September historically is a transitional time for many Americans, as little kids go back to school, bigger kids go off to college, summer resorts shut down for the season, and so on. September also has been designated “Healthy Aging Month.” The rationale makes great sense. While so many other seasonal changes are taking place, why not use the timing as motivation for a personal transition of your own?
Created in the late 1990s, Healthy Aging Month was inspired in part by the realization that millions of Baby Boomers were turning 50 years old around that time. Now, more than 20 years later, over one-third of the United States population is age 50 or older, and vast numbers of us are neglecting our health. Aside from just lack of exercise, countless older adults regularly indulge in unhealthy habits such as poor diet, smoking, insufficient sleep, worrying, and other questionable behavioral practices.
A report from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimated that only 28 to 34 percent of adults ages 65 and older participate in any leisure time physical activity, and a 2017 study from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) in the Department of Health and Human Services stated that the obesity rate for American men and women over the age of 60 has risen to 41 percent.
To sum it up, health needs to be a more significant priority for an aging population.
Exercise more than your body
The important messages of Healthy Aging Month address many components beyond just working to improve one’s physical condition. Medical professionals and other experts frequently cite the need for seniors to engage in activities that stimulate their brains, their emotional well-being, and even their attitudes. Personal feelings of negativity can lead to depression and stress, which are known to adversely impact people’s health.
Of course, simply telling someone to be positive and have a better outlook is not a reliable fix. There are many other effective solutions, such as seeking professional assistance, doing volunteer work, joining organizations with altruistic purposes, enjoying humorous books and movies, etc. Pharmacists may not agree with the old saying that laughter is the best medicine, but it definitely feels good and helps to reduce stress.
Another alternative for supporting a healthier attitude is to stay away from people who are always negative. If you have friends and acquaintances (or relatives) who constantly complain and tend to look only on the dark side of things, try to avoid falling into their traps.
Additionally, if you need a goal for a lifestyle adjustment, perhaps Healthy Aging Month can be the impetus to take a painting class or pick up music lessons or renew some other hobby that you set aside over the years. In any case, the short answer is, “Get up and do something.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that older adults should have at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity every week, or 75 minutes of more vigorous aerobic activity (or a combined equivalent of the two). The exercise does not need to be strenuous. Moderate activity includes ordinary things such as walking, gardening, dancing, or even just basic household chores.
Healthy Aging Month is a perfect time to make such a change. But be careful not to overdo it. If you have been sedentary for a long while, talk to your doctor before you begin any kind of serious exercise program.
Planning for the future
Being more active and getting into better shape are smart ideas for anybody. However, no amount of exercising, healthy eating, and physical activity can stop the aging process. Ideally, we can delay it for a number of years, but mortality catches up to all of us eventually.
That is why it is so important to have an estate plan which records your personal wishes regarding your property and financial affairs. To safeguard your assets and have contingency arrangements in place for any medical decisions, it is essential to obtain a series of important legal documents, including a Power of Attorney, health directives, wills, trusts, and more.
The experienced elder law attorneys at Cordell Planning Partners can provide insightful guidance to help you understand your options and design a comprehensive estate plan to protect you and your family.