Leading an active aging lifestyle can help keep you healthy and feel happy and can lead to increasing your wellbeing, ability to be active longer and recover from an illness sooner as well as reducing your risk for falls and getting a chronic disease (e.g. diabetes, high blood pressure).
According to the International Council on Active Aging, the concept of active aging can be thought of as “engaged in life” – participating in life as fully as possible regardless of socioeconomic status or health conditions within the following seven wellness dimensions.
Seven Wellness Dimensions
This involves your ability to think creatively and rationally. Expanding your knowledge and skills through resources and cultural activities so your mind can create a greater understanding of yourself and others. Resources and activities can include outdoor exploration, educational programs, cognitive fitness programs that may include computer training and games. Our residents pursue this dimension from our book and computer clubs; cultural, environmental and historical presentations (e.g. How Was Your Trip – Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand presentation and Chesapeake Bay presentation), Great Decisions, and monthly health talks.
The dimension emphasizes creating and maintaining healthy relationships and contributing to your environment and community as well as group learning experiences. For example, at Miller’s Grant residents are offered Bingo, which is now virtual because of COVID-19; a popular croquet court that’s attracted 60 participants since May 2020; entertainment featuring musicians; outdoor movie nights; decorating contests (e.g. themed door decorating and pumpkin decorating contests) and festivals.
This includes the degree to which you feel positive and enthusiastic about yourself and life, and activities that foster awareness and acceptance of your feelings. Our Alzheimer’s Support Group and Health Care Committee “buddy” help our residents cope with their feelings as they share concerns and achievements while receiving encouragement and helpful information from others.
The dimension emphasizes the importance of giving and receiving, encourages goal setting and involves the process of determining and achieving personal interest through meaningful activities. This can be pursued through your job or volunteering. Many of our residents personal satisfaction in volunteering; our independent living residents volunteered for a total of 3,692 hours last fiscal year. You could also give by donating to organizations that support causes you care about. For example, our residents give to food to Blessings in a Backpack and school supplies for The Hampden Family Center and Columbia Community Cares and knit blankets, scarves and hats for those in need.
This involves developing a sense of your personal values and ethics. The Spiritual dimension is very individualized and tends to mean different things to different people. It could involve activities as simple as being outside with nature and going for a mindful walk, which our residents enjoy doing at our labyrinth. It can also include formalized religious services and other worship activities. We have a chaplain who provides weekly services and opportunities for residents to explore their spirituality.
This focuses on regular physical activity such as cardiovascular endurance, muscle strengthening, and flexibility activities as well as diet and nutrition. If you’re not already, consider working out at home or a gym, if you feel safe. You could do cardio, like going for a walk or light jog. You could also work on your strength, core and balance – some of this you can even do in a chair. If enjoy the pool, try swimming or aquatic exercises on your own or with a group. Just as we tell our residents in our fitness classes, focus on what you can do, not your limitations.
The dimension emphasizes respect for natural environments, choosing green alternatives and spending more time outdoors. Think of the steps you’re taking to reduce your carbon footprint. If you’re interested in doing more, look into opportunities that could help you do that. If you enjoy gardening, consider planting a vegetable garden, to help source your own food, or plants that promote the ecosystem. We’re thankful for our gardening residents who help keep our community beautiful and green and enjoy doing so.
Incorporating these seven dimensions into your life will lead you to enjoying the benefits of active aging. Your mind, body and soul will thank you for it too.
About the Author
Lynn Glaeser is the director of residence life at Luther Village at Millers Grant. She develops and manages wellness and life enrichment programs for the continuing care retirement community’s residents.