Keeping both the mind and body as active as possible as you age can benefit everyone
People are living longer than ever, so it’s important to know how to take care of yourself. A successful and fulfilling life doesn’t have to stop at any age.
Maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle is one of the most important things we can do to age successfully. Even in moderate amounts, exercise reduces the risks for diseases that many people once believed were inevitable with age, says Pamela B. Teaster, director of the University of Kentucky’s graduate center for Gerontology.
Many of the diseases that plague older Americans are lifestyle-related rather than strictly age-related.
“The link between continued physical functioning and exercise is well-established in the research
literature,” Teaster says. “It is true that even small amounts produce great benefit.”
But physical exercise is only half the equation. Mental exercise, such as learning new things or pursuing intellectually stimulating activities, can strengthen brain-cell networks and help preserve mental functions.
“Keeping our minds as sharp as possible seems to be a ‘use it or lose it’ affair,” Teaster says. “An activity as simple as reading news in the paper or online can be especially helpful.”
Many older adults experience a perceived loss of memory later in life. This can be a symptom of a degenerative disease, such as Alzheimer’s. However, some memory loss may actually be the result of a decline in the rate at which we learn and store new information.
Practice these memory skills to enhance learning and help make remembering easier:
RELAX Tension and stress are associated with memory lapses. Managing stress improves memory.
CONCENTRATE If you want to recall something later, pay attention.
FOCUS Try to reduce distractions and minimize interference.
SLOW DOWN If you’re rushing, you may not be focused or paying full attention.
ORGANIZE Keep important items in a designated place that is visible and easily accessed.
WRITE IT DOWN Carry a notepad and calendar, and write down important things.
REPEAT IT Repetition improves recall. Try repeating names when meeting new people, or repeating new facts.
VISUALIZE IT Associate a visual image with something you want to remember.
Source: The Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives, Press Office
Amy Ratliff provides health information
for UK HealthCare.
What if I become disabled?
“Approximately 30% of all people 35 to 65 will suffer a disability for at least 90 days, and about one in seven can expect to become disabled for five years or more,” reports the Health Insurance Association of America.
Chris Herrmann, disability insurance brokerage manager at Diversified Brokerage Specialists in Ohio, answers these questions:
Who needs disability insurance? “Anyone who has to work for the income needed to maintain their (and their family’s) standard of living.”
What about my policy at work? “Ask what you would receive if you’re disabled. Don’t wait to find out when an illness or injury leaves you disabled. It’s usually a lot less than you would expect.”
What if I’m self-employed? “Self-employed individuals and people who don’t have employer-provided disability insurance should look into a personally owned policy.”
What should I look for in a policy? “How disability is defined is the most important thing. Are you considered disabled if you cannot do your specific occupation, or just any occupation? Also, note if there is a provision that allows payment of partial benefits if you can work, but not at full capacity.”
How much does it cost? “A good policy will cost about 1% of your income.”
SARA PEAK is a freelance writer with expertise in finance and wealth management. Have a money question? E-mail us at email@example.com.