“I will do strongly before the sun and moon whatever only rejoices me and the heart appoints,” proclaimed American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson in “Self-Reliance.” Most of us feel a similar enthusiasm about our independence. Indeed, research suggests there’s good reason to value independence: It promotes life satisfaction by boosting self-esteem. Although the natural process of aging can undermine independence in older adults, there are steps you can take to help you maintain your self-reliance as you get older.
#1: Move Your Body
Staying physically active is important at any age, but for older adults it can help ward off a host of health conditions that might interfere with independence. Physical activity has been shown to:
- Strengthen bone and muscle
- Help with weight management
- Protect cognitive health
- Reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and some cancers
- Improve ability to perform regular activities such as climbing steps
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults ages 65 and older get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity every week. They also recommend incorporating exercises that strengthen muscles and improve balance into your fitness routine. Activities like gardening or taking a brisk walk can help you get the recommended 150 minutes. Try body-weight exercises like wall push-ups to improve strength and standing on one leg to help with balance. If you’re just getting into an exercise program, consider talking to your doctor first. And go easy on yourself – any movement at all is better than no movement.
#2: Nourish Yourself
The right foods can nourish mind, body, spirit… and independence. Studies show that diet is associated with reduced risk of potentially debilitating conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cognitive decline. But which foods are the right foods? Guidelines vary, but most recommend a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, lean proteins and whole grains.
#3: Challenge Your Mind
Many factors can contribute to brain health, including physical activity and diet. Scientists are discovering that another way to protect cognitive vitality as you age is to challenge yourself to learn a demanding new skill. Activities that are mentally stimulating and get you out of your comfort zone seem to have the most cognitive benefit.
#4: Spend Time with Other People
Life is better with friends. Not only do social connections act as a buffer against loneliness, which is linked to a greater risk of heart disease and cognitive decline, but they may also safeguard against physical decline. Research suggests that older adults who remain socially active have a lower risk of developing disabilities that impede activities of daily living, such as dressing or bathing.
#5: Engage in Active Purpose
What gets you out of bed in the morning? Playing bridge with friends? Volunteering? Doing the things you love boosts your resilience and can provide a sense of purpose that supports independence in older adults. Studies have found that having a sense of purpose is associated with better physical and mental well-being, perhaps in part because it keeps you active and socially engaged.
#6 Schedule Regular Checkups
Regular preventive care appointments can make it easier to manage your health. Luckily, many health issues can be detected early and addressed before they cause serious harm and impact your independence.
Independent Living at Canterbury Court
Everything required to support independence in older adults is available at Canterbury Court. Here, you have friends just around the corner, along with abundant opportunities to stay active and engaged. Preventive care is accessible at our medical clinic, and chef-prepared meals ensure that dining options are delicious and healthy. Contact us to find out more.