Emotional and mental
vitality are closely tied to physical vitality—just as your mind has powerful
effects on your body, so your physical state affects how you feel and think.
Social contact can also make a big difference in how you feel.
Replacing a "lost" activity is a key to staying active and feeling good
about yourself. For instance, if you can no longer run, you might try walking,
biking, and/or swimming. And if your favorite activity was dancing, you might
try something else that combines social and physical activity, such as joining
a water aerobics class. Replacing lost activities can help you keep a positive
attitude and sense of well-being over time, even if aging and changes in your
health mean you can not do all the things you used to do.
Hannah Kalil is 83 years old, and lives by herself in upstate New York. She
has aides who help with her caregiving throughout the day. But the
responsibility of managing her finances, health care -- both mental and
physical -- and long-term living situation falls to one person: her daughter --
and my mother -- Eleanor.
It's almost a full-time job. Making sure my grandmother is happy and not
feeling lonely means daily visits. Her never-ending stream of medical issues
means weekly -- if not...
Protect or improve your emotional and
cognitive health with regular physical activity. While
physical activity produces chemicals in the body that promote emotional
well-being, inactivity can make
stress worse. Research has been done to link physical activity and the risk of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. Adults who are physically active may be less likely to get Alzheimer's disease or dementia than adults who are not physically active.2
Social activity. Protect or improve your emotional
health by staying in touch with friends, family, and the greater community.
Whether physically healthy or ill, people who feel connected to others are more
likely to thrive than those who are socially isolated. Volunteering in your community and sharing your wisdom and
talents with others is a gratifying and meaningful way to enrich your life.
Mental activity. Protect
or improve your memory and mental sharpness by:
Challenging your intellect on a daily basis.
Read, learn a new musical instrument or language, do crossword puzzles, or play
games of strategy with others. Just like an active body, an active brain
continues to develop and thrive, while an inactive brain loses its power over
Helping your memory along. Write down dates, names, and
other important information that you easily forget. Use routine and repetition.
For example, keep daily items such as keys and eyeglasses in a specific place.
And when you meet someone new, picture that person while you repeat his or her name out loud to others or to
yourself several times to commit it to memory. (No matter what your age, having
too much on your mind can keep you from remembering new information. And as
you age, it is normal to take longer to retrieve new information from your
Preventing depression, which is a common yet treatable cause of
cognitive decline in older people. In addition to getting regular physical
activity and social contact, avoid the depressant effect of alcohol and
sedative use, eat healthy meals and snacks, and include meaningful activity in
your daily life (such as learning, creating, working, volunteering). If you
think you have depression, seek professional help—antidepressant medicine
or counseling or both are effective treatments for depression. For more
information, see the topic
Depression. If you find that a physical condition or
disability is making your depressed mood worse, get the medical treatment you
Not smoking. Cigarette smoking may speed mental decline. This
connection was identified in a large study comparing smokers and
nonsmokers age 65 and over.3 If you smoke and would
like to stop, see the topic Quitting Smoking.