose” often leads to depression and isolating behaviors.

Your children may be grown and long since left your home. Your career has probably reached its end. So what are you to do with all this time on your hands?

Take a stand for something you believe in! Join a community advocacy group… run for a local political office or the school board… join your neighborhood committee… volunteer as a tutor for underprivileged children… teach a class at your local library… volunteer as a mentor at your local career center or youth outreach program.

The “world” may no longer have a place picked out for you to inhabit. But that just means that you can take control and decide what you want your role to be.

You’ve lived a life full of joys and sorrows, successes and failures, love and heartache. Those experiences have tremendous value to others. Share your stories and invite others to discover your passions.

Feed Your Body Well

A well-nourished body is essential to healthy aging and maintaining your energy levels. Our bodies change as we age, and so do our nutritional needs. With age, the number of calories you need decreases so every calorie you consume must be packed with nutrition. But even with the best diet, you may still need supplementation since the human body becomes less efficient at absorbing key nutrients.

If nutrition is a concern, you may want to consult a holistic nutrition specialist. He or she will be able to order specific metabolic testing to determine if you are deficient in any key nutrients and then help you develop an eating plan that will provide the specific nutrients you need to stay active and healthy.

Keep Moving

Thanks to increased circulation, better oxygenation of the blood, and improved brain chemistry, older adults getting regular physical exercise are up to 60 % less likely to develop dementia. Activities like Tai Chi and ballroom dancing are fun and low impact, plus they boost cerebral activity while learning and remembering the routines.

Maybe you can also try “pole walking”. Walking poles provide more balanced mobility than canes or walkers. Plus, walking poles engage the muscles in the upper body, turning your gentle walk into a full body experience. You don’t need to climb mountains… even just a moderate pole-walk on a paved path will get your body moving and your blood pumping.

Stay Connected

Nearly one-third of older adults live alone. This kind of isolation is a breeding ground for depression and lethargy. To combat this, make it a point to find people to talk to and see face to face every day. Start by making a list of all your friends and family members and pick one person to call or email every day. Bonus points if you Skype or use Facetime!

If you are no longer driving and transportation is an issue getting to classes and events, contact your local senior center, Medicare office, or city’s department of transportation to see if there is a free or low-cost shuttle service for seniors. Many churches and community centers also offer non-medical transportation services.

If there is not one available, ask around at church or in your neighborhood to see if there is another adult or teen interested in helping you coordinate transportation. Your social interactions are important enough to your health and sense of wellbeing for you to do all you can to make interactions with others possible.

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