Don’t Stop, Modify! How to Adjust Activities as You Age

Couple taking yoga class

We’ve all seen messages about aging— maybe more often negative than positive—for most of our lives. But research shows that negative attitudes towards aging can have an adverse affect1 on your health including brain function, physical ability and recovery from illness. On the flip side, having a positive outlook on getting older is a good thing. Engaging in daily activities can help people find meaning and age successfully.2 So how do you develop a positive attitude towards aging while still doing the activities you love? Keep reading and then put these tips into action.

Embrace the Change

As the Buddhists may say, everything is temporary and therefore subject to change. This certainly holds true for our bodies that continue to shift from the time we’re born. As you age, you may notice differences in your bones, brain and nervous system, heart, digestion and senses. Rather than focus on how your body used to function, try shifting your perspective to what your body can still do. You can also practice healthy habits like eating well, getting enough sleep, staying active and being social to help keep yourself as healthy as possible for as long as possible.

Rework Your Exercise Routine

It’s been shown that physical activity plays a role in successful aging.3 Staying active can help relieve pain, prevent bone loss, boost your mood and immune system and lower blood pressure.4 But as you age, your body may not be able to perform the feats it once did. First, you don’t have to be a hero. Listen to your body and honor what it’s telling you. If you feel pain, ease up so you don’t hurt yourself. Second, try leaving competition at the door. That goes for yourself and others. Your body may feel different from day to day. What you could do yesterday may be different from today and that’s okay. Go with the flow with what your body’s telling you at that moment. It’s often best to start small and work up over time, especially if you’re new to exercise or haven’t exercised in a while.

Here are some practical tips for specific activities you can put into practice:

Bike Better

Balance can change as we age depending on core strength changes, medications and vision changes and other factors. If you’re a big biker, this could pose a safety issue and open you up to injury in the event of a fall. You might want to shift to a stationary bike instead. You could also consider three-wheeled bike options that offer greater stability than two-wheeled versions.

Flex Your Yoga Practice

Look for a yoga class that fits your level of experience and skill. Your instructor may recommend the use of aids or props like blocks, blankets and bolsters to assist you as you practice and make it easier on your body to get into and hold poses.

Hike a New Trail

As you age, you may need to adjust the difficulty level of the hikes you go on. Opt for trails with gradual inclines or paved trails. You could also use walking sticks or poles to help with balance and posture, which may also help alleviate pain in your joints or back. Walking poles can help to work your arms as well.

Dance Revolution

Whether you love to salsa or line dance, you can still get your groove on as you get older. You may want to wear shoes with more support and flexibility or clothing that allows you to move freely. Even if your high kick is now a low kick—celebrate the fact that you can still kick up some dust and have fun while you’re doing it.

Make Like a Hobby Horse

Hobbies can play a role in boosting your physical activity, connecting you socially and increasing your well-being.5 You may still enjoy the hobbies you love as you age with a few adjustments to help with evolving vision or hearing needs, arthritis or grip strength changes.

Keep That Twinkle in Your Eye

As a reminder, you’ll want to get your sight checked regularly.. If you need vision correction, like glasses or contact lenses, be sure to wear them while doing your favorite activities. If you practice detailed work such as art, crafting, woodworking or puzzles, you might benefit from a a free-standing magnifying glass to relieve eye strain. If you love books but are having problems reading, you can switch to audiobooks. Explore apps like the Libby app which connects with local libraries so you can check out books for free on your smartphone, tablet or computer.

Hear Loud and Clear

Untreated hearing loss could lead to depression or social withdrawal and increase your risk of dementia.6 Luckily, hearing aids have come a long way in the past decade with advancements in rechargeable batteries, smartphone connectivity and improved sound.7 Regularly wearing hearing aids can help you stay connected with others as well as the activities you love like playing music, dancing and listening to podcasts.

The Hands Have It

We may take our hands for granted until they don’t function in quite the same way. If you notice changes in your hands that impact your activities, you might try wearing compression gloves. Look for a type to help with your particular needs whether you need ones for warmth or support. These kinds of gloves can help with conditions like swelling, pain and stiffness.8 You can also try working in shorter bursts with hand and finger stretches9 in between. Depending on the activity, you might also want to try more ergonomic kitchen or gardening tools with larger and more cushioned grips and handles to make movements easier.

Make Like a Social Butterfly

Staying social can be a great way to get you out and about. Plus, social connections can directly affect health.10 Because of this, it’s important to keep your social calendar full even if you can’t be physically with others. Be sure to seek out people who fill rather than drain your cup. Having fun and laughing can be a great way to help you stay happy and connected.

Sources

  1. “Stereotypes of Aging: Their Effects on the Health of Older Adults,” Journal of Geriatrics, 2015, last accessed May 7, 2021, https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jger/2015/954027/, opens new window.
  2. “What is Positive Aging? 10 Tips to Promote the Positive Aspects of Aging,” Positive Psychology, 2021, last accessed May 7, 2021, https://positivepsychology.com/positive-aging/, opens new window.
  3. “Physical Activity as a Determinant of Successful Aging over Ten Years,” Scientific Reports, 2018, last accessed May 7, 2021, https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-28526-3 , opens new window.
  4. “How to cope with the aging process,” Aging.com, last accessed May 7, 2021, https://aging.com/how-to-cope-with-the-aging-process/, opens new window
  5. “Applying Design Methods to Promote Older Adults’ Walking Activities Based on Their Hobbies and Personal Interests,” Springer, 2019, last accessed May 7, 2021, https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-26292-1_14, opens new window
  6. “Hearing Loss: A Common Problem for Older Adults,” National Institute on Aging, last accessed May 7, 2021, https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/hearing-loss-common-problem-older-adults, opens new window
  7. “Latest Hearing Aids Have High-Tech Advances,” AARP, 2019, last accessed May 7, 2021, https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2019/hightech-advances-in-hearing-aids.html, opens new window
  8. “RA Gloves, WebMD, 2020, last accessed May 7, 2021, https://www.webmd.com/rheumatoid-arthritis/ra-gloves, opens new window
  9. “10 Ways to Exercise Hands and Fingers,” WebMD, 2020, last accessed May 7, 2021, https://www.webmd.com/osteoarthritis/ss/slideshow-hand-finger-exercises, opens new window
  10. “Social Isolation, loneliness in older people pose health risks,” National Institute on Aging, 2019, last accessed May 7, 2021, https://www.nia.nih.gov/news/social-isolation-loneliness-older-people-pose-health-risks, opens new window