The aging process is natural, but aging brings about physical, mental, and neurological changes that may be difficult to deal with. There are ways to cope and maintain happiness and comfort as you age. Here, we identify age-related changes that people experience and suggest tips for healthy aging.
The changes people may experience during aging fall into two main categories: physiological and mental.
Physical changes as you age
Aging is characterized by significant changes in physiology. People tend to lose muscle mass and bone density as they get older. This makes it harder to stay active and easier to get injured. For example, slips and falls can more seriously impact your body and take longer to heal.
Aging also affects the internal organs in many ways. The heart muscle begins to weaken and arteries stiffen. This raises blood pressure and the risk of stroke. In addition, many people experience decreased lung capacity. Finally, the function of other organs like the liver, kidneys, and digestive system tends to decline.
Physiological changes like this make it even harder to maintain your everyday life. More of your time will be spent receiving or waiting for medical care, and you’ll likely need to spend more of your money on transportation to medical care. This can be a challenge to deal with, and it is an important time to lean on your loved ones and your care team.
Managing physical changes as you age
While many of these changes are unavoidable, you can do things that will make these changes easier to deal with. Here are some tips for coping with physical changes as you age:
- Modify your favorite activities to maximize safety. You may need to be more careful doing the activities you have always enjoyed, but you may be able to modify them so you can continue to do them safely. If you enjoy a high-impact activity like running, you might consider trying a different activity that gives you similar joy but is lower-impact, like swimming or riding a stationary bike.
- Attend fitness classes. You might consider attending an instructor-led fitness class. Having someone to guide you through movements may help you ensure that you’re doing the exercises with proper form, which is critical to exercising safely.
- Incorporate movement into everyday life. Taking short walks or even moving around the house while you do chores can help keep your body healthy.
- Express your thoughts. Even if you adjust to physical changes, you may still have feelings about it. You might consider sharing your thoughts with your family or friends — especially those with similar age or mobility levels. You can also discuss this with your health care provider or a counselor. They can give recommendations and tools to help cope with these changes.
- Access home care services. If certain tasks become difficult for you, home care providers can help. While there are costs involved with having home care services, there are many ways to pay for them. This way, you can remain independent in your home while getting assistance with tasks and chores.
- Modify your home for safety. Aging in place is the concept of remaining in your home for as long as it’s safe to do so as you get older. You can make changes in your home to protect your safety. Consider removing area rugs from walking spaces to help prevent falls, using nightlights in walkways, or installing handrails in your bathroom.
Mental and neurological changes as you age
As you age, you may develop cognitive decline. You might have problems remembering or learning information. This can be problematic. Making your appointments is critical when you are older, so missing them can make a difference. Likewise, you might start misplacing important things like keys and phones more frequently. For some people, this isn’t very pleasant. For others, it is deeply upsetting. Some older adults may also experience behavioral changes. In some instances, some may begin acting erratically or have significant personality changes.
If you’re going through changes like this, it’s worth talking to your family and health care provider about them. Make sure the loved ones who are affected are present. With everyone working together, you can set new boundaries and expectations to maintain meaningful relationships.
Some common mental health issues that affect older adults include depression and anxiety. While this is far from uncommon, you can get help to deal with these mental health challenges. Mental health care providers can help you work to feel better or prescribe safe medications that can support you. Furthermore, exercise has powerful effects on mental health, and people with varying levels of mobility can still do exercises with these positive effects.
Managing mental and neurological changes during the aging process
Fortunately, you can make lifestyle changes to adapt to these mental and neurological changes. With these tips, you can adjust to age-related changes and live as safely and comfortably as possible:
- Create a reminder system. If you forget appointments, you might consider using a calendar to keep track — if you’re tech-savvy, you can use a calendar or reminder app on a smartphone. You can also set alarms to remind yourself to take medication or attend appointments.
- Find places for your essential items. To avoid losing objects, try making dedicated spots for things like keys, phones, and chargers. If you establish a routine to place these items in the same place all the time, you may be more likely to remember where you set these objects down.
- Exercise your body and mind. Incorporating exercise safely into your daily routine can help maintain cognitive function and even help boost your overall mood. You can also keep your mind active by learning a new skill or doing a hobby you love, as mental stimulation can help keep your mind sharp.
- Be aware of atypical cognitive decline. Some cognitive decline is natural, but Alzheimer’s disease affects about 10% of older adults worldwide. It’s essential to know the warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease. If certain symptoms are worsening, discuss them with your health care provider. You can take an assessment to learn if you may be developing dementia or if you’re experiencing natural age-related cognitive decline.
Although everyone goes through their aging journey, support is available. It’s essential to accept that change is inevitable as you age and access support where and when you need it. Loved ones, friends, and your health care provider can be great resources. It is also worth seeking out peers of the same age going through similar changes.
You may ultimately find that living at home is not as safe or emotionally satisfying as it used to be. You can also find support in different types of living environments. Continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs), assisted living facilities, and nursing homes all support older adults living as independently as they can while providing the level of assistance a resident needs.
Depending on your needs, one type of senior living facility may suit you better. CCRCs offer multiple levels of care so the person can remain in the same community as their needs change. Assisted living facilities typically help people with some activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, eating, and moving around. They also provide meals and some housekeeping services. Nursing homes offer the highest level of care and help residents with their personal care needs.
Getting older means coping with many changes, and these physical and mental changes can impact a person’s emotional well-being. You can maximize health and happiness through aging by protecting your physical and mental health and ensuring you’re safe in your everyday life.