Americans are living longer now than in previous decades, with many people reaching their 70s, 80s, and beyond. According to a report on aging and health in America published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of Americans aged 65 or older in 2050 will be more than double what it was in 2010. This emphasizes the importance of taking care of ourselves as we enter these golden years to make sure we can enjoy a long and healthy life.
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. The Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Executive Office of Elder Affairs (EOEA) promote regular physical activity, healthy eating, staying smoke-free, and staying socially connected through healthy aging workshops and programs offered to older adults throughout the Commonwealth.
It is easy and common for people become less active as they get older, but it is important to remember that physical activity improves the overall health and well being of older adults. Exercise builds strength, and improves balance and coordination which help prevent injuries. Performing at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily can help prevent or control heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, colon cancer, and weight gain. Anyone can incorporate physical activity into their daily routine even in small ways such as parking the car farther away from your destination or taking the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
- The Keep Moving Program promotes physical activity and socialization for adults over the age of 50 through a network of more than 160 walking clubs throughout Massachusetts. You can find a walking club in your community in the Keep Moving Directory and attend events and workshops.
In addition to staying active and eating right, consider trying to quit smoking if this is a habit you have picked up over the years. The American Lung Association reports that older smokers are put at a greater risk for serious health problems as a result of smoking and that there is strong evidence that quitting smoking even at an older age adds years to and improves quality of life. If medications are a part of your daily routine, DPH offers some medication safety tips to make sure they are used properly.
While focusing on your physical health, be conscious of your mental health and happiness as well. Stress and depression can affect everyone at one time or another, but know that ongoing feelings of depression are not part of the aging process. Don’t be reluctant to discuss your feelings or ask for help from family, friends, or medical professionals. Stress can also take a toll on your mental well being so taking efforts to manage stress will help to keep you in a good state of mind and achieve good all-around health and wellness.