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Healthy ways to embrace aging

A little laughter can go a long way as we age

The lovable greeting card character, Maxine, can make you laugh at just about everything in life, including aging. A few of her philosophical thoughts on getting older include, “Age has its advantages. Too bad I don’t remember what they are,” or “When I was young, I hoped to wake up beautiful. Now I just hope to wake up!” Maxine’s approach to aging is that it is happening to all of us whether we like it or not. With September being Healthy Aging Month, it’s a good reminder to focus on the positive aspects of growing older.

Life expectancy has dramatically increased over time

If you are in your 60s, 70s, 80s, or older, you are miles ahead of those who came before us. In 1860, life expectancy was just 40 years old; today, life expectancy is nearly 79 years. Contributing to that increase is a decrease in infant and child mortality, medical advancements and improved living conditions. There are a couple of other things which can add years to your life, a positive attitude, and laughter. Researchers found that those with a bright outlook and a more positive perception of aging lived nearly eight years longer than those with a negative perspective on aging. A goal of Healthy Aging Month is to promote the idea that age is just a number. Your outlook shouldn’t necessarily be linked to that number, but rather to an age when you were your happiest doing things that brought joy into your life.

The late president, George H.W. Bush, is an example of someone who never allowed age to get in the way of something he enjoyed, which was skydiving. The former Navy pilot celebrated four senior birthdays, including his 90th, by leaping out of a plane parachuting to earth. Of course, being a daredevil is probably not on top of the list for many seniors. The point is, don’t let age get in the way of living a happy life. Staying active and engaged in activities can lead to a longer, more fulfilling life.

Steps to staying mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy as you age

No matter how old you are, it’s never too late to change your lifestyle or take up hobbies as a way of increasing your quality of life. Steps you can take include:

  • Exercise is a great way to get moving. There are many things you can do, such as dancing, walking, swimming, or bowling. As we age, improving balance and strength is important. Consider doing yoga, Pilates, or another exercise which promotes balance and strengthening of muscles.
  • Review your eating habits and make sure you are consuming foods rich in nutrients. Make sure your daily intake includes fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains.
  • Hobbies are a great way to keep the mind active. Some of the most common pastimes are playing board games or cards, doing crossword puzzles, volunteering in the community, or traveling.
  • Managing stress is a key to good health. Stress can increase blood pressure, cause insomnia and headaches, and contribute to other health problems like heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.
  • Make sure you get your annual physical and health screenings, as prevention is key to longevity. If you do find yourself suddenly ill or injured, West Jefferson Medical Center has a special senior emergency room that is recognized for its excellence in caring for senior patients. If you would like, you can check-in online to reduce your wait time in the ER.

Dr. Bertha Daniels

About Dr. Bertha Daniels:

Dr. Bertha Daniels specializes in family medicine and is the medical director of ambulatory geriatrics for West Jefferson Medical Center. She initially joined the medical staff at West Jefferson Medical Center in 2000 and remained until 2017 when she transitioned to Tulane University Medical Center. She provided patient care at Tulane and taught medical students as an assistant professor for Tulane University School of Medicine. Dr. Daniels returned to the West Jefferson Medical Center staff in January 2021 and is enjoying developing ambulatory services for seniors. In her spare time, she really enjoys traveling.