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Three Proven Suggestions to Aid Healthy Aging

MsDora, former teacher and counselor, is fascinated by the prospect of joyful aging. She explores and shares habits of happy seniors.

Many physical changes in seniors are signs of aging (becoming older), not ailing (suffering from illness). Therefore, seniors with healthy attitudes get excited about the physical abilities they still have despite loss of abilities they used to have.

Recognizing the physical decline is the first step; only death will stop it completely. That reality not only inspires contentment in the aging, it also increases their desire to take care of themselves as best as they can. They embrace their limits with the awareness that their body parts will not always function as ably as they feel.

Physical changes in seniors are signs of aging, not ailing. (Photo by rudyanderson)

Physical changes in seniors are signs of aging, not ailing. (Photo by rudyanderson)

Personal Awakening

There was no pain in my body when I started chopping at the branch on my sugar apple tree. However, every action of my arm bringing down the machete on the tree limb jolted the fibrous joint between the arm bone (humerus) and the collar bone (clavicle).

Fibrous tissue gets stiffer with age; it hurts faster. Eventually, I irritated the joint which is far less capable now to endure the pressure it handled 20 years ago.

Fibrous tissues in senior joints are stiffer, less resilient than fibers in younger joints.  Photo by BruceBlaus

Fibrous tissues in senior joints are stiffer, less resilient than fibers in younger joints. Photo by BruceBlaus

“Remember to act your age,” the doctor told me. That was not a suggestion to start slowing down, but a reminder to respect my new limits.

Since then, I have read from several other doctors, and consider the following three suggestions worthy of sharing. They point out some physical changes and recommend adjustment in three basic areas: activity, nutrition and sleep.

(1) Be Active but Not Excessive

Remain active, but with caution. (Photo by Deirdre)

Remain active, but with caution. (Photo by Deirdre)

Dr. John E. Morley, Professor of Gerontology and Director of the Geriatric Research at the St. Louis VA Medical Center, reminds seniors to remain active, but with caution. Here are some facts he wants the aging to remember:

  • In youth, new muscle fibers develop from exercise; in the senior years, the remaining fibers merely increase in bulk.
  • Exercise increases the size of the heart muscle in younger people. Exercise does not affect the size of heart muscle in older people to the same extent.
  • Strength and endurance decrease in older people because there is a decline in the ability of the lungs to move air into the blood stream.
  • There is also a decline in blood flow to the brain which results in a decrease in reaction time. It also affects the sense of balance.
  • Changes in the body’s connective tissue contribute to a decrease in flexibility, which means that the joints—knees and hip, for example—bear greater stress than in the years of youth when they dispersed the pressure to surrounding tissues.

Having mentioned these and other warnings, Dr. Morley advises: “This is no reason, however, for older people to avoid physical activity. . . Almost all studies suggest that active, but not excessive, enjoyment of a variety of sports and exercise can give older people both a better and a longer life.”

(2) Eat Less Food but More Nutrients

Seniors need fewer calories. (Photo by Mattie Hagedorn)

Seniors need fewer calories. (Photo by Mattie Hagedorn)

Connie Bales, associate director of the Geriatric Research, Education, and Clinical Center at Durham VA Medical Center, adds her word of caution concerning nutrition for the aging.

  • Seniors move less, have less muscle and a slower metabolic rate; therefore they need fewer calories.
  • The aging body needs the same amount of protein, vitamins and minerals as previously; so while they eat less they need to include foods like whole-grain, nuts, beans, lean meat, fruits and vegetables which are rich in nutrients.
  • Dr. Bales recommends Vitamin B-12 because after age 50, the body has less stomach acid to break it down from food sources.
  • Aging skin is also less able to absorb Vitamin D from sunlight, which in turn affects the body’s ability to absorb calcium. Since Vitamin D and Calcium are necessary for bone health, it is wise for seniors to visit the nutritionist for personal advice on these and other supplements.
  • Adequate intake of water is a good habit at any age, but older people are less likely to notice thirst. Andrea D’Ambrosio, RD concurs and explains that with a decrease in lean body mass, it is easier for older people to experience hydration, which can adversely affect brain and kidney functions as well as regularity of bowel movements.

Dr Bales vouches that all seniors are not set in their ways. She says, "I've found that most are really motivated about their health, and many of them are quite willing to try to change." That includes a change in focus from eating for growth and development to eating for repair and reducing the risk of chronic diseases.

(3) Get the Same Amount of Sleep (No But)

“One of the challenges to healthy aging” says Dr. Mark Stibich, Healthy Aging Expert, "is troubleshooting sleep to ensure that we are getting enough rest for good health.” He refutes the myth that seniors need less sleep; like all adults they need approximately seven hours. He explains some of the physical changes which may interrupt sleep and makes suggestions for sleep improvement.

  • Aging bodies secrete less melatonin, the hormone which controls the sleep cycle; older people feel sleepy earlier and wake up earlier. Less secretion of the growth hormone also makes deep sleep difficult; and menopausal women experience even more hormonal changes. Professional medical, naturopathic or health fitness consultations may provide help in these situations.
  • Health conditions as well as the medications prescribed for them may interfere with sleep. High blood pressure and other cardiovascular conditions may cause breathing difficulties and changes in heart rate; as a result, individuals wake up suddenly. Seniors can discuss these incidents with the doctor and discuss alternative medications and dosages.
  • Dr. Stibich suggests that seniors who have difficulty sleeping may have to change some lifestyle habits: nap for no more than twenty minutes during the day; avoid alcohol, nicotine and caffeine; and engage in some appropriate exercises. Two hours of sunlight or full-spectrum lighting daily will help.
Sleep problems are not part of the aging process.(Image by Mikael Häggström.)

Sleep problems are not part of the aging process.(Image by Mikael Häggström.)

  • Dr. Stibich suggests that seniors who have difficulty sleeping may have to change some lifestyle habits: nap for no more than twenty minutes during the day; avoid alcohol, nicotine and caffeine; and engage in some appropriate exercises. Two hours of sunlight or full-spectrum lighting daily will help.

Sleep problems are not to accepted as a part of the aging process. The older the body, the more time it takes to repair injuries which happen during the day, and research shows that some body repair happens during sleep. Additionally, people age 50 and older who get six to nine hours of sleep process information more readily. Seniors will enjoy their days better if they enjoy their nightly rest.

Conclusion

Show me the senior citizens who appreciate their physical capabilities despite their limits, who focus on eating to maintain their health instead of just satisfying their appetites, who offer their bodies the satisfaction of adequate sleep. These are the seniors who set the standard for healthy aging.

References

Boufis, Christina: How Nutritional Needs Change as You Age, WebMD, (August 2014)

D’Ambrosio, Andrea RD: Top Five Nutrition Changes as We Age, Dietetic Directions (January 2015)

Morley, John E. M.D.: Sports Injuries and the Aging Athlete, Doctor (September 2000)

Stibich, Mark Ph.D.: Sleep and Aging, About Health (December 2014)

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2015 Dora Weithers

Comments

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on April 23, 2018:

Thanks, Margie. I am encouraged by your kind comment. This article resulted from my personal aging experience.

Margie's Southern Kitchen from the USA on April 23, 2018:

Wonderful information Dora! It was very interesting article for seniors!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on May 06, 2016:

RTalloni, thanks for your feedback. Thinking and preparing now will certainly make future aging easier; we might actually be able to enjoy it.

RTalloni on May 05, 2016:

What a great look at owning the inevitable and being proactive in making the most out of senior health. Your tips are very useful and the entire hub is a super way to think through a customized personal approach for making the most of an individual's way of life. We know adjustments will have to be made, now is the time to think wisely about them.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 28, 2015:

Ireno, eventually that is the goal of all of us. Hope your mother appreciates the article.

Ireno Alcala from Bicol, Philippines on September 27, 2015:

Aging gracefully should be the goal of my mother.I'll share this with her.:)

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on September 19, 2015:

Deb, we have to stand up on our own behalf. Employers who treat us well, get more from us, and often we last longer than the young ones.

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on September 19, 2015:

Now, if employers will only take these things into account. I work harder than the kids employed there and am expected to work split shifts. My understanding is that everyone is more tired being forced to do this.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 27, 2015:

Chitrangada, thanks for sharing. You also have some very good suggestions.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 27, 2015:

Sujaya, glad it helped. Thanks for your comment.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on August 27, 2015:

Great advice and a well written hub!

I am happy that I am following all the important suggestions you have mentioned above as I am not getting any younger!

The sooner we accept the physical changes the better . We should keep ourselves engaged, adopt new hobbies if we are not comfortable doing those activities that we were doing earlier.

Thanks for sharing this helpful hub! Sharing on HP!

sujaya venkatesh on August 22, 2015:

helps understand elders Do

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 10, 2015:

Audrey, I share your interest. Thanks for your feedback.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 10, 2015:

Akriti, you made my day with one word. Thank you.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 10, 2015:

Thanks, Danny. Glad you think well of the article.

Audrey Howitt from California on August 10, 2015:

Such great suggestions--I am all about aging well!

Akriti Mattu from Shimla, India on August 08, 2015:

Excellent :)

Danny Cabaniss from Shawnee, Oklahoma on August 08, 2015:

Excellent! This is great advice!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 07, 2015:

Hi Victor, thanks for dropping by. Glad you like my article. Learning about aging as I age and glad to share.

victor from India on August 06, 2015:

Excellent hub for aging parents. Well described ! Right attitude helps them to face the changes -- as well as challenges.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 06, 2015:

Peach, hope your parents do and like it. Thanks for reading and commenting.

peachy from Home Sweet Home on August 06, 2015:

Love your hub. My parents should read this

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 06, 2015:

Mts, I really like your statement; having heard it quite that way before. Thanks you so much for sharing your insight.

mts1098 on August 06, 2015:

so so true...MsDora...the youthful mind is limitless while the older mind is wiser in that it listens to the body on what we can and cannot do...cheers

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 05, 2015:

Patty, congratulations on your good health after 50; now keep it that way by giving up the pace of the food manager who was more able than you are now. Thanks for reading and offering your feedback.

Patty Inglish MS from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on August 05, 2015:

Thanks for this revelational Hub! Rated Up and more.

After reaching 50, I have remained thankful for good health and have been fortunate. So far, besides a broken ankle that healed very well, only itchy skin has bugged me - I need to stay hydrated. I also try to do too much in one day, as if I were still that fast food manager of yesteryear who had to work 14 hours and then do all the housework and erands. LOL

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 05, 2015:

Muhammad, I also hope that it will help those who need it. Thanks for your kind comment.

muhammad abdullah javed on August 05, 2015:

Thanks MsDora for the wonderful thoughts on a topic which seldom find our attention. The factors responsible for the physical changes are quite apt viz activeness, nutritious food and sound sleep. Hope it will help the elders attain a younger age if our utmost care coupled with the described prerequisites.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 04, 2015:

Denise, thanks for your comment. I agree: it all comes down to common sense. Sometimes we just need more of it.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 04, 2015:

Venkatachari, thank you for sharing. I visited and liked your page. Will visit again.

Denise W Anderson from Bismarck, North Dakota on August 04, 2015:

The older I get, the more I notice the changes that my body is making due to the aging process. I have learned many of the things that you mention here, eat less but better, drink lots of fluids, exercise in low impact activities, and get a good nights rest. There is much to be said for common sense!

Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on August 04, 2015:

And, Dora, I have shared this post on G+ and also on my facebook page "living better" at url:- facebook.com/life4better so that people can gain from it.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 04, 2015:

Venkatachari, listen to your doctor and remain positive. You'd stay on the right track. Thanks for sharing.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 04, 2015:

Hi Faith, it is true that we really have to care of ourselves as we age. Glad that you are aware of your issues so you can plan your care accordingly. Thanks for your encouragement and your votes.

Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on August 04, 2015:

Very useful and great information on ageing and how to take care oneself. I try to manage myself by keeping active always. But, I am unable to do any exercise as my schedule is busy with my kitchen work, puja, doing some extra cleansing after the servant leaves and sitting with my computer. My Doctor tells my work is equal to a good exercise and so I need not worry.

Faith Reaper from southern USA on August 03, 2015:

Dear MsDora, what a wonderful and insightful hub here. I am now realizing just how important what I feed my body is for a healthier lifestyle, especially after my last doctor's visit. There are some health issues but nothing I can't correct with a more proper diet and exercise. I am glad it was caught in the early stages as my eyes are open to truly taking better care of myself as I get older. It seems our minds think we are still in our 30s when in reality, our bodies are telling us to take better care of ourselves.

Fantastic article and most encouraging on how to accept growing older by learning to make changes in our eating and overall health.

Up and more and away

God bless you

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 03, 2015:

Jackie, happy for you that you feel so well. I think that fear will make individuals behave like they're older than they are. You, my dear, have the right attitude.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 03, 2015:

Sallybea, thanks for reading even though you're not senior. Glad you found it useful, in a way.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on August 03, 2015:

I like to think I can do more than I thought I could as I age! Really old people are doing so much today aren't they and I think it is wonderful. We do need to do things to make sure we don't get certain terrible hurdles such as sugar and high cholesterol and all those bad things. After my neck surgery I just feel young again that I don't have to worry about falling and becoming paralyzed! Fear is no way to enjoy life and I hope to be on a smooth road again in life.

Great subject for all your aging friends!!!

^+

Sally Gulbrandsen from Norfolk on August 03, 2015:

MsDora,

Very interesting and useful advice and the perfect excuse for me to be content with my level of activity at the moment and less content with a lack of sleep. Thanks for making me more aware of what I should be aiming for.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 03, 2015:

Blossom, thank you for sharing that insight. True, our limitations are not ordered by our age, and danger to ourselves is a big concern at every stage.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 03, 2015:

Cam, thank you for reading and for passing it on. Glad you find the article useful.

Bronwen Scott-Branagan from Victoria, Australia on August 03, 2015:

A very interesting and useful article. One of the problems of growing older is that we all seem to age at different ages. One friend had alzheimer's at sixty, while another is still driving quite proficiently at ninety-five. However, we do need to be aware of our limitations and act accordingly so we are not a danger to ourselves and others.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 03, 2015:

Whonu, glad you like the article. Blessings on you, too.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 03, 2015:

Ann, those grandchildren will keep you in shape; and you seem to be doing well apart from that. Thank you for sharing.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 03, 2015:

Carolyn, thanks for your encouragement and your insight. I appreciate you.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 03, 2015:

Doc Bill, happy to know that you're on top of things. You still have a lot more writing to do. Thanks for your feedback.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 03, 2015:

Hi Doc, glad to hear from you and thanks for your kind feedback.

Chris Mills from Traverse City, MI on August 03, 2015:

I have a friend whose father is having a hard time accepting his limitations regarding driving a car. You have provided a lot of very useful information. I'll pass it on to my friend.

whonunuwho from United States on August 03, 2015:

This was a wonderful article and most informative my friend. Thank you MsDora and blessings. whonu

Ann Carr from SW England on August 03, 2015:

I do notice things that annoy me, even though I'm not that old (well, not in my mind, anyway!). I do accept that things change and don't work so well but I like to exercise. I walk, I make sure I run with my grandchildren and I push them on swings and roundabouts as hard as I can - not usually enough to get them swinging as high as they want!

I have a rowing machine in the loft which I like to use and I work up from little to lots more, gradually, if I haven't used it for a while.

As you say, we need to be aware that excess is not good.

I also drink lots of water because I like it. I know many who don't but it does depend on the taste of the water in different areas.

This is a marvellous hub, offering lots of information and great advice. It should be compulsive reading for anyone over 55.

Up ++ and sharing.

Ann

Carolyn Fields from South Dakota, USA on August 03, 2015:

Loved your hub. I am totally willing to give up a little "flexibility" in exchange for all the life hacks that I have learned over the years. I do things smarter, not harder. Youth is wasted in the young . . . IMHO . . . .

William Leverne Smith from Hollister, MO on August 03, 2015:

Three great reminders. I work at it each day, with a positive attitude, for sure! Neat hub! Thanks!! ;-)

Yvette Stupart PhD from Jamaica on August 03, 2015:

Thanks MsDora. A positive attitude is important at every stage of life including late adulthood. I like the suggestions that seniors be active but in moderation, and eat less with more nutrients.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 03, 2015:

Shauna, Youv'e got the right attitude. We'll keep learning as we move forward with this precious gift of aging. Thanks for your feedback.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 03, 2015:

Paintdrips, glad to offer an explanation you could use. When I lived in Michigan, Vitamin D was my downfall. Best to you, going forward!

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on August 03, 2015:

Attitude is important in everything we do. You've given us good reason to accept the changes we experience as we age by providing a better understanding of the process. I'm definitely not as nimble as I once was, but that's okay - it's part of life.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on August 03, 2015:

Great information, Ms Dora. Thanks for all the advice. I think this explains why the Dr keeps telling me I need to take Vitamin D supplements; because I'm just not getting out in the sun as much and my skin doesn't absorb as much when I do. Not having trouble with sleep yet, thank God.

Blessings,

Denise

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 03, 2015:

Bill, new interests are the key. You've got the right attitude. Thanks for sharing.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 03, 2015:

Oh Word, you seem to be ahead the game. "Old bat" doesn't suit you yet. Thanks for your feedback.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 03, 2015:

Eric, thanks for your affirmation. You have a very positive reaction to the changes, a great attitude altogether.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 03, 2015:

I think I'm handling it okay. There are some things I simply cannot do any longer, so I find new interests. I'm growing old as gracefully as I can. Thanks for the information, Dora. Interesting article.

Al Wordlaw from Chicago on August 03, 2015:

Great research Dee makes a great hub. I concur with all you said here... Well, the old bat may not swing and hit like it used to but it does still swing and hit. Thank you for such a great read this morning.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on August 03, 2015:

Grrr! Bring it on. I am loving these changes, except the joint pain. I have full authority, permission and justification to sleep more. Now that I eat less I can afford better, cooler foods. When I was younger it was self centered and excuses if I did not push, push, push. Now everyone around me wants me to take "me" time to stay healthy.

This wonderful article has great advice and makes me feel real grateful. Thanks.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on August 03, 2015:

Frank, thanks for that very encouraging first comment. Bless you, too.

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on August 03, 2015:

golden years is just that golden.. and this hub filled with positves, information.. and tips prove golden and valuable bless you dear one

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