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Veterans Aging: Need Not Be Getting Old

Written by veterans  |  20. October 2009

Based on the writings of Col. Roger F. Landry, USAF-Ret., here are ten thoughts on not getting old as we age. Ten Ways to Take Charge 1. Use It Or Lose It: As with any skill we have, our physical, mental, and social abilities will deteriorate if we don t challenge them. This is common sense, yet somehow as we age we attribute lost ability to getting old rather than being out of shape or out of practice. 2. Keep Moving: Staying active - even walking just 45 minutes a day - can help prevent disease. The best results come from a three-prong approach: endurance (walking, bicycling, swimming), flexibility and balance (stretching, yoga, tai chi chuan), and strength. Just a few basic exercises twice weekly can work wonders to keep us totally independent for decades. 3. Challenge Your Mind: Our mental function depends on neural highways, which, when not used, eventually become unavailable, like a neglected road. We know now we can continue to learn, including growing new connections in our brains, throughout our lives. Keeping physically and mentally active makes it twice as likely you won t suffer from dementia. Take courses, converse with friends, learn a language, or exercise your memory. Even playing word games can keep us mentally sharp. Consider learning an adventure rather than something you avoid. 4. Stay Connected: We are social creatures and need human interaction to thrive. As you no doubt experienced during your younger years, camaraderie was the basis of both sanity and courage during difficult times. It is no different later in life. Cherish family and rebuild neglected friendships. Join clubs that interest you and, just as you were when, be open to meeting new people. 5. Never Act Your Age: Our society equates aging with decline. John Glenn and Chuck Yeager didn t act their age, and the world is better for it. Following your heart and how you feel, rather than obsolete expectations for your age, will keep you colorful, creative, and engaged in life and allow you to continue to contribute to society. 6. Beware of The Threats: Most of us are at high risk for certain diseases or conditions. By identifying these risks and working with our doctors, we can lower the threat and stay well, allowing us to function at high levels for decades. Get your immunizations, cancer screenings, and physical exams. 7. Eat for The Long Haul: Like machines, our bodies need proper fuel to function. Drink lots of water, eat healthy, take a multivitamin, and talk to your doctor about additional supplements you might need. Above all, do not go long periods without eating. Low glucose levels in the blood could be responsible for some of the dementia of later life. Stay lean, but do it with physical activity and balanced eating, not by dieting. 8. Have Children In Your Life: Adults need children to help keep them young. You may value the relative peace and absence of responsibility that came when your children left home, but it is difficult to have a sense of meaning in life or of giving back without children involved. If you re not blessed with grandchildren or great-grandchildren, look into other opportunities in the community, such as mentoring, storytelling at schools or libraries, or volunteering for organizations that work for the benefit of children, such as the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America Inc. 9. Be Needed: There are abundant opportunities to work for the betterment of the community or of those who are less fortunate. There is always a need to reach out. Any activity that gives us a sense of nurturing the world around us will help us as we help others. Even pets and plants can offer the kinds of relationships that help us stay engaged in life. 10. Laugh: Humor is the mainstay of life. It allows us to bear discomfort, fear, even horror, and still go on. Research demonstrates that humor can stimulate the immune system, potentially protecting us from disease. The most common trait seen in those 100 or older is a sense of humor and optimism. Not only is it healthy, but it also makes the journey for you, and those around you, much more pleasant. --- Regards, Walt Schmidt

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