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6 Tips for Healthy Aging

Older adults are a large and rapidly expanding part of the U.S. population. According to data from the Urban Institute, the number of Americans ages 65 and older will more than double over the next 40 years, reaching 80 million in 2040, while the number of adults over 85 will nearly quadruple.[i] People also have longer life expectancies than ever before.[ii] For the first time in history, most can expect to live beyond their sixties.

Longer lives mean older adults will have more time to enjoy new activities, careers, and hobbies, as well as find meaningful ways to support their families and communities. However, the ability to pursue these opportunities largely depends on one factor: health.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines healthy aging as the process of developing and maintaining the functional ability that enables well-being in older adults.[iii] Functional ability is having the capabilities to be and do what you value, including meeting basic needs, learning, growing, making decisions, being mobile, building and maintaining relationships, and contributing to society.

Healthy aging does not necessarily mean freedom from disease or infirmity. For example, many older adults experience problems such as hearing loss, back and neck pain, and dysphagia, a swallowing disorder that affects 22 percent of those over 50.[iv] By adapting behaviors that can help manage these conditions, people can maintain well-being and enjoy fulfilling lives.

Although personal characteristics such as genetics, sex, and ethnicity that have the potential to influence healthy aging cannot be controlled, there are many steps older adults can take to ensure their bodies and minds are as healthy as possible.

  1. Regular physical activity can significantly lower your risk of diseases like heart disease and cancer and can help you retain mobility, sleep better, and boost your mood.[v] According to the Department of Health & Human Services, adults should do 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate intensity exercise and 1.25 to 2.5 hours of vigorous intensity aerobic exercise such as walking, biking, and swimming every week. It also recommends muscle- and bone-strengthening exercises as well as balance training activities two or more days per week.
  2. Maintain proper nutrition and hydration. Consume plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy, and avoid fatty meats, butter, sugar, salt, and packaged foods. A healthy diet can help you live longer and protect against age-related diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.[vi] Stay hydrated by drinking enough water and consuming fluids with high liquid content such as soups, purées, and popsicles. This can not only improve energy levels and brain function, but can also keep skin healthier and reduce signs of aging.
  3. Get enough sleep. Obtaining seven to eight hours of sleep per night can help reduce stress and depression, improve focus and concentration, lower the risk of stroke, and more.
  4. See your doctor on a regular basis. Your doctor can detect problems early and help prevent them before they begin. Ask your physician how often you should get checkups and screening tests depending on your age, lifestyle, family history, and existing conditions.
  5. Find activities you enjoy. Engaging in your favorite activities and hobbies such as reading, playing board games, spending time in nature, gardening, and traveling is not only enjoyable, but can also be good for your health.[vii] Studies have shown that older adults who participate in meaningful activities feel healthier and happier, and can even live longer than those who do not.
  6. Stay connected with friends and family. Loneliness can lead to dementia and depression. Seniors who report feeling lonely are also more likely to struggle with routine tasks like bathing and climbing stairs, and have higher levels of stress hormones that cause inflammation linked to arthritis and diabetes. Spending quality time with friends, loved ones, and even pets can improve mental and physical well-being and longevity.

Dedicated to helping older adults — including those with swallowing disorders — age in a healthy way, the Thick-It® brand provides a variety of resources. Be sure to visit our website during National Dysphagia Awareness Month in June for more new content.

Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition, treatment, or the use of Thick-It® products. The information contained herein is for informational purposes and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment in any manner.

[i] “The US Population Is Aging.” The Urban Institute.
[ii] “Ageing and health.” World Health Organization, February 5, 2018.
[iii] “Ageing: Healthy ageing and functional ability.” World Health Organization, October 26, 2020.
[iv] “Deciphering Dysphagia.” National Foundation of Swallowing Disorders, September 28, 2016.
[v] “How to Live Your Best Life as You Age.” Healthline.
[vi] “9 Scientific Secrets to Healthy Aging.” WebMD.
[vii] “What Do We Know About Healthy Aging?” National Institute on Aging, June 25, 2018.

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