Add Years to Your Life; Add Life to Your Years

admiral-add-years-to-your-lifeAging is inevitable, but the speed of aging may not be, according to new research.

We’re all familiar with the adage, “Age is a state of mind,” and science is proving it true. Positive attitudes about aging may keep older adults physically robust and sharp minded, according to a January study published in “Personality and Individual Differences.”

Our own perceptions about how age affects us indicate how we will actually be affected. Aging won’t necessarily be the cause; perception is.

Our attitudes about life and others affect how we look at the world. Is the glass half full or half empty? Happier people not only live longer, they have fewer health problems.

How can we change our attitudes? How can we prevent depression? How can we become happier?

AARP advocates five steps to change attitude:

  1. Just say yes. Don’t let “analysis paralysis” prevent you from doing things.
  2. Start with a small change.
  3. Developing a hobby can be key in making positive change.
  4. Look for the positive in everything. The rain isn’t ruining the ball game; it’s feeding the plants.
  5. Break down big projects, goals and tasks into smaller ones.

Actions that promote a positive attitude include:

  1. Interact with a pet. It doesn’t even have to be your pet. The Admiral at the Lake community members frequently take their pets over to The Harbors, the nearby assisted living, rehab, skilled nursing building, for residents to play.
  2. Watch or read something funny, such as stand-up comedy or a funny movie or book.
  3. Make new friends, but keep the old.
  4. Learn new things.
  5. Conquer life’s challenges instead of ignoring or running away from them.

Lifestyle

Lifestyle factors affect aging more than genetics, according to a Johns Hopkins study. These factors include exercise, nutrition, weight, not smoking, moderation in alcohol intake, stress reduction, social interaction, and regular mental activity.

The most important factor, according to the study, is exercise, which aids bodily functions, reduces muscle strength loss, increases bone density, promotes sleep, and prevents depression.

Socialization

As we grow older, we become more discriminating in our choice of fewer friends. Sometimes, we are unable to see our friends as frequently. Whatever the reason, fewer friends means fewer opportunities for socialization.

Psychologist John Cacioppo’s research shows loneliness increases blood pressure, fatigue, and stress as well as reducing restraint and immune system response. In addition to other reasons for feeling lonely, older people have the experience of their children leaving the home, inability to drive, and even the loss of a spouse.

Socialization provides a host of benefits. Research indicates socialization reduces the likelihood of cognitive impairment, memory loss, Alzheimer’s, dementia, stress, depression, and immune system depression. It reduces blood pressure, increases happiness, and transmits information.

To make new friends and keep the old, here are some suggestions:

  • Take a class. Most universities offer free noncredit classes for people aged 65 and older. Ask a friend to join you. The University of Chicago recently accepted the invitation of The Admiral at the Lake’s Lifelong Learning Committee to establish classes and seminars.
  • Volunteer alone or with a friend.
  • Learn a new skill. Learn how to make pottery, play an instrument, or type. Joke about your attempts with another person in the class, and you may make a new friend..
  • Sign up for a fitness class. Again, a friend will make you feel more comfortable in a new place.
  • Talk to other people in restaurants, the grocery store, the gas station, the library and everywhere you go.
  • Join a book club at the local library.
  • Join Facebook. Not only can you make new friends, you can reconnect with family and friends who live in distant places.

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