I hope that aging elegantly with vitality is a goal we can all achieve. As Americans live longer than ever before, and the rate of chronic health conditions continues to rise, we face new challenges in senior wellness. Our minds and bodies change as we age, but there are actions we can take to deal with these changes to keep a sense of well-being and happiness.
If we view geriatric wellness as a process that adapts to the health, social and functional changes of aging, we can empower this group no matter the degree of illness or debility. According to the most recent federal report on older Americans, 15 percent of our population is age 65 and older. This proportion is expected to grow to 21 percent by 2030. We cannot ignore elder care and quality of life.
To improve the quality of life as we age, we can focus more energy on enhancing the opportunities and activities that keep elders well and happy instead of placing limitations and disease front and center. We can all strive to reach our fullest potential, and this doesn’t have to stop suddenly once we reach a certain age. The older adult requires social engagement, the ability to hope and dream about the future, and the use of their personal strengths in a meaningful way. Opportunities to express values and wishes can arise out of social interaction and reduce isolation and loneliness. A simple knock on the door to check on your elderly neighbors can be immensely helpful.
Physical activity that includes aerobic, strength training and balance exercises can allow seniors to live active lives and reduce falls that can be extremely debilitating. Caregivers can offer massage and assist with arm and leg movements for mobility-limited and bed-bound adults. Elderly adults may find maintaining a well-balanced diet and staying hydrated can be difficult since the senses of smell, taste and the sensation of thirst are diminished. Seniors can benefit from eating with family, friends and companions. Food can be cooked with herbs for added flavor and aroma. Daily routines of bathing, grooming and dressing improve self-esteem and maintain health.
There is charm in the dapper elderly gentleman and the fascinating older woman who know their authentic selves and display confidence that comes from experience. Despite chronic illness and disability, everyone can age with dignity and independence if we reduce the stigma of getting older and embrace aging gracefully with a wellness journey that lasts into our golden years.
By La-Shaun Elliott, M.D., M.P.H. She is certified in preventive medicine, is a primary care practitioner and founder of Hale Healthcare, 120 N. Medical Parkway, Woodstock. 678-744-4253.