As we age, the key to well being remains the same as it has been in younger years – an active and purposeful life. Research has shown that mental activity, physical exercise, spirituality, and social activity are intertwined in such a way that each plays a part in the health of the other. Activity can be more challenging as we age but in order to ward off depression, illness, and injury, activity is possible and should be maintained, to some degree, throughout all life stages. It can not be stressed enough that putting forth the effort to be active in each of these areas will be of great benefit and well worth the effort.

Let’s start with the physical. If you are healthy enough to join a gym (and use it) or take a water aerobics class at the YMCA, start now! If your physical abilities are more limited, perhaps a walk or some chair exercises will suit you better. The important thing is to keep moving! The healthier you are physically, the better you will feel all-around and exercise, itself, is a mood lifter. As physical health and mobility decline, the next three areas of activity will be increasingly essential.

The current website of the Alzheimer’s Association states that life-long mental stimulation may delay the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. The senior years are not a time to give the mind a break! A great way to stimulate the mind is to attend interesting lectures or even take college classes. Some colleges offer free tuition to seniors! Working crossword puzzles or simply reading a book stimulates the mind, as well. For those who are visually impaired, there are still great ways to exercise the mind. Listening to Jeopardy on television or an audio book can keep you thinking. Be creative and keep exercising this irreplaceable organ!

The results of many studies show that people of faith are often healthier and happier and are more likely to recover and to recover more quickly from major surgery than those without a source of hope. Reasons given vary, but many who have conducted research on this subject say this may be due to the fact that those with spiritual beliefs use “coping techniques” such as prayer and that they believe everything happens for a reason. I would add that people of faith are often able to look beyond their own circumstances and focus on helping others even when they are in need themselves. In addition to practices such as prayer and meditation, volunteering or even the smallest acts of kindness can help you live out the belief that life is serving a higher purpose, and will enhance your overall well-being.

One last important area of activity is that of social activity. Isolation must be avoided! If you are an active senior, some of the destinations previously mentioned such as the gym, church, volunteer activities, or college classes will also fall under social events. Even if you live alone, though, without family or close friends nearby (especially!) and are more limited in what you are able to do, it is imperative that you spend time interacting with and enjoying people. Trips to your neighborhood clubhouse, community centers, or the mall are necessary for your total well-being and can be accomplished even if a wheelchair and/or a paid caregiver are needed to assist. Make every effort to socialize when possible.



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