The longer we can have good health, the better! This includes our mental and emotional health as well as our physical health.
Our physical health is our responsibility and as we age it becomes more important for us to understand that we can and do have some control over our health. This isn’t to say that we can erase years worth of bad habits, but it does mean we can do something now about how our bodies age from this point forward.
To begin, it’s important that we understand our mental and emotional well-being as we cope with the changes that aging brings. Coping with change is difficult, no matter how old we are. And coping skills are important as we experience major life changes. The challenge for aging adults is that we experience a large number of changes and transitions that include the loss of our parents, the loss of friends and loved ones, declining health, loss of independence, children that have moved away. These emotionally charged experiences can have a negative effect on our physical health. There are ways we can maintain our physical and emotional health so that we can live our lives to the fullest, no matter what age we are.
As we pass through milestone ages such as 70, 80, and 90, we can do so with grace and ease if we view each milestone as a phase for growth and learning new things. Much like chapters in a book, these milestones are where we connect with new people, become active in our community on a different level, and begin seeing how our life experiences can be helpful to young people and loved ones.
Yes, this attitude is possible. First, though, we must address the anxiety and fear that often fills us when we have unanswered questions. Questions such as:
- How will I take care of myself late in life?
- What if I lose my spouse?
- What is going to happen to mind?
Many of these fears come from myths about aging, are exaggerated by the media, or a misunderstanding of someone else’s experience. The truth is that we are always much stronger and more resilient than we think we are.
Tips for Coping
Gratitude. While you are experiencing loss it can be difficult to see that there are things to be grateful for. Those things include what you have in your life today. Look at the things you are taking for granted and then imagine life without them. Imagine someone who doesn’t have these things and that they believe you’re fortunate. Now, look at the things you are taking for granted and view them as something to be grateful for. Be glad that you have these things in your life.
Express your feelings. As we get older, many believe that expressing feelings, showing emotions, is inappropriate or weak. But the reality is that it is part of communicating with others and how we connect with others. By not expressing how you feel about something you are risking having to deal with stronger emotions like anger, resentment, and depression. And these stronger emotions have a negative effect on our physical health. Don’t deny yourself the opportunity to express how you feel about something. There are healthy ways to do this and some include talking to a close friend, writing in a journal, having a conversation with a small group of friends.
Accept the things you cannot change. So much of what occurs in life is beyond our control. Recognizing this and focusing on what we can control and how we respond to problems and challenges is an excellent way to face our limitations with dignity and proceed with our daily life with a positive attitude.
Be quick to respond and take action. Sometimes a challenge or problem seems too big to handle and so we try to ignore it or put off addressing it until another day. But that doesn’t help at all. It actually makes the problem worse by adding our anxiety to the issue when we finally address it. Instead, look at the problem and then look at what needs to be done to solve it. Then break down the solution into small steps, something to be done each day. This reduces the anxiety and puts us on the path of living in the solution versus being overwhelmed by a problem.
Staying healthy as we age is easier than we think. It’s a matter of recognizing that we can do something and then doing it. The tips shared are just the beginning and coming up with our own tips for staying healthy is a great way to take responsibility for ourselves.