Although many Hollywood actresses would like us all to believe that it’s possible to stay forever young, the reality is that the aging process is an inevitable part of life. With more than 13 percent of the U.S. population now over the age of 65, healthy aging is a goal that an increasing number of us are striving to achieve.
What Is Healthy Aging?
Cosmetic companies and plastic surgeons sell the idea that aging can be overcome with the right moisturizer or the latest nip-and-tuck procedure. However, healthy aging is about much more than maintaining a youthful appearance.
To make the most of your life at any age, it’s really about sustaining long-term mental and physical health. While natural changes happen in the body to different degrees as we age, including an increased risk for some diseases, most women can lead full, rewarding lives well into their “golden years.”
Stacking the Odds in Your Favor
Being aware of changes and adopting a healthy lifestyle can significantly reduce your chance of injury or illness as you age. On-going research continues to show that there are certain behaviors that significantly lower the risk of disability, chronic disease and mental health problems. These include:
- Regular exercise (at least 2.5 hours a week of moderate activity)
- A balanced diet rich in vegetables, fruits and whole grains
- Not smoking
- Regular socializing
When combined with on-going preventive health care, these behaviors provide the greatest chance for sustaining good health as we enter into our fifties, sixties and beyond.
Prevention Is the Best Medicine
As women, we are often the caregivers for our families and are more focused on the health and well-being of loved ones than ourselves. Yet, as we age, the role of preventive care becomes increasingly important to sustain good health.
“Being proactive with the basics, such as immunizations, hearing and vision checks and screening for osteoporosis, can make a big difference when it comes to maintaining good physical health,” says Dr. Rupal Shah, Geriatric Medicine, Internal Medicine at North Shore-LIJ Medical Group. “We encourage all of our older patients to pay attention to subtle changes and to get these checked out promptly. Our goal is to keep patients healthy as long as possible.”
The Goal of Aging in Place
With the cost of assisted living and nursing home care rising rapidly, it has become increasingly common for older individuals to want to stay in their homes as long as possible. In a survey from AARP, 92 percent of those between the ages of 65 and 74 prefer to age at home. There are also many benefits to doing so, including staying independent longer and maintaining your existing social network, along with the obvious financial savings.
Geriatric care can be very beneficial for those who choose to remain at home as they age. Along with regular preventive care, additional screenings and evaluations are recommended including:
- Balance testing
- Medication reviews
- Screenings for memory and cognitive abilities
- Driving assessments
- Screening for depression
- Diet assessments
If and when additional care or help is required, a team approach is taken, which commonly includes the individual’s primary care physician, geriatric specialist, and sometimes other specialists or social workers. It is important to have your family involved as well; education and help is also offered to family members to give them the resources they need to properly care for their loved ones as they age.
Do you want to learn more about healthy aging for you or a loved one? Find out more about geriatric care at North Shore-LIJ Health System.
Have questions related to aging or other women’s issues? Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-KIWH (5494) to speak with a women’s health specialist.