If we’re lucky, we will all get old. But if we’re smart, we can affect the shape of that experience. Let’s consider six things we can do to maximize our enjoyment in our later years.

Take Control of Physical Health

Our bodies will break down as we age to one degree or another, but there is plenty we can do to slow that decline. Eating right, as early in life as possible, is a first step towards healthy aging.

Metabolism slows the ability to taste, smell declines and the body may process food differently. That’s no excuse for skipping meals, over-eating or consuming junk. A balanced, nutritious diet, high in vegetables, fruits and nuts, and low in bad fats and processed foods, is the first line of defense against the breakdown of the body.

Second is physical activity. Aging may reduce the ability to bench press heavy weights or play competitive tennis, but lifelong exercise is vital for remaining healthy. The best exercise is the one you do, so whatever you like, do that. For older people, exercise in the water have the added benefit of using buoyancy to relieve stress on joints and prevent falls.

Many senior living communities facilitate this lifestyle by providing daily exercise classes, pools and instructor-led activities like yoga, water aerobics and tai chi.

Exercise the Mind

Exercising the brain is just as critical as exercising the rest of the body. Reading books, engaging in stimulating discussions, constantly learning and problem solving are great ways to keep the mind sharp in our 70s, 80s and beyond.

Many senior living communities offer classes, interesting speakers and presentations, book clubs and other activities that are fun to attend and stave off cognitive decline.

Keeping busy with hobbies is also good for brain cells. Whether you bird watch, collect stamps, study a period in history or engage in some other activity that pleases you, continuing that will make you happy and keep you mentally keen.

Keep the Social Bonds Strong

Research shows that multiple, meaningful relationships keep us happy and healthy. Humans are social animals at every age who need other people in their lives. It’s particularly important to stay connected to others as protection against the loneliness and depression that plague so many elderly people. As we inevitably suffer loss in our lives, it becomes more critical to have a social network providing support.

An Attitude of Gratitude

The world, like the bodies of older people, is always changing. As they age, people can insulate themselves from the outside world or accept what is new, learn how to deal with it, and roll with the punches. The more adaptable we are as we age, the better we cope with the changing conditions in our lives. Embracing each day as a new opportunity to learn, grow and meet new people, and being thankful for everything we have, has been demonstrated to keep us happier and healthier.

Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Our bodies need deep, refreshing sleep each night to recharge the cells. Older people often require less sleep because they are less physically active, but sleep is still a critical bodily function. If you’re fatigued or falling asleep during the day, you probably need more sleep at night.

Laugh!

Research shows that laughter truly is the best medicine. Aging with a sense of humor reinforces all the good habits listed above.

Nye Health Services offers seven communities in Eastern Nebraska and Wyoming, structured to meet the needs of their residents from independent living to skilled nursing and memory care. A family-owned company with a rich history of connecting with the people they serve, Nye Health Services is open for visits anytime. Call 402.753.1400 to schedule an appointment at locations in Fremont, Lincoln, South Sioux City, Norfolk, or Jackson Hole, or visit NyeHealthServices.com for more information.

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