Staying healthy and active as you age

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Staying healthy and feeling your best is important at any age. But, as we grow older we experience several major life changes.  From retirement to children leaving home or the loss of friends or family. We also experience many physical changes. How we handle, adapt and manage these changes is the key to staying healthy.

With the passing of each decade, staying healthy and active might mean reinventing yourself by finding new things you enjoy, learning to adapt to change, staying physically and socially active, and feeling connected with friends and family.

For many, the thought of aging can bring with it feelings of anxiety or even fear. How will I take care of myself late in life? What if I lose my spouse? What is going to happen to my mind? Firstly, growing older does not automatically mean you’re not going to feel good anymore. It is true that aging involves physical changes, but it doesn’t have to mean discomfort and disability.

While not all illness or pain is avoidable, many of the physical challenges associated with aging can be overcome or managed by exercise, eating right, and taking care of yourself.

Judi Parisi, Activities and Recreation Director at The Arbors in Dracut has built the exercise programming around this philosophy.  “My motto is move it or lose it and it applies to both the mind and the body,” says Parisi. “It’s so important to keep them active and moving.  It helps prevent atrophied muscles, keeps them more mobile and there is less of a chance for falls.”

Dracut’s activities program includes activities like morning stretch, thera-band, sit-er-cise, and even yoga once a month.

There are even less conventional ways of getting the residents to be active at the Dracut community.  “Yesterday, seven of our ladies played corn hole,” said Parisi.  Weekly, Parisi takes the residents out to go grocery shopping. Activities in the future will include mini-golf, a casino trip, and other outings that allow the residents living at the community to stay active and participate in activities they may not have had the opportunity to in quite some time.

For some residents, moving to the Dracut community has given them the opportunity to reinvent themselves.  Whether because they haven’t driven in years, or from isolation they’ve become less active, the activities program in Dracut has given these residents a second chance to live a life of fulfillment.  “My role especially in the first two weeks is to invite them to every activity. They might say ‘no’, but it is so rewarding when they finally say yes.”

A found that exercise is the number one contributor to longevity, adding extra years to your life—even if you don’t start exercising until your senior years. But it’s not just about adding years to your life, it’s about adding life to your years. Exercise helps you maintain your strength and agility, increases vitality, improves sleep, gives your mental health a boost, and can even help diminish chronic pain. Exercise can also have a profound effect on the brain, helping prevent memory loss, cognitive decline, and dementia.

If you or a loved one has experienced a significant decline in physical activity or social engagement, here are a few tips to get moving again.

  • Check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.Find out if any health conditions or medications you take affect the type of exercise you should choose.
  • Find an activity you like and that motivates you to continue.Exercise doesn’t have to be dull.  Find an activity you like, which may mean trying something new.
  • Start slow.Whether it be exercises you can do from a chair, or taking a daily walk, even just a few minutes a day puts you well on the way towards living a healthier lifestyle.
  • Exercise with others. Exercising with others cannot only help keep you motivated, but also can help you make new friends, or spend time with old ones.

Aging doesn’t have to mean stiff bones or chronic back pain.  While exercising at home alone can be a difficult habit to get into, living in a senior living community allows plenty of opportunity to engage in various exercise programs, while building friendships and strength.

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