Healthy Aging Month: Aging Is Not for Sissies – Virginia Department of Health – Virginia Department of Health

September 12, 2022
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“Getting old isn’t for the faint of heart.” – Mae West 
It can be easy to lose sight of the adventure and joy involved in the journey of aging. The process of getting older – while a seemingly endless barrel of jokes for birthday card companies – is packed with experiences that empower deeper reflection, pursuit of personal hobbies, and broadened perspective. 
As of 2020, 21.6% of Virginians were at least 60 years old, and this percentage is expected to reach 24% by 2030. It’s more important than ever to share empowering resources that support this growing population as they age into the lives they’ve worked diligently to build. While successful aging will look slightly different for each individual, the general idea is to age in such a way that enables well-being in older age. This tactic requires purposeful decisions about how to treat one’s body, mind, time, and so on. In celebration of Healthy Aging Month, the following tips and resources are good reminders on how to live life to its fullest.
Taking note of the foods we eat and how they interact with our changing bodies is a great step towards healthy aging. For extra energy, increase the number of servings of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet. Whole grains are a better choice than processed carbohydrates, for adding fiber and vitamins to your meals. For the best protein options, choose lean meat, nuts, or beans.
A chart displaying foods and drinks that may represent a healthy diet for older adults.
It’s no secret that the body’s nutritional needs change over time. In addition to making healthy food choices, it’s important to know the best steps to take to satisfy hunger and cravings.
While physical activity is important during all stages of life it becomes even more so with age. Exercise conditions the body’s cardiovascular system, supports digestion, and maintains muscular strength for daily tasks (like dressing, walking, cooking, etc.).
Health research has traditionally focused on the physical benefits of exercising on aging; however, more recently, public health and medicine have delved deeper into the psychological, body-brain connection impacted by exercise. The mental health benefits of consistent exercise include stress management, improved sleep quality, and an increased sense of well-being. If you haven’t found a physical activity that you enjoy and can continue over time, now’s your chance to start exploring. From indoor swimming (available all year round) to plogging – a combination of jogging and picking up litter – there are a plethora of ways to get moving in ways you find fun. You may even consider physical activities that can be incorporated into daily life, such as walking or biking to work, gardening, or even adding in some dance steps while doing house chores.
Keeping the body healthy is certainly well worth the effort, but the impact of social connection and activities for the brain are just as important. Choose activities that challenge the mind such as learning new dance steps, playing a new game (card, board, or recreational), or picking up a new hobby. Community and social engagement, through friendships, partnerships, community service or participation in local organizations, is another important aspect to consider when looking to maintain optimal mental and physical function throughout life. Finding ways to incorporate engagement with the world around you, play, and novelty (i.e. learning something new) into each day pays dividends. Not only does cognitive engagement fend off diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s, it also increases interest in life, and decreases loneliness as well as depression.
Keep in mind the 3 “F’s” work together. It can be even more beneficial to find interesting ways to combine them. For example, walk to work with a pal while sharing something new you learned this week; or see if some ingredients can be substituted with healthier options while trying a new recipe or cooking technique.
At the end of the day, remember that healthy aging is about well-being. Keep the “3 F’s” Rule in mind and surround yourself with things that create happiness, growth, and fulfillment in your life. Until next Health Aging Month, be well.
Musich S, Wang SS, Kraemer S, Hawkins K, Wicker E. Purpose in Life and Positive Health Outcomes Among Older Adults. Popul Health Manag. 2018 Apr;21(2):139-147. doi: 10.1089/pop.2017.0063. Epub 2017 Jul 5. PMID: 28677991; PMCID: PMC5906725.
Wong RY. A New Strategic Approach to Successful Aging and Healthy Aging. Geriatrics (Basel). 2018 Nov 29;3(4):86. doi: 10.3390/geriatrics3040086. PMID: 31011121; PMCID: PMC6371117.
Halaweh H, Dahlin-Ivanoff S, Svantesson U, Willén C. Perspectives of Older Adults on Aging Well: A Focus Group Study. J Aging Res. 2018 Nov 4;2018:9858252. doi: 10.1155/2018/9858252. PMID: 30533224; PMCID: PMC6247475.
Senior Planning Services. Remodeling the Food Pyramid for Seniors. Retrieved July 23, 2022 
Senior Lifestyles. 7 Best Exercises for Seniors (and a Few to Avoid!). Retrieved July 14, 2022
Parker-Pope, A. How to Age Well. New York Times. Retrieved July 7, 2022

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