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Challenges and Choices of Aging

The challenges of aging

Life expectancy is increasing for Americans. The fastest-growing segment of the population is the 85-and-older age group. Despite advances in health care, however, many elderly people have chronic, incurable progressive diseases and need assistance with the activities of daily living. The greatest challenge facing us as we age is the prevention of physical disability and the extension of "active life expectancy." Fortunately, recent studies suggest that healthy ("successful") aging is achievable, with sound planning for old age.

Illnesses like diabetes mellitus, congestive heart failure, and some forms of dementia can be delayed or even prevented. Even loss of muscle strength with aging is partly preventable. Most importantly, perhaps, a positive attitude will enable us to overcome illness and personal losses while looking forward to days to come.

The choices of aging

As we age, we make choices about our lifestyle, health care, personal pursuits, and our plans for old age. A few "steps to successful aging" will help guide us to healthy and active golden years.

What are the steps to successful aging?

  1. Adopt and maintain healthy habits and positive lifestyles:
    • Avoid cigarette smoking.
    • Have no more than one alcoholic beverage in a 24-hour period.
    • Exercise regularly, maintaining the triad of weight-bearing, aerobic, and balance activities.
    • Maintain a comfortable weight.
    • Get regular medical checkups.
    • Avoid falls, head injuries, and medications that cause confusion (either over-the-counter or prescription).
  2. Maintain intellectual stimulation and socialization:
    • Pursue hobbies and interests with passion, particularly social activities, such as dancing.
    • Strengthen family relationships.
    • Resolve intergenerational conflicts.
    • Engage in adult educational activities to challenge your mind.
    • Identify any physical limitations, such as difficulty walking or problems with balance, and try to strengthen and utilize nearby resources such as community support and local senior centers. Proactively begin a discussion about such limitations and employ medical resources to overcome the limit.
  3. Be wise in financial planning:
    • Plan in advance for retirement
    • Carefully manage investments and assets
    • Assure adequate insurance coverage Decide on your future living arrangements
  4. Work to maintain dignity and good health in old age:
    • Choose a physician knowledgeable in the medical care of older adults.
    • Choose a health care system that facilitates appointments and care for elders.
    • Communicate your goals of care to your family and physician.
    • Check about long-term care insurance.
    • Express your advance directives in writing.
References

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 9/9/2013...#4013