By Michelle James, DHEC Director of Healthy Aging Division
September is Healthy Aging Month, an annual national observance focused on the positive aspects of growing older and taking personal responsibility for one’s health – physically, socially, mentally and financially. Healthy or successful aging can best be understood as a process, rather than an outcome. Staying healthy as we age involves more than just diet and exercise; mental and social well-being also plays an important part in a person’s overall health.
Older adults who are aging well are characterized by a positive outlook on life, a willingness to continue to learn and satisfaction with the way things are. Since aging is an inevitable part of life, it goes without saying that the more cheerfully we can embrace the process, the easier life will be — for ourselves as well as our family members.
Researchers looking at the issue of successful aging have identified the following 10 behaviors and attitudes that provide older adults with the best chance of aging well:
- Don’t smoke: if you still do, it’s never too late to quit and there is free help available.
- If you drink, drink moderately: one alcoholic drink a day doesn’t hurt, and could even reduce your chances of heart disease. But alcohol abuse can lead to disability and early death.
- Stay physically active: find something you love to do and do it regularly. Exercise is associated with a variety of good outcomes, from increased memory to reduced rates of heart disease, depression and cancer.
- Eat a balanced diet: limit the fats in your diet and try to include at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
- Prevent obesity: being significantly overweight is associated with a variety of bad health outcomes including heart disease and diabetes.
- Protect your vision and hearing: your eyes and ears are critical to functions such as driving and reading. They also help you remain engaged in conversations and relationships.
- Get regular health care and vaccinations: you can prevent many problems before they require more serious treatment.
- Maintain a vibrant social network and strong personal relationships: it’s good for your health and for how you experience your later years.
- Stay active in professional, community or other activities: feeling useful is positively associated with good outcomes as people age.
- Plan for your financial well-being: having the money to meet your material needs can increase your chances of successful aging.
For more information on aging well through exercise and programs to help manage ongoing health conditions, please visit www.scdhec.gov/arthritis.