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By Marcy Shoemaker, Psy.D., Abramson Center psychologist
Since the beginning of time, men and women have searched for ways to enhance their vitality and overall quality of their life with the hope of erasing the signs and symptoms of aging. Even though the “Fountain of Youth” does not exist, there are recommended steps that can be incorporated into your life at all ages. These recommendations should follow your physician’s advice and your personal preferences and interests.
One major recommendation that most individuals receive when visiting their physician is to incorporate exercise into their life. Exercise routines will vary based on personal interests, physical strength, time commitments and budgets. But everyone can exercise and should find a way to incorporate some type of physical activity into their life. Studies by researchers at the Mayo Clinic Proceedings (Sept, 2011) have proven that exercise can prevent falls which can lead to fractures and impairments which are one of the largest reasons for loss of independence, physical decline and hospitalizations in seniors. (If you do experience a fall resulting in a fracture or other injury, look into entering a quality rehabilitation program. Finding the right care can help you get back on your feet safely.) Also, recent information published by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended exercise to increase muscle strength, reduce fat and prevent osteoporosis (US.Gov). No matter if your exercise involves walking, moving during chores, participating in a sport, spending some time moving your arms or legs, or getting out of your chair, benefits can result including reduced depression and anxiety, increased enjoyment, and associated improvement in memory.
Another concern as we age is memory decline, reduction in concentration and other associated cognitive impairments. New literature suggests that physical exercise may serve as a preventive step in reducing the risk of dementia or cognitive impairments. Studies have shown that exercise may also reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease (Mayo Clinic Proceeding, 2011). There are also recommended steps to help improve memory loss and/or cognitive impairments. It is important to find ways to challenge your mind by learning new information, participating in a class, attending a senior center, doing puzzles, using a computer and reading. The brain can be compared to a computer that needs exercise. There are also techniques that you can utilize to enhance your memory. Some people will create mnemonics that use visual clues, rhymes, or sentences to help remember names and facts. You may remember using these techniques as a student when preparing for a test. Another technique is called chunking, where large amounts of information or facts are put in smaller lists.
People who find ways to enjoy their lives may also experience increased vitality. It is important to find ways to have fun and look forward to an upcoming event. If you are suffering from an illness, don’t delay finding forms of enjoyment even though you may need to modify your approach. Connect to others through various forms of socialization, including spending time outside of your home, talking on the phone, using email or writing a letter. Programs and services, like Abramson Medical Adult Day Services, can provide activities and social opportunities for those who need extra support because of an illness or other disability.
A cure all formula to avoid aging doesn’t exist, but with a combination of some form of exercise, activities that challenge your brain and socialization, you will feel younger and increase your overall enjoyment in life.