Resolve to Age Well
With 2023 fast approaching, many are turning to that age old tradition of New Year’s resolutions. You know, pledges are made that in the next 12 months, we’ll do something differently – and hopefully better. On top of that list should be the resolution to age well.
There is a long history of people making New Year’s resolutions. About 4,000 years ago, the Babylonians would reaffirm their loyalty to the king, promise to pay debts, and return anything they borrowed. (Although their new calendar began in the spring with the crops.) Like us, the Romans welcomed the new year in January. Their god for the month (Janus) was a the two-faced god who symbolically looked back at the previous year and forward to the future. With sacrifices, the Romans vowed “good conduct” for the upcoming year. In 1740, John Wesley, who founded Methodism, started services on New Year’s Eve as a spiritual alternative to parties with prayers and promises.
So, how can someone resolve to age well? Recent research suggests that approach-oriented goals (“I will do this”) were significantly better for change than avoidance-oriented goals (“I won’t do that”). With that in mind, here are five possible resolutions to add to your list for healthy aging.
- I will eat healthy foods. As we age, we may need fewer calories, but we still need healthy foods – and in a wide variety. Color is a good indicator of protective health benefits: deep greens (like kale and spinach), bright yellows and oranges (bell peppers and carrots or cantaloupe), and stunning reds (tomatoes) are the way to go. Fiber-rich whole grains are also important, whether as bread, pasta, or rice. Lean meats such as turkey and chicken, along with heart-healthy seafood such as salmon and tuna, provide essential protein and vitamins without excess fat. Likewise, olive and canola oils are better that butter or lard.
- I will move my body. Physical activity is a critical component of healthy aging. The benefits include being able to live more independently and for longer, reducing the risk of falls and injuries, improving symptoms of chronic conditions like high blood pressure and arthritis, and lessening anxiety or depression. Moving more can be safe and healthy for older adults; programs like SilverSneakers are geared for seniors and may be free for those 65 and over. Of course, check with your doctor first to see what activities are appropriate for you.
- I will go to bed on time. One of the biggest myths is that less sleep is needed as we age. This is wrong! Older people also need at least seven to eight hours of sleep nightly. Set a routine so going to bed and getting up is within an hour of a regular time. Avoid daytime naps and late-night computer sessions to ensure you are ready to sleep at night. A cool, dark, quiet bedroom supports good sleep.
- I will exercise my brain. The brain is like your other muscles: it needs to work out to stay strong and in shape. The more active your brain is, the better your memory and thinking processes will be. Some ways to mentally engage include completing crosswords, doing math by hand (no calculators!), reading, learning a new skill, and being social.
- I will see my doctor. Ageing well includes regular health appointments to stay on top of chronic conditions and health screenings. Your provider can discuss any changes or new developments and can refer you to other resources as, such as mental health support.
As we continue the long-established New Year’s rite of self-improvement, aging well fits in nicely with any resolution. After all, the most important promises we make are to ourselves.
Sources: History.com; Health in Aging; NIH; CDC; The Sleep Foundation; NIDirectUK