Keys to Aging Gracefully? 2

Triumphant Maturing Starts With Poise, Acceptance, Optimism

Experts accentuate that successful aging comes from accepting changes and finding meaningful activities. While turning older can bring emotional land mines and fear of losing independence, gerontologists indicate attitude truly matters regarding victory in aging.

Aging gracefully isn’t always easy, but it is achievable and worthwhile! Seniors may want to always keep in mind they are not alone in the age management journey. In fact, U.S. Census Bureau data indicates 20.1 percent of Chesterfield’s population are seniors—as defined by being age 65 or older in 2016—with 23 percent living alone. There were 1,846 working seniors in Chesterfield, according to the latest figures available. A total of 24 percent of Chesterfield’s seniors are veterans.

Susan Whitbourne, Ph.D., psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts and author about aging, encourages everyone not to get bogged down with aging. Instead, she suggests acknowledging that growing older means being strong enough to survive a variety of threats while gaining hard-won resilience and a major sense of accomplishments.

What steps can be taken to age more gracefully?

Eat Less, Sip More

Some of the world’s oldest people are found in Japan, where centenarians are known to stop eating when they feel 80 percent full. Nearby Saint Louis University scientists even found that while both exercising and eating less led to weight loss in a study’s volunteers, cutting calories also lowered production of T3, a thyroid hormone that slows metabolism. The researchers believe that lower T3 levels also may slow the aging process.

Seniors also can sip themselves young by drinking bone broth. Anti-aging experts swear bone broth helps shed weight, smooth wrinkles and sculpt better bodies. Broth contains anti-aging nutrients, such as collagen, glycine, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, glycosaminoglycans and iodine.

Exert The Brain

Learn a new language, take up an instrument, work number-based Sudoku puzzles, create art—even driving a new route to routine destinations can awaken sleepy brain cells. Several sources also exist for online brain-training activities.

Drive With Confidence and Safety

Chesterfield Police Department officers sponsor local Smart Driver Courses at City Hall in cooperation with AARP several times annually. The course they hosted September 20, was the third one this year.

This research-based, driver improvement class teaches defensive driving skills, rules-of-the-road refreshers and safety strategies. It’s taught in a four-hour session and doesn’t involve a test. Course graduates can even receive discounts from participating auto insurance carriers.

Chesterfield police officer Chad Meyer says it’s important for seniors to sharpen their driving skills.

“Many seniors have been driving so long, they’ve forgotten some things, or were just never taught all of the basics to begin with,” Meyer says. “Employing skills taught in the course will make them better, safer, more conscientious drivers.”

Meyer says seniors should have their driving skills assessed periodically, particularly after medication changes, which could impact response times.

“You may not notice unsafe practices you’ve fallen into, such as not using your blinker as often as you should or merging improperly with moving traffic,” he explains. “Many laws have changed since seniors were last assessed, with some getting their licenses 50 years ago. And cars have become more advanced in technological features, which can equate to more distracted driving.”

The best driving tip Meyer has for local seniors is: “If you’re having trouble driving, ask for help. Don’t wait until you’re involved in an accident or get pulled over for a hazardous moving violation to admit you’re having trouble driving. Be safe!”

Bob Meyer, AARP instructor for the Chesterfield driving courses, says the sessions address most areas shown to be challenges, such as following distance, overall scanning, turns and merging.

This course is designed for adults 50 years and older.

“We talk about how changes in our bodies, minds, cars and roads affect us, and where senior drivers have the most problems driving,” he says. “Then we address how to counter these changes in our everyday driving, including planning trips before going, and discussing the condition of cars, safety features of cars and roadway fundamentals.”

He says participants also discuss how driving may become limited in future years, and how to address other transportation options with loved ones.

Get Some Skin in the Game, or Even a Vampire Facelift

Seniors benefit greatly from taking care of their skin and working to maintain beauty, confidence and self-esteem. After all, skin is a human body’s largest organ!

Evie Bishop, consulting manager of Restorative Health St. Louis in Creve Coeur, says re-establishing hormonal balance can be key for older adults. She says their facility’s patients receive tailored health formulas after completing medical assessments.

“Our customized, bio-identical hormone treatments only replace what your body is missing,” she says.

The newest Restorative Health techniques, a Vampire Facelift, is a nonsurgical way to use one’s own blood to stimulate collagen and to address facial wrinkles, texture and coloring.

Additionally, Massage Envy staffers recently introduced a three-step microderm infusion and PCA Skin chemical peels among their services for skin resurfacing results. Other spas and facilities offer additional facials, microdermabrasion and laser treatments to give skin healthy glows and instant tightening for special events.

Seek Personal Health Assessments

One in every two adults suffers from a chronic illness, such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes or dementia, says Lauren Munsch Dal Farra, M.D., co-founder and CEO of PALM Health, a concierge integrative medicine and wellness center in Ladue. The center’s team provides a holistic method to physical, emotional and mental health.

“A personalized approach to risk factors helps us to identify the genetic, biologic, environmental, behavioral and emotional factors that contribute to illness, and to customize treatment programs that generate healing results,” she says.

Aging gracefully involves a mind/body/spirit approach, verifies Munsch Dal Farra, who relays the most common illnesses that strike seniors by surprise are chronic pain, cognitive decline/short-term memory loss, and increased anxiety and irritability.

She says the PALM staff advises all seniors to:

  • Have a baseline neurologic and cognitive exam.
  • Work on developing neuroplasticity, which allows the mind to cope with changes in the environment, circumstances and life.
  • Consider specialty tests to evaluate for nutritional vitamin and mineral deficits, and supplement the diet with vitamins, minerals or botanical herbs when necessary.
  • Decrease inflammation through diet, meditation and relaxation.
  • Develop core muscle strength, balance and flexibility to maintain posture, reduce pain and prevent falls.

Munsch Dal Farra says she also believes devoting time to discover greater senses of purposes, self-awareness and positive outlooks are vital to aging gracefully.

“One should also spend time in nature, eat lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, develop cooperative and supportive relationships with family, friends, co-workers and strangers, have courage and apply a good sense of humor!” she adds.

Everyone’s aging goes a little differently. However, older patients tell Munsch Dal Farra they wish they could have done the following things sooner or differently:

  • Runners wish they walked more, stretched more and took nutritional supplements to support their muscles and joints.
  • Men wish they made time for early preventive health exams.
  • Moms wish they developed a greater sense of meaning and purpose beyond living for their spouse, children or immediate family.
  • Most everyone wishes they drank less alcohol.