Aging can be a difficult topic to address, not least because it is rife with personal fears and uncertainties about losing independence and loved ones while growing more isolated or lonely. As with most challenging topics, however, the best solution is to confront it head-on with openness and optimism.
In doing so, you can gain more clarity and excitement about what your future will hold. While you can’t stop the clock from ticking any more than the next person, the attitude and behaviors you adopt will influence how you age and the type of life you live as a senior. Aging will still happen, but with the right perspective and pursuit of meaningful relationships and activities, you have the opportunity to age with grace.
What Is the Meaning of Aging Gracefully?
The phrase “aging gracefully” gets thrown around a lot, but what exactly does that mean? Different people will provide different definitions based on their personal worldviews, experiences, and value systems. In general, however, successful aging is an umbrella term that encompasses several distinct areas of your life, including your physical health, psychological wellbeing, spiritual health, social wellbeing, and environment and economic security. Here is a closer look at these various categories and some steps you can take to age gracefully in each area of your life:
As bodies age, they experience deterioration that is natural, yet frustrating. While there are some health issues you cannot control, you can make a concerted effort to maintain a healthy lifestyle that contributes to your wellbeing. As is true for people of all ages, exercise and a nutritious diet are integral to physical health. However, a healthy diet (and good hydration habits) in your senior years may look different than it did when you were younger, as your nutritional needs change. You are likely to require fewer calories to maintain a healthy weight, and excessive sodium and spices may disagree with you. Also, alcohol consumption and tobacco use can be increasingly detrimental to your health as you age.
As for exercise, low-impact activities are often recommended for seniors. Walking, water aerobics, cycling, and yoga are especially helpful for retaining flexibility and agility and warding off extra weight that could increase your risk for certain health conditions. Exercising also can improve your mood and self-confidence. If you live at a retirement community, you join a variety of group fitness classes and activities that are designed specifically for seniors.
Ultimately, your healthcare provider is the best source of information for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Make sure you keep up with regular visits and getting the physical tests and evaluations that are recommended for your age.
Because you experience several major life changes during your senior years, you may be more at risk for experiencing loneliness, isolation, anxiety, and depression. While that is completely normal, it’s not inevitable. You can take measures to address those debilitating emotional and psychological afflictions.
Counseling is positive for people of any age, but in your senior years, it may become an important part of successfully navigating life-altering experiences, including retirement, losing loved ones, being far away from family, or facing decreasing independence or physical health.
While severe mental health problems shouldn’t be taken lightly and need to be treated clinically, your own mindset and habits are vital to maintaining your psychological wellbeing. If you are able to graciously and patiently accept the inevitable changes of aging, rather than viewing them as abnormalities or crises to be dealt with, you can better enjoy the positive aspects of aging. You know yourself better than you ever have and you’ve collected a valuable set of memories and experiences—along with knowledge and wisdom—that can help you feel confident, proud and at peace with aging.
Your spiritual wellbeing is not intrinsically linked with religion, although many people find peace and comfort in their faith. If you are committed to a specific faith, be sure to maintain that connection by regularly visiting your place of worship and engaging in the activities that make you feel more secure and content.
In general, though, spiritual health is about feeding the very soul and essence of who you are and being at peace with yourself. As you age and enter retirement, you may find you can’t contribute to society in the ways you used to. That doesn’t make you obsolete. Rather, aging gracefully is about embracing new opportunities to take care of yourself, serve others, and give back to your community. With your free time, you can volunteer for causes you believe in or join philanthropic groups. Additionally, you can pursue new activities and hobbies that help you continue evolving as a human and living your best life as you age.
Social well-being intersects with the other three categories, as cultivating a rewarding and meaningful social life will contribute to your physical, psychological, and spiritual health. That’s why you should spend time with your loved ones and friends as much as you can. Even if they are far away, technology has increased the ability to feed those relationships with telephone calls and video chats.
However, it’s important that you have a strong social network that physically surrounds you and is accessible. Nothing can replace the joy of going out to eat, taking walks, or playing games with your friends or family. If you are feeling isolated or that you don’t have strong social connections, keep in mind it’s never too late to make friends. Retirement communities host a full calendar of events and activities through which you can meet and socialize with your peers. Pursuing a new hobby, taking a class or volunteering are also good ways of making new relationships that improve your life.
Finding a Place to Age Gracefully
You have more chance of aging successfully if you are situated in the right environment, which means a community in Federal Way that is secure, safe, and supportive of your whole self and your future. Village Green Retirement Campus provides exactly that. From comfortable accommodations and wellness services to a range of classes, events, and amenities, Village Green can provide you with the resources and support to help you age gracefully and enjoy life along the way.
“Successful aging as a multidimensional concept: An integrative review.” Medical Journal of the Islamic Republic of Iran, 2017. Accessed online at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6014811/
“How to Live Your Best Life as You Age.” Healthline article. Accessed online at https://www.healthline.com/health/aging-gracefully
“The Art of Aging Gracefully.” WebMD.com article. Accessed online at https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/features/the-art-of-aging-gracefully#4