How To Deal With Getting Older
3rd October 2018
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Getting older is something that happens to us all, if we live long enough. Because we live in a youth-based culture, it might be hard to face getting older. If you’re struggling to deal with getting older, it will help to develop a more positive attitude. Educating yourself about what to expect, and taking care of your body will help support your positive attitude.
Developing a Positive Attitude
1. Face your fears of aging.
- For many people, getting older means getting closer to death. Their fears of aging are partially due to fears of death, either their own or the death of a loved one. Planning your end-of-life care and confronting the root of this fear may help.
- You may also fear losing your independence, becoming more physically frail, or developing health conditions related to aging. Learn more about adaptations and supports that will allow you to keep your independence for as long as possible.
- You might be concerned about your altered appearance. Find role models who have engaged gracefully with aging, either famous or in your own life.
- Talking with supportive friends, family or professionals can help you name your fears in a safe way. When you name your fears with close friends, you’ll likely feel better even if nothing else has changed.
2. Stay in the moment.
Naming all these fears might feel overwhelming, but naming fears doesn’t mean that they’re happening at the moment. Be aware that most things that you’re afraid of are not actually happening right now.
- When you notice your fears rising, ask yourself, “Is this happening now?” If the answer is no, turn your attention to the present moment.
- If there are steps that you can take to address the fear — such as planning long-term care options to address your fear of developing health conditions or physical frailty - then take action on these steps.
3. Focus on the good.
There are many reasons to look forward to getting older. For example, you’ll be able to draw on your lifelong experiences in order to help others. You may receive respect from younger people just starting out.
- Aging may allow you to slow down and enjoy your life, free of active parenting and work obligations.
- If you have saved for retirement, you may be able to enjoy learning and traveling for pleasure.
- You may be free of work and school responsibilities for the first time in your life.
4. Find role models.
If you fear getting older, it may be that you associate aging with unpleasant examples that you have been given. Many people reach old age with healthy bodies, their minds alert and their appreciation for life undimmed.
- If you realise that there are many people who’ve enjoyed old age, you’re less likely to be stuck in your fears.
- Look for examples in the media, in the community, and in your own life.
5. Talk to your friends.
Even though many people are private about age-related topics, your friends can be a valuable source of experience and insight. Perhaps you have friends who are older, or who’ve already made long-term plans for themselves. Asking them about their experiences will help you better able to make your own plans.
- Your friends can help you realise that everyone has to deal with getting older. You’ll find examples that you can use in your own life, both positive and negative.
- Older family members can also be helpful. If your parents are living, talking with them about their own aging process can offer you some ideas about what your own process might be.
6. Stay connected to others.
Clinical studies have repeatedly shown that healthy aging is supported by feelings of social connection. Whether you spend time with friends, family members, or participate in other community activities, developing social connections is one of the best ways to care for yourself as you get older.
- Taking part in volunteer organisations, mentoring children, tutoring in schools are all ways you can interact with others and develop relationships.
- Try connecting with others online. If you have mobility limitations, or if you live far from your family, use online options to maintain communication. Video chats, such as Skype, Facetime, or other, are great ways to stay in touch.
Knowing What to Expect
1. Learn about changes in your physical body.
When you’re aware of the changes typical in an aging body, you’ll be more likely to face these changes with resilience. There are steps that you can take to limit the impact of many age-related physical changes, but others just require adaptations.
- Your eyes may experience difficulty focusing on things that are close to you. This change in your eyes typically takes place between the ages of 40 – 50. Reading glasses can usually help fix this. The good news is that your long-distance vision may improve!
- You might notice that you have a hard time hearing people talking in crowded settings, and may not hear high frequencies. Hearing aids used to be clunky appliances, but newer models are hardly visible at all. Head to your local Bay Audiology Clinic for a FREE hearing test. See: How Can An Audiologist Help You?
- Many people start to have problems with bladder control as they age. Fortunately, improvements in the quality of absorbent undergarments mean that you can continue to stay active despite bladder challenges.
- Your bones are likely to weaken, and your muscles may lose strength and flexibility. There are still ways to stay active, including yoga, adaptive yoga, swimming, and walking.
- Your heart rate and metabolism are likely to slow down, which may lead to heart-related problems. Talk to your doctor about how to best care for your heart health.
Don't let aging get you down, it's too hard to get back up! - John Wagner
2. Expect changes in your memory.
Many people find that their memory functions less efficiently than it did when they were younger. It might take longer to find the right word for something, or to recall where you put your glasses. It might feel harder to learn new things. These are not necessarily signs of impairment, however. Studies have shown that older people may just take longer to complete complex activities, and may even improve in some areas of mental ability.
- Memory changes can sometimes be symptoms of other health conditions, a side effect of medications, or a result of emotional problems such as stress, anxiety, or depression.
- More serious memory problems include Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and dementia, including Alzheimer’s Disease and Vascular Dementia.
- If you’re concerned about changes in your memory, talk to your healthcare practitioner.
3. Plan for your future.
One of the most practical ways to address fears is to make plans. If you’re fearful of aging, not thinking about aging is one of the worst things you could do. Instead of hiding from your fears, find out what you can expect and make plans for handling it.
- Doing advance care planning and making legal arrangements for your end-of-life care is a practical step to take at any age.
- If you know what to expect as you age, chances are it will seem a lot less overwhelming.
- Making plans includes planning for travel, entertainment, and new hobbies. Recognising that you’ll have an opportunity to do new things may help you think more positively about aging.
4. Set up a retirement fund.
You’ll want to save money for your retirement, whether through your employer or on your own. If you already have a pension, or another financial plan for retirement, learn how to invest it wisely.
- Talking to a financial planner can help you make plans that will maximise your benefits.
- Getting a sense of your own financial needs during retirement will help you make effective plans.
Taking Care of Your Body
1. Include physical exercise.
Daily exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight, lower your blood pressure and can lessen the hardening of your arteries, which can lead to serious cardiovascular problems. Exercise also has a positive effect on your mental health, improves your mood, and boosts your self-esteem. Spend 30 minutes per day walking, swimming or other activities you enjoy.
- Including a variety of weight-bearing exercises will help strengthen your bones, while aerobic exercise helps your heart rate and blood pressure.
- If you’re just starting an exercise practice, check with your doctor for recommendations.
2. Eat a healthy diet.
As you age, so do your dietary needs. Experts recommend that people over the age of 50 choose healthy foods that support healthy cardiovascular system and avoid hypertension, osteoporosis, and diabetes. A healthy diet is one containing a variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, high-fiber foods and lean sources of protein, such as fish.
- Avoid trans fats and cut back on foods high in saturated fat and sodium.
- You might find that you feel less hungry or need fewer calories than you once did. This is particularly true for women.
- Try to steer clear of “empty calories,” or foods that contain little nutritional value. This includes foods and beverages such as chips, cookies, soft drinks, and alcoholic drinks.
3. Don’t smoke.
Smoking contributes to hardening of the arteries. It raises both your blood pressure and your heart rate. If you smoke or use other tobacco products, it's time to quit. Ask your doctor for help.
- Smoking speeds up the aging process of the skin. If you smoke you’re more likely to have facial wrinkles. Smoking also increases wrinkles and skin damage on other parts of your body.
- Smoking increases your chances of developing osteoporosis.
- If you need help to stop smoking, ask your medical care provider. Your employer might also have a smoking cessation program.
4. Learn ways to manage your stress.
Stress is a natural part of life, but if unmanaged it can sometimes become unhealthy. If you feel overwhelmed by stress, try using some calming strategies to help you deal with it. Taking deep breaths, using positive imagery, trying meditation and relaxation techniques can help calm your stress and clear your mind.
- Eating a healthy diet and doing regular exercise are also ways to minimise the effect of stress.
- Focusing on the positive aspects of your life will help you avoid being overwhelmed.
5. Get enough sleep.
Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep per night, but as you age you might find yourself going to sleep earlier and getting up earlier than you once did. In addition, you may find yourself having to get up and go to the bathroom more frequently during the night.
- If you're having a hard time getting enough sleep, follow some simple strategies to sleep better, including following a sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine in the evening, and taking a hot bath before bed.
- Avoid alcohol in the evening. It might help you fall asleep, but it diminishes the quality of your sleep. Even small amounts of alcohol make it harder to stay asleep.
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