A Potpourri of Aging Well

On: October 16, 2017

By Pamela Leland, PhD, Executive Director 

I’ve had too many reminders in recent weeks that we all need to get more comfortable talking about death and dying. But that is such a heavy subject! My friend Judy suggested the topic of humor and aging for this week’s column. Yet that didn’t grab me either.  

So as we move toward autumn, today’s theme is a potpourri – miscellaneous ideas and reminders of how we can all age well.

Drink water! Don’t be fooled by cooler temperatures; hydration is important and a key to good physical health.

We are headed into open enrollment for Medicare. Take the time to review your health insurance needs, including your prescription coverage. Check out medicare.gov. Contact the County Department of Aging or your insurance provider for information and assistance if needed. 

Go to an orchard. Autumn is a glorious time of year – take advantage of the colors and crisp temperatures and get out doors! Walk among the pumpkins; drink apple cider.

Don’t ignore your brain health.  Eat healthy foods. Get some oxygen flowing through your body and stimulate your brain with activities that engage your mind.

Older adults who live alone and no longer drive can easily become invisible and forgotten. Take the time to call and visit those older friends and relatives to make sure that they are safe, both physically and emotionally. Be aware of the risks of isolation.

Create space with friends and family to talk about death and dying. There are some good resources –including games – to help foster conversations and build more comfort with these topics. Check out Death over Dinner for one such resource. (See deathoverdinner.org)

Don’t expect to age alone. We are creatures designed for relationship and community. Invest in your relationships with others. Strengthen your network of support. Ask for help when it is needed. Offer help to others too.

Be sensitive to the subtleties of ageism.  We laugh at the greetings cards or jokes that make fun of older people not recognizing the fear and prejudices that are embedded in them. If you wonder if something is ageist, make the subject a woman, a minority or someone with a disability and ask yourself if it would offend others.

Add more to your piggy bank. At some point, we will all need services and supports to remain and successfully “age-in-place” (if that is our preference). Or we may want or need to live in community with others. It all costs money!  We need to reverse the trends in how little people are saving for retirement. 

Learn more about dementia. Evidence suggests that by the time we are 85, half of us will experience some degree of cognitive change. The best defense against this is a good offense: educate yourself about what you can do now to protect and preserve your own cognitive health.

Embrace wisdom whenever and wherever it shows up.  At a recent meeting of a local quilt guild, the speaker reminded us that when our gifts and talents are being used for the good and benefit of others, it isn’t “work”!  We are where we are supposed to be and doing what we are supposed to do.

And yes, embrace humor. Laughter may not be the only “best” medicine but it is a critical component of health and well-bring.  Seek out those people and activities that bring smiles, laughter and joy.

If you have ideas to add to this list or suggestions for topics to be discussed here in the future, please let me know.

 Published in the Daily Local News, Monday, October 16, 2017