Aging | Staying Youthful In Your Senior Years Is Up To You, Study Shows

Long held, preconceived notions about getting older are changing every day.  The average life span of Americans seems to increase every year.  The elderly are not only living longer, but they are more enthusiastic, and their quality of life is higher than it ever has been.  Many seniors are seeking to maintain a higher standard of living so they are able to not only care for themselves and maintain their independence, but they have a good time doing it.  Their goal is to augment the power of their brain through continued learning, strengthening their emotional stability, and enhancing their overall health in general.

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As A Senior, You Become What You Think, Study Shows

All of us have beliefs — many of them subconscious, dating back to childhood — about what it means to get older. Psychologists call these “age stereotypes.” And it turns out, these stereotypes can have an important effect on your health as a senior. Research shows that if older people have a positive outlook on aging, eat healthier, exercise, and more, they tend to recover more quickly from illnesses.

The study found that when seniors hold onto negative stereotypes — when they are convinced becoming old means becoming useless, helpless or devalued — they are less likely to seek preventive medical care and die earlier.  And based on a growing body of research, they are more likely to suffer memory loss and poor physical functioning. But when stereotypes are positive — when older adults view age as a time of wisdom, self-realization and satisfaction — results point in the other direction, toward a higher level of functioning. The latest report in The Journal of the American Medical Association, suggests that seniors who have a positive outlook are 44 percent more likely to fully recover from a bout of disability.

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Keeping Your Brain Youthful Through Mental and Social Stimulation

Aging may seem unavoidable, but that’s not necessarily so when it comes to the brain. It is what you do in old age that matters most when it comes to maintaining a youthful brain, not what you did earlier in life, according to new research. “Although some memory functions do tend to decline as we get older, several elderly show well preserved functioning and this is related to a well-preserved, youth-like brain,” says Lars Nyberg of Umea University in Sweden.

Based on these findings, researchers have changed the way they look at successful aging.  This represents an important shift in the field that studies aging. Much attention in the past focused on understanding ways in which the brain copes with or compensates for cognitive decline while we age. Researchers now believe that it is important for seniors to take proactive steps to avoid experiencing changes in the brain that are most commonly associated with aging altogether, i.e. dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, etc. Genes play some role, but life choices and other environmental factors, especially in old age, they say, have a greater impact on how young the brain remains.

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Nyberg says elderly people generally do have more trouble remembering meetings or names. But those memory losses often happen later than many often think–after the age of 60. We do continue to accumulate knowledge and use what we know effectively, often to very old ages.  Nyberg goes on to say, “Taken together, a wide range of findings provides converging evidence that, “critically, some older adults show little or no brain changes relative to younger adults, along with intact cognitive performance, which supports the notion of brain maintenance.”

In other words, there is now supportive scientific evidence indicating that maintaining a youthful brain, may be the key to successful memory even in old age. A common practice in dealing with age-related changes in the brain is to respond to and compensate for these changes.  But scientists say it is best to avoid experiencing memory decline and other age-related brain changes altogether as we grow older. And we do that, they say, by staying actively engaged in day-to-day living.

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So, engagement is the secret to youthfulness in old age. Those seniors who are socially, mentally and physically stimulated reliably show better cognitive performance with a brain that appears younger than its years. “There is quite a lot of solid evidence that indicates staying physically and mentally active is a way towards brain maintenance,” Nyberg says. In other words, socializing is the key to successful aging.  Seniors who frequently socialize report better health.

 Staying Youthful

You want to be as robust, strong, and energetic at 70 as you were at 20.  One hundred years ago, people were pleased to live past age 65.  In our modern world, we have redefined middle age to be the mid to late 50s, and many elderly adults are dynamic and spirited as late as their 80s and 90s.  Reports of active elderly community members in their late 90s and early 100s are becoming more common.

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Health and nutrition, a proactive mindset, and continued learning have been key to increasing our life expectancy.  Mind-set plays a large role in how each person ages, and the medical community is constantly exploring new anti-aging techniques–debunking myths that are intended to make money for those who are desperate enough to do anything to get it.

People everywhere want to know how to stop time or turn back the hands of time to keep a younger, fresher appearance, and youthfulness and vitality.  Simple things, such as exercising and drinking enough water every day play an important role in staying young, looking young, and remaining young at heart.  Science has also shown how hormone therapy when applied properly, as well as the use of antioxidants and proper nutrition also play a significant role in your personal fountain of youth.

So do you want to remain youthful, even in your senior years?  Stay active and engaged in living life… physically, mentally, socially, and vocationally.

References:  The Journal of the American Medical Association

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