There are actually two connotations to the concept of “aging well”… how one looks and how one feels. The absence of wrinkles and age spots doesn’t necessarily indicate the presence of good health or a decelerated rate of acquiring the common conditions associated with aging. The keys to aging well require an accumulation of wise lifestyle choices over time.
One major contributor to both looking good and feeling well is the quality of one’s diet. Sugar and processed foods accelerate the aging process, while whole foods, particularly those that prohibit free radicals, are actually considered anti-aging choices.
Other aspects to aging well physically include exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight, both of which contribute to looking good and feeling well.
While protecting one’s skin against harmful sun rays may, at first glance, seem to affect only the looking good portion of aging well, this lifestyle choice minimizes the occurrence of skin cancers that typically plague individuals who spent many years pursuing outdoor activities.
Another lifestyle choice that affects both components is the use of nicotine, which negatively impacts us internally and externally.
Regardless of how we appear on the outside, the biggest indicator, by far, of aging gracefully, is the degree of emotional well-being experienced in our golden years. Even ill or diseased individuals who manage to view life optimistically and with the proper perspective can be inspirational examples of aging well.
Perhaps the biggest factor in maintaining a sense of well-being as we age lies in having successful relationships with people with whom we can interact on a regular basis. Good conversation stimulates mental alertness; the sense of feeling connected and the security that comes with loving and being loved by others plays an irreplaceable role in the pursuit of aging gracefully, just as it does at any other stage of life. The presence of strong social connections not only impacts the mental status of aging individuals, but actually strengthens the immune system, as do other attributes such as the ability to cope well with stress and the propensity to look for the silver lining within life’s challenges.
Clearly, many of the ingredients to the process of aging well are within our control. We can’t control genetics, but we can control our diets, exercise patterns, social circles, and attitudes. With more people turning 65 in our society than at any other time in history, the goal of aging well not only serves the individual, but greatly impacts society. Millions of seniors have the opportunity to set an example and live by the keys to aging well so that they can look good and feel well for many more years to come.
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