What is Successful Aging And What Does it Take to Age Successfully?
In 2003, researchers asked an elderly population in Manitoba Canada what they define as aging successfully. The response was that the senior citizens said that to them successful aging is staying physically fit, being healthy in the body and the brain, and remaining socially active. It turns out that it is exactly these four factors that play the greatest role in aging successfully. Research has shown that not only are these 4 factors important for those of us in our later years but their absence early in our life increases the likelihood of mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders later on.
Staying Active is Important For Successful Aging
The most important aspect of successful aging is remaining active; unfortunately, as we age, this becomes harder and harder. The commonly accepted reason that it is hard for people to remain active is that once we hit a certain age we’d rather spend our days in the rocking chair. However, Minnesota researcher Jan Hively found that staying in the rocking chair was the last thing the elderly want to do:
“About 40 percent of seniors interviewed said they worked after retirement age. About half said they needed the money, but the other half worked because they wanted to — and planned to do so until physically unable. Many others said they stayed busy through volunteerism. Seventy-five percent of those surveyed also described themselves as active and healthy, well into their 80’s.”
So if the challenges to remain active do not stem from a lack of desire or motivation, where does the challenge come from? It turns out the main challenge in staying active is due to a decrease in physical function as we age.
According to Carol Ewing Garber of Columbia University:
“Physical function is the ability to perform both basic and instrumental activities of daily living, and the ability of older adults to reside in the community depends to a large extent on their level of physical function. As an older person experiences decline in physical function, s/he encounters increasing difficulty in engaging in the instrumental activities of daily living, and may address these difficulties by avoiding or limiting these activities. Because this decline can occur gradually, the accompanying changes in physical function may be subtle and not readily apparent to the healthcare providers, family–or even to the individual–until the person is unable to perform the activity at all.”
The problem with declining activity is not due to a lack of motivation but instead is due to a natural decline in the ability to engage in those daily activities that support to successful aging.
How to Help The Elderly Remaining Active
The way to age successfully is to make sure that the elderly are being active, both socially and physically-but it’s not enough just to tell the elderly to hit the gym since as people age, there are many individual differences in the degree and type of physical activity someone can do. In order to motivate and help the elderly remain active, Amber Court Assisted Living stresses that it is critical for assisted living providers to perform individual assessment when it comes to designing activities and recreation. Amber Court suggests assisted living practitioners do the following:
• First, review a residence’s medical history from as many sources as possible (e.g., doctors, nurses, social workers, family and friends). This will allow them to know all the possible physical and/or cognitive impairments that the senior resident has. After this assessment, assisted living practitioners will be able to plan activities based on the resident’s strengths and weaknesses.
• Second, feedback is critical. Assisted living practitioners should not assume that everything will go according to plan. Instead, they should carefully measure and evaluate the performance of the resident.
• Finally, as a resident grows older, their circumstances and bodies will change. Solutions that worked well in the past may not work today. Assisted living practitioners should periodically reassess the planned activities and recreation in terms of changes in weight, hygiene, overall enthusiasm and make changes accordingly.
By following these simple but critical guidelines, assisted living caregivers can make sure that the residents will remain as active as possible, which is necessary for aging successfully.
About The Author
By Raphael Weiss
Amber Court is an affordable assisted living facility with locations in New York and New Jersey. We offer specialized activities to improve cognitive abilities. With a commitment to provide every resident with a highly personalized program designed to meet medical, emotional, social, and psychological needs. To find out more about our facility, check us out at: http://ambercourtal.com.
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