Three things are certain in life: death, taxes, and aging.
Well, obviously aging isn’t a certainty for everyone, but more people are living longer — well into their 80s. In fact, as of 2022, there are over 56 million Americans who’re at least 65 years old.
With long life comes wisdom and experience, but also an increased risk for disease and poor health. Some people tend to lead a more successful life in old age than others.
This begs the question: what is successful aging and what does it look like?
Read on for expert insight.
Table of Contents
Good Physical Health
If you’re anything like most people, the first thing that comes to mind when you think of old age is poor physical health.
You’re not wrong at least not when you look at it from a statistical point of view. About 80 percent of people over 65 living in the U.S. have at least one chronic condition.
Yet, one of the key components of successful aging is good physical health. Chronic diseases that are more common among seniors, such as arthritis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and stroke, have a significant negative impact on the patient’s physical health.
Although your race, gender, and environment are some of the top risk factors for disease, there are measures you can take earlier in life, and even during old age, to improve your physical health and keep diseases away for longer.
For instance, incorporate physical exercise into your lifestyle. Simple aerobic exercises like cycling, jogging, and swimming go a long way to keeping your body fit and healthy.
Be sure to stay on top of your doctor’s appointments. It’s through these routine visits that your primary physician will detect and treat conditions early enough before they morph into full-blown diseases.
Another crucial thing is to make healthier food choices. It’s advisable to consult a nutritionist. They will assess your health, determine your nutritional needs, and develop meal plans that will help keep your diet balanced.
And, always get adequate sleep.
Being in good physical health during your senior years is a great achievement. But, it won’t be of much value if your mental health is poor.
In fact, there’s a close connection between your physical health and your mental health. If one isn’t in good shape, the other will likely follow suit.
Although mental health typically declines as one grows older, one in five older adults is suffering from mental health conditions that aren’t considered to be a natural consequence of aging.
If it’s not successfully remedied, poor mental health will affect your physical health. People who are suffering from anxiety and depression, for example, face an increased risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.
More alarmingly, mental health problems can lead to an increased risk of suicide, especially among seniors. In America, the suicide rate is highest among people who are 85 or older, and second highest among those aged 75-84.
It’s clear that to age successfully, your mental health has to be just as good as your physical health. Your goal is to delay any age-related cognitive decline for as long as possible.
Try not to keep your brain idle. Just as your body needs some physical exercise, so does your brain. Mental exercises come in many forms, including reading, solving newspaper puzzles, and learning new hobbies.
If you’re in your senior years, you’re probably retired or planning to. Great, but retirement takes away a crucial activity that keeps your brain engaged.
While you don’t have to suspend your retirement or keep working a full-time job until your last breath, you can volunteer or take up a part-time job. This will help keep your mind engaged, which is vital for maintaining good mental health.
Strong Social Life
It might seem that loneliness is inevitable as we roll into our sunset years. Your kids will leave the nest for college or to start their families. Your friends will retire to various places. Perhaps your spouse will pass on, or you’ll divorce.
According to a recent NASEM report, about one in four seniors lives in social isolation. Yet, loneliness in old age is a leading cause of poor physical and mental health.
It doesn’t matter whether you’ve always been a lone wolf and thrived in solitude. When old age beckons, you need to maintain a strong social life; otherwise, your quest to age successfully won’t be, well, successful.
It’s scientifically proven that making lasting friendships in adulthood is more difficult. This shouldn’t discourage you. Most of the time, you just need to change your environment and be where you’re likely to make friends.
For instance, instead of aging in place, consider a senior living option that puts you closer to people your age, such as a retirement community. You’ll easily find group activities where you can make new friends.
Travel as often as is practical, laugh at the slightest invitation, and if you have grandchildren, strive to spend as much time with them as possible.
The average retirement age in the U.S. is 65. Hopefully, you retired with enough savings to sustain your quality of life and meet other expenses.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case for some retirees. About 10 percent of seniors in the U.S. live in poverty, a number that has been on the rise in recent years. A lot more older adults are relying on meager pensions and living with financial insecurity.
It’s impossible to separate financial independence from the successful aging equation. No one wants to spend their sunset years unable to afford decent housing, meals, and medical expenses.
Of course, the main solution here is to save adequately and/or make smart investments for your life after retirement. Taking up the right medical insurance policies is also crucial.
Medicare, for example, is a must-have. If you’re in assisted living, ensure the medicare advantage plan you take covers that cost. Check out https://www.trustmedicare.com/does-medicare-cover-assisted-living-facilities/ to learn more.
Successful Aging Is Within Your Grasp
Successful aging isn’t a myth. Seniors whore in good physical and mental health, have an active social life, and are able to meet their financial needs can generally be considered to be aging successfully.
Growing old is a privilege that’s not accorded to everyone. Try your best to make the most of it.
Keep reading our blog for more health and lifestyle insights.