Wise senior women of the world, I call on each of you to help your daughters, granddaughters, and even your great-granddaughters, to be healthier and happier, and to live longer and more vibrantly. Will they listen to our words of wisdom? Some will heed our advice — the ones who see clearly the effects of decades of lifestyle choices, good and bad, on our bodies, minds, and spirits.
More and more research emerges every month supporting this fact: The sooner we adopt healthier lifestyle choices the better our mid-life and senior years will be. All is not lost for us seniors, as the human body is the most miraculous healing machine on the planet. Every single positive change we make reaps benefits, no matter if we are thirty-two or eighty-two. However, the climb becomes steeper when chronic issues and limitations add rust and corrosion to the workings of the gears.
Our mission: to help our daughters and granddaughters retool their lifestyles to include life-affirming choices to free them from some of the challenges we live with as seniors because we didn’t know differently.
Gerontologists look at how circumstances and choices we made when we were young and bulletproof, come back at mid-life to express themselves in our joints, brains, and hearts. Drawing from the latest science, we can encourage the younger women, and men, in our lives to consider choosing some, or all, of these six life-enhancing changes which will profoundly influence the course of their aging.
My Top Six Choices
Exercise is THE game changer, maybe even the magic bullet against premature aging. Our bodies are made to move, and the more we do, the more vibrant we will be. We now know if we exercise at a moderate intensity—85% of our suggested heart rate (https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/measuring/heartrate.htm) for one hour most days– mixing up our workouts with repetitive aerobics (biking, swimming, walking) and non-repetitive aerobics (tennis, Zumba, jazzercise, or other dance classes, badminton, basketball); adding in weight/resistance training and some stretching/yoga, we will be doing the single most important thing to keep our bodies strong and finely tuned. A mix of these exercises prevents dementia and Alzheimer’s by laying new track in our brains, which keeps our memory circuits strong and long (our telomeres). Routine exercise lifts our mood, helps us sleep soundly, and makes our skin glow.
When we exercise regularly, our sleep improves, but not getting enough sleep can short-circuit the benefits we gain from all that exertion. Getting enough sleep has risen to the top of the list in the last few years, and will likely stay there as we continue to learn about the benefits and detriments of getting, or not getting, enough sleep. The bottom line? Sleep allows our bodies to rejuvenate. It restores and replenishes the energy in all our cells, repairs damage to our organs and systems we incur by living life and clears away toxins, especially memory and cognitive function-robbing plaque. We need seven to eight hours of good quality sleep. Making it a priority, not an afterthought, will be an age-defying decision.
The Achilles’ heel for so many of us is sugar. I know I struggle with staying on the low-sugar wagon every single day. Sugar creates inflammation in our body, and inflammation is the source of all disease. A sugar-free life is an admirable goal, and for some, over time, achievable and maintainable. For many of us, eliminating sweets would be the same as a sentence in solitary confinement; please just shoot me. To be realistic, cutting out half the sugar in our diets is a great place to start. Give it a year. After a year, try to cut the amount by half, again. By the end of the first year, the craving for sugar will be less, and by the end of the second year, the addiction could well be broken. This choice might need the help of a health-care professional (doctor, therapist, RN). These professionals can help break this addiction.
Eating Whole Foods
Leaving behind processed foods—crackers, cookies, lunch meat, anything made with wheat flour in favor of whole, unprocessed foods—fresh vegetables, nuts, low-sugar fruits, small amounts of lean meat, healthy fats and legumes, gives the body the optimum fuel to function—physically and mentally. If possible, going one step further, and choosing organic will help even more. Again, this is a tall order, one that takes time, but by cutting out a few unhealthy things over time our body begins to function at a higher level and heal the damage of bad food choices. Like giving up sugar, take this slowly. Add and eliminate systematically and consistently over a year. The change in one year will be astounding.
2020 was a year that “tried men’s souls,” the old adage goes, yet it did allow us to slow down and have more quiet time—sometimes bordering on too much. However, I sincerely hope we gained a new appreciation for less hectic schedules. Many of us began meditating, and that is a habit to continue. Adding meditation, in whatever form feels right, reconnects us to our inner selves; some say our higher selves. From this place we find greater peace, balance, and a sense of calm. When the world returns to full speed—as we know it will eventually– we need to keep our fingers on the reset button that meditation offers us each time we sit in quiet.
Again, in this unprecedented year, we have all experienced a degree of isolation not known for many decades. What became clear for all of us is the importance of meaningful connections with others. When we are young it is easier to make those connections, and so this piece of aging vibrantly advice might go unheeded at the moment, but keep reminding your daughter to nurture her friendships now, to ensure she continues to have those strong bonds as she reaches her senior years. She will thank you then, for sure.
You, with your hard-earned knowledge and wisdom, will know the right time to broach each of these topics. Everyone is different and takes in information in her unique way. I offer these choices with my sincere and heartfelt hope that they will help our young, and even yet unborn, women live joyfully, more healthfully, and more vibrantly until they are well past one hundred!
Until next time…Be Vibrant!