Happy September, and Happy Healthy Aging Month! The next 30 days are devoted to this observation, created by Carolyn Worthington and now in its second decade. Her suggestion: It’s never too late to reinvent yourself, to travel, to try something new, to explore your options. Healthy aging, of course, helps to make that all possible. And when you do all—or some—of that, it might just help you age more healthfully.
To kick off the month, and motivate our readers to aim for healthy aging, we picked the brains of the Senior Planet Sponsored Athletes—some of our favorite people — who are also dedicated to healthy aging. We asked them to share their latest, greatest tips for healthy aging. (And then we found studies or experts to back up the wisdom of their tips.)
Insider tip: Respect Snooze Time
“My phone is set to automatically turn off at 9 p.m, with a 15-minute pre-notification so I can prepare to wind down for bed, and turn back on at 5 a.m.,” says Carolyn, 74 (at right). And—this is the best part—she doesn’t have to hit snooze, like so many of us may do. “According to my sports watch, I get 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep 95% of the time, every night. I wake up refreshed and ready for the day!”
“Regular and restful sleep is essential for getting strong,” Keo says.
Likewise, Keo, 85, (at left) is under the covers by 10 p.m. and jumps out of bed at 5 a.m. “Regular and restful sleep is essential for getting strong,” Keo says.
Expert input: Older adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep, just as younger adults too, according to the National Institute on Aging. Not sleeping enough, along with poor sleep, sets you up for cardiovascular disease, depression, high blood pressure and obesity. (And we’ll add: the crankiness of a toddler without a nap.)
Insider tip: Eat Like an Athlete
“I do keep in mind protein and carbohydrates” and their importance, says Keo. He focuses on lean protein like chicken, fish and beans. Glitch avoided: “I cannot resist sweets, but my wife is super-vigilant and hides them from me!”
“I don’t eat any meat, only fish and seafood.” -MsFAITH!
Protein intake is top of mind, also, for MsFAITH!, 63 (at right). “I don’t eat any meat, only fish and seafood,” she says. “I’m always asked how do I get enough protein, and I explain that nuts, seeds, nut butters, beans, lentils, lima beans, bean sprouts, green peas, spinach, asparagus, brussels sprouts, mushrooms, broccoli, salmon, trout, sardines, tuna and protein pasta are all my favorites and give me all the protein I need.”
Expert input: Harvard experts agree, and offer additional tips on calculating how much protein you need and how to get just the right mix of proteins.
Insider tip: Redefine “Athlete”
Carolyn says she considers herself more ‘’athletic” than an athlete, but she focuses not on competition with others but on keeping herself as healthy and fit as possible. “I compete against myself as I strive to be the best I can be, all while having fun in the process!”
Being an athlete is more than mere entertainment, says PJ, 69 (at left). “It is a lifestyle that requires some personal discipline.” He especially enjoys giving a positive example to others younger than him. He hopes when others see him staying active and notice he has a gray beard, they’ll get inspired.
When Keo became an athlete, the mindset changed: “I no longer exercise, I train. I now have measurable goals and have the steps to reach them.”
For Sally, 66, (at right) being an athlete is all about Kaizen—the Japanese word for continuous improvement. She constantly challenges herself to do better. “Kaizen is a large part of being an athlete,” she says.
Expert input: The Cambridge dictionary elaborates on how Kaizen is applied at work, but the philosophy can be applied in many other areas as well.
Kathleen Doheny is a Los Angeles-based independent journalist, specializing in health, behavior, fitness and lifestyle stories. Besides writing for Senior Planet, she reports for WebMD, Medscape, Endocrine Web, Practical Pain Management, Spine Universe and other sites. She is a mom, mother-in-law and proud and happy Mimi who likes to hike, jog and shop.
Doheny photo: Shaun Newton
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This article offered by Senior Planet and Older Adults Technology Services is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition or before starting an exercise program. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.