well being

Well-Being in Later Life

Well-being is not an either-or-experience, but rather a way of learning how to live with things that are unchangeable. So, how do you find a sense of well-being?

By: Deborah Serani, Psy.D

Many people misunderstand the word “well-being”.

Typically, they believe that it means to be well.

It’s true. Those actual words are right in there… well being.

The phrase, however, is actually the experience of learning how to live as well as you can with all the good in your life, but also by accepting all the bad… and everything in-between too.

Well-being is not an either-or-experience, but rather a way of learning how to live with things that are unchangeable, and finding ways to bring meaning to your life in spite of them. Being happy when you’re happy is easy for us all. But learning how to accept and adjust to adversity – or make lemonade from the lemons – this is where resiliency rewards you with well-being.

For some seniors, cognitive and physical decline are probabilities. For others, dementia or mental illness may present. Even for seniors who don’t experience significant illness, they know that this chapter of life has a limited timeline, and it can feel a tick away.

So, how do you find a sense of well-being?

Research says by doing these 5 things.

Keep physically active: Find a way to move your body, be it a stroll outside, playing with grandchildren or doing more structured exercising like yoga, weight training or even a dance class. If you are physically limited, work within your strengths to stretch, breathe and move your body in small ways. Maintaining physical activity not only helps your heart, your brain and your immune system, it helps decrease stress and anxiety.

Keep mentally active: As we age, our vascular system in our brain slows down, which can leave us feeling foggy or forgetful. To keep your mind sharp, do stimulating things like crosswords, Sudoku, word jumbles and puzzles. Want to really challenge yourself? Research says that learning something new really activates brain functioning. So, how about learning how to play an instrument, or a taking on a new hobby? Maybe join a book club or volunteer. Remember, mental fitness is just as important as physical fitness.

Be socially active: Research tells us that social isolation puts older adults at an enormous risk for physical and mental disorders. And don’t forget that being around others doesn’t always mean you “feel” connected. Loneliness, can happen in a group, as well as in isolation. And it is a big deal. Statistics report that social isolation and loneliness can increase your risk of premature death by 30%. So make sure you get out, reach out or have others check in on you to keep social connections strong.

Keep a routine for eating and sleeping: It can be harder to eat and sleep as we age, but research encourages us to keep a routine for meals and bedtime. Making sure you eat a balanced diet, staying hydrated with water, and making sure fiber is a daily thing are three main goals. Try to keep a steady bedtime, even if you find you can’t sleep through the night. And while it’s okay to nap here and there, make sure you’re not sleeping more during the day than at night.  By regulating eating and sleeping schedules helps keep your body clock, clinically called circadian rhythm, to function at its best.

Have an optimistic outlook: Research tells us that elderly adults who hold more realistic views about aging live more meaningful lives. So, try to keep your goals within reach, accept what your body can and can’t do, and make sure to take in simple moments when they happen.  Well-being in later life comes when you learn to identify your regrets, sufferings, longings and self-limiting beliefs so you can face old age with a deeper appreciation of what’s truly important.

Outcome research over the last fifty years has shown the single largest contributor to finding satisfaction in later life is you. So, make it a priority to attain well-being by following these suggestions.

About the Author:
Deborah Serani, Psy.D. is a psychologist, a TedX speaker, and an award-winning author. Her latest book,  Depression in Later Life: An Essential Guide  is available now.

Photo: WishIllinois