September Is Healthy Aging Month

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September is Healthy Aging Month -- an annual observance designed to focus national attention on the positive aspects of growing older.

There are four main areas it is recommended those 50 and older focus on, to make their seasoned years healthy years: physical fitness; social wellness; mental wellness; and financial fitness.

Physical fitness

What's good for the body is good for the spirit as well.

As people grow older, it is very important to keep motivated, to say to yourself, "I can do it."

Regular exercise is even more important for seniors than other age groups, since the risk of disease and lost mobility is greater and the positive effects are realized more quickly. But, as we all know, the hardest part is getting started.

  • Look for daily opportunities to exercise in work and play. Force yourself to walk by parking your car several parking aisles away from the store or your office entrance and walk briskly.
  • Choose an exercise you like and stick with it.
  • Use the buddy system. Arrange to have a friend meet you -- it's harder to say no to exercise when you exercise with a friend.
  • Walk, swim, climb, bicycle, dance, fish
  • Join a walking group or visit a local recreation center, park, church, or senior center.
  • Engage in 30 minutes of aerobic exercise and weight-bearing exercise every day.

Remember, it's never too late to start.

Social wellness

  • See the World -- Expand Your Mind. After a lifetime of raising children and working, older Americans love to travel -- to see new things and experience new cultures. Begin to plan a trip. Half the excitement is in the planning.
  • Watch Game Shows. Watch "Jeopardy!" to keep your mind razor-sharp.
  • Laugh Loud, Laugh Often. A good sense of humor is essential. Start the day off on a light note by reading the comic sections of your local newspaper. If you're over 60, you might refer to this section as "the funnies."
  • Give of Yourself. Be generous with the most important thing you own: your time. Volunteer -- clubs, organizations, the library, the human society, Chamber of Commerce, parks and recreation department and others all over the Rim Country need people to make their many community efforts and services a success.
  • Seek Inspiration -- Keep the Faith. Belief in a higher power is of paramount importance.
  • Stay in close contact with friends and family. Write, e-mail, or call someone daily.

Mental wellness

If you think old, you are old.

A decline in memory is not always a function of serious disease, like Alzheimer's. Sometimes memory loss is caused by factors that can be changed: such as diet, medication misuse, depression, etc. At the National Institute on Aging, research is showing that memory may be like other parts of the body. Research showed that the very gradual declines in memory take place until age 70 -- when the pace increases, but not so much as to impair us. The conclusion?

The processes of normal aging do not rob you of your memory.

The greatest enemy to the healthy senior mind is depression. New activities, hobbies, and exercise are wonderful anti-depressants. If you truly are depressed, don't bear it alone -- seek help.

Stay active doing things that use your memory:

  • Take a class, play games, be with people
  • Pick up the phone now and call someone, just to "chat."
  • Volunteer your time. Get involved with a cause you believe in or in something that interests you.
  • Seek out variety and challenge in your daily life.
  • Keep your mind exercised, too, by reading, learning a new skill, and researching something that interests you.
  • Develop a hobby -- it's never too late to learn how to play the piano.

Financial fitness

Just as physical and mental fitness are important to healthy aging, so is financial well-being. Many people who are retiring at age 60 or 65 may have another 20 or 30 years to live. And, they may be living on a fixed income. So, it's very important that people take a hard look at their finances and goals.

  • Save at least 10 percent of your income and invest in savings plans that compound interest.
  • Establish financial goals, stick to a planned budget, sign up for a retirement plan "because there's lots of living left to do..."

Many authorities in the financial planning field say that you need 80 percent of your pre-retirement income to maintain your lifestyle after retirement. That figure may or may not be good for you; if you're one of the people who walks to work, works in his or her home, for instance, you won't save a penny on commuting. There are those who will still want the latest clothes, whether or not they still have to impress business colleagues. And, of course, a lot of us want to travel more after retirement than we did before.

Your first task is to call the Social Security Administration and ask their assistance in figuring out how much you will get by way of retirement benefit from the government. Next, talk to the Human Resources department where you work to get an estimate of the pension benefit to which you will be entitled.

The next step is to project 80 percent of your current salary -- the amount you will use as your benchmark for post-retirement income needs.

Go to healthyaging.net for more information and links to worksheets on financial planning and more.

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