New Year, New You: How Movement Helps Seniors Achieve Successful Aging

Author: Debbie Humphrey

As more and more Baby Boomers reach their senior years, I’ve noticed  that grandmas don’t always look like my grandmothers did as they grew older. More and more, men and women are doing a better job taking care of themselves to prevent visible and invisible signs and symptoms of aging.

Don’t get me wrong. In my job, I see and care for many seniors living alone who do look much like my grandparents did – wrinkles, gray hair, sedentary lifestyle, health issues, ambulatory devices, along with episodes of loneliness and depression.

The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion reported that in 2014, 14.5% of the US population, or 46.3 million Americans, were aged 65+. They project these statistics to increase to a whopping 23.5%, or 98 million, by 2060.

So, how can aging adults positively impact their health, function and quality of life in 2020, considering as many as 60% of older adults manage two or more chronic health conditions like heart disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and stroke?

Seniors can achieve happiness and successful aging by making healthy lifestyle choices, nurturing their mental health and moving their bodies.

Daniel J. Levitin, a neuroscientist, cognitive psychologist and best-selling author, recently discussed his new book, Successful Aging. In it, he shares how our individual personalities, culture and workout habits impact how we age. Traits like curiosity, openness, association, conscientiousness and healthy practices impact health, happiness and productivity as we age.

Dr. Levitin says, “Aging is not a simple period of decay, it can be a period of unique growth. It is actually a time of blossoming.”

In the interview, Dr Levitin explained that research does not support the theory that a majority of seniors experience decline and depression. In fact, most experience renewed energy and demonstrate compassion and gratitude.

He said it’s more important to focus on your “healthspan” than your “lifespan.” “There is a difference,” he said. “How long you live doesn’t matter as much as how you live that life.”

An individual’s personality is capable of change, so if you are currently not conscientious about your environment; you don’t lead a particularly active lifestyle; or you rarely demonstrate a healthy curiosity about your natural environment; you should attempt to cultivate one!

Since it has been well-established that physical health is connected to mental health, the biggest factor in maintaining good mental health isn’t necessarily exercise, Dr Levitin said, “it’s movement.”

In other words, seniors don’t have to sign-up for the next 5K to reap the benefits of exercise. By simply emerging from their easy chair and moving their bodies, aging adults can make significant impacts on their overall physical and mental health and happiness.

Dr Levitin continued, “I think the big thing to do is get up and move in natural environments as much as you can. Get off the couch.”

Psychologist Kelly McGonigal, author of The Joy of Movement: How Exercise Helps Us Find Happiness, Hope, Connection, and Courage, concurs, “Exercise can make you a better version of yourself.”

When you’re active, use your muscles, and get your heart rate up, you feel better and experience less loneliness and periods of depression, Dr McGonigal said. Exercise, or any kind of movement, can positively impact a senior’s hope, optimism, ability to face challenges, physical and mental strength, and recovery from grief and trauma.

Any form of movement that makes you feel differently, whether it’s running, walking, dancing, gardening, or power lifting,  just by using our bodies to connect with others and do things that matter, makes a huge difference. If you are a  marathon runner, run a marathon! If not, walking your dog, or any movement that has meaning or purpose is positive.

Dr McGonigal said, “Movement releases a “hope molecule.” When you exercise,  your muscles secrete chemicals in your bloodstream that work like an anti-depressant, so every time you exercise in any form at all, you are giving yourself an intravenous dose of hope”

It can be scary, but leaving your comfort zone and making accomplishments changes how we view ourselves.

If you hate exercise, but you want the benefits of exercise, pair it with something you love, she suggests. Groove to music, go outdoors, and remember, no matter how you move, do it with a purpose, and even include family, friends or neighbors.

I recommend visiting your local bookstore or library for these books, or purchase them online. You will get much more insightful information to improve seniors' physical and mental health and wellness in the New Year and beyond!

If you or someone you love suffers with health issues and experiences difficulties moving, or they can no longer manage activities of daily living without assistance, Home Helpers® is here to help. I carefully select the best-qualified, compassionate caregivers to provide companionship, manage grocery shopping, meal preparation, light housekeeping, transportation assistance, respite care and more. I am happy to offer a FREE Consultation to assess your loved one’s needs and determine what we can do to enhance their life in 2020!

We, at Home Helpers® Clearwater, are honored to have received the Home Care Pulse – Best of Home Care® Provider of Choice Award for 2017, 2018 & 2019. We proudly serve male and female seniors in Clearwater, Dunedin, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor, Tarpon Springs, Holiday, New Port Richey, Trinity, Port Richey, Hudson and surrounding areas. Home Helpers®…we are Making Life Easier℠  (727) 240-3059


CBS This Morning, January 7, 2020: Successful Aging

CBS This Morning, January 8, 2020: The Joy of Movement: How Exercise Helps Us Find Happiness, Hope, Connection, and Courage



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