7 Health Challenges of Aging
Experts explain how to prepare for the health issues people face as they age.
Mental Health: Memory and Emotional Well-being continued...
"When you get older, you're dealing with life-change issues," says
Crowel. "Kids leaving home, health problems, loss of parents and friends,
and retirement become issues. We notice that all the basketball players are
younger than us, and the music and ads are for a younger demographic." He
advises anticipating and preparing for the changes to come.
One of the biggest life changes is retirement. Many people have their sense
of worth tied up with work. In retirement, depression and suicide rates
"Prepare for retirement by thinking about what some call 'the second
act,'" says Crowel. "What would you have wanted to do if you hadn't
done your career? Jimmy Carter is a perfect example. After his presidency, he
went on to become a humanitarian, working on behalf of international human
rights and Habitat for Humanity."
Recognize that some physical abilities will decline, but giving up sports
altogether isn't the answer. "People who are active in sports such as
basketball or football should think ahead to activities such as golf or water
polo that put less stress on the joints."
Also recognize in your 40s and 50s that parents and grandparents won't be
around forever. "In anticipation of their getting old and dying, making
contact and tying up loose ends can be useful."
Even though family and friends may be gone or distant, the loneliness that's
often associated with old age is not inevitable. "Reach out to new people,
and even think about being a 'grandparent' to a younger family," says
Crowel. "When I was 27, my wife and I moved to Washington, D.C., and a
94-year-old woman befriended us. She showed us the city and cooked for us, and
we gardened together. We got a grandmother, and she got companionship. I'll
cherish that forever."
He adds that nurturing your spiritual side may be in order as you get older
and face mortality. "For many people who have drifted away from religion or
spiritual practice, it's sometimes comforting to reassess that. Do I need to
connect with my religion or spend time becoming the spiritual person I want to
become? Pay attention to it if it's important to you.
"Finally, just the way you figure out your finances, figure out what you
need to make you happy, and if you have a medical problem or mental health
problem, how will you deal with it," says Crowel. "Make some strategic
decisions about how you want to live your life."
Do Your Part
Much of the illness, disability, and deaths associated with chronic disease
are avoidable through known prevention measures, including a healthy lifestyle,
early detection of diseases, immunizations, injury prevention, and programs to
teach techniques to self-manage conditions such as pain and chronic diseases
according to the CDC.
And while the future will undoubtedly bring medical advances in treatments
and cures, Brangman advises taking care of what you have. "Our original
parts are the best. If you can keep your own parts, that's the best way to