Healthy aging can make all the difference for you later in life. Following an active lifestyle can lead to a longer lifespan, better mental capacity and memory, and keep you happier in your golden years. From eating well to exercising and staying engaged, there are some simple steps you can take to encourage healthy aging and enrich your quality of life.
- Written by Terry Turner
Senior Financial Writer and Financial Wellness Facilitator
Terry Turner has more than 35 years of journalism experience, including covering benefits, spending and congressional action on federal programs such as Social Security and Medicare. He is a Certified Financial Wellness Facilitator through the National Wellness Institute and the Foundation for Financial Wellness and a member of the Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education (AFCPE®).Read More
- Edited ByLamia Chowdhury
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- Reviewed ByEbony J. Howard, CPA
Ebony J. Howard, CPA
Credentialed Tax Expert at Intuit
Ebony J. Howard is a certified public accountant and freelance consultant with a background in accounting, personal finance, and income tax planning and preparation. She specializes in analyzing financial information in the health care, banking and real estate sectors.Read More
- Published: April 30, 2020
- Updated: May 23, 2023
- 7 min read time
- This page features 6 Cited Research Articles
- Edited By
What Is Healthy Aging?
Healthy aging is a broad term that essentially encompasses making the right choices in several key areas of your life to ensure you maintain a healthy and active lifestyle as you age.
As you get older, quality of life becomes more and more important. Making healthy choices from what you eat to how you spend your leisure time can keep you both mentally and physically fit in retirement, extend your lifespan and ward off many of the common diseases and conditions that can plague unhealthy older Americans.
- Extended lifespan
- Less likely to contract some common diseases and illnesses
- Can stay physically active late into life
- Can remain mentally sharp
Following the steps and guidelines related to healthy aging can help you live a full life for decades after retirement.
How Do You Stay Healthy When Aging?
One important thing to remember about healthy aging is that it is, unfortunately, never entirely in your control. Genetics can play a big role, and some people are just more predisposed to certain health issues than others.
But everyone can benefit from taking steps in the right direction to encourage healthy aging, and there’s a lot more that goes into it than just dieting. Eating good food with the right types of nutrients is important, but so is getting regular physical activity and continuing to do things you enjoy.
Maintaining and growing social connections and staying in touch with your mental health also all play major roles in healthy aging.
Eating right is a huge part of healthy aging, but it can be trickier than you think. Much more goes into having a balanced and effective diet than just eating less. However, it’s certainly a place to start.
According to the National Council on Aging, your metabolism will slow down as you age, meaning, you need to get used to taking in fewer calories. The amount of food you would have eaten in a day 10 years ago could now quickly cause you to gain weight.
Certain types of foods also become much more important for you to incorporate into your daily diet as you get older. Fruits and vegetables remain crucial, but you should also start to focus on lean meats, like fish or eggs, over less healthy options like red meat.
The NCOA recommends seniors eat foods that are high in fiber and to avoid those that are packed with sodium.
Making changes to your diet can be intimidating – especially if you’ve eaten a certain way your whole life – but it can pay massive dividends in keeping you healthy and active longer.
According to the National Library of Medicine, some common obstacles that can hurt seniors’ ability to eat well are trouble swallowing and pain from chewing. Swallowing issues can be alleviated by staying hydrated and drinking plenty of water throughout the day, as well as with your meals.
Drinking water has the added benefit of being good for your skin too, helping to prevent dryness. If you experience pain chewing, you can schedule a visit with your doctor or dentist to see what can be done to alleviate the issue.
Regular Physical Activity
Staying physically active as you get older is one of the keys to healthy aging. It can be easy to fall into a sedentary lifestyle when you’re older – especially after retirement – but this can negatively impact you in a big way, opening the door to all kinds of potential health issues and conditions.
Getting regular activity can be a big boost both physically and mentally. It also ties into eating well, since exercise can alleviate the lack of appetite issues that many older Americans deal with.
You also don’t need to be a full-on athlete or dramatically change your lifestyle to get the activity necessary to stay healthy. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults who are 65 or older can encourage healthy aging with just 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week. That’s as simple as taking a 30-minute brisk walk each day.
You can also look into some light weightlifting or muscle exercises to do a couple days each week. Activities like swimming and biking can be quite beneficial while still being fun and not feeling like a strenuous workout.
Regular physical activity can help you remain strong, independent and healthy late into life, since your body can decline quickly if you aren’t getting the exercise that you need.
Making Mental Health a Priority
It may not be as often discussed as eating well or exercising but taking care of your mental health is critical to healthy aging and should be treated with the same level of importance.
According to the World Health Organization, more than a fifth of older adults have a mental or neurological disorder. Depression, anxiety and similar issues don’t only make your life tougher and less enjoyable, but they can also negatively affect your physical health as well.
There are some simple strategies to keep mental health issues at bay. Maintaining social connections is huge. Staying active and engaged in retirement can be a real difference maker in preventing issues like anxiety and depression.
Look into joining groups or clubs and make sure that you are trying to stay connected with other people, even if it means getting out of your comfort zone.
Participating in Activities You Enjoy
Another key to healthy aging is continuing to participate in activities that you enjoy late into life. Retirement is a major change, but it doesn’t mean you have to think of yourself as a different person. You can keep doing the things you love.
According to the National Institute on Aging, older adults with an active lifestyle tend to be happier, live longer and avoid some diseases. Being happy and engaged can be as critical as eating well and exercising.
Identify activities that you love to do and find ways to continue doing them as you age for a fun and effective way to stay healthy. And you shouldn’t be afraid to try out new things or develop more hobbies.
Staying active and doing what you love can also help you to stay mentally and physically healthy for much longer than if you socially isolate yourself or give up on doing things you enjoy.
Healthy Aging Tips
There is no one silver bullet to healthy aging, and it’s easier for some to pull off than others. But following simple tips in a few key areas of your life can make all the differences long term.
- Eat Well
- Eating a healthy and balanced diet can quite literally add years to your life. Be mindful of the types of food you eat and be ready to make changes to your diet as you age.
- Even moderate exercise can have a big impact as you age. Taking simple steps like spending 30 minutes a day getting some sort of physical activity is important.
- Stay Social
- One of the most damaging things you can do as you age is socially isolate yourself. Make your social life a priority, even if it means joining clubs or groups to find new friends.
- Take Care of Your Mental Health
- Mental health can be just as damaging as physical health when you age. Be aware of the causes and signs of anxiety or depression and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Follow these core principles to help you stay mentally sharp and active years beyond retirement. Take steps to not just maintain your current health but to improve and adapt your lifestyle as you age, so you can stay healthy and happy longer.
6 Cited Research Articles
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, April 6). How much physical activity do older adults need? Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/older_adults/index.htm
- National Institute on Aging. (2022, March 28). Participating in Activities You Enjoy as You Age. Retrieved from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/participating-activities-you-enjoy-you-age
- National Institute on Aging. (2022, February 23). What Do We Know About Healthy Aging? Retrieved from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-do-we-know-about-healthy-aging
- U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2019, May 30). Nutrition for Older Adults. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/nutritionforolderadults.html
- World Health Organization. (2017, December 12). Mental health of older adults. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/mental-health-of-older-adults
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (n.d.). Healthy Aging. Retrieved from https://www.hhs.gov/aging/healthy-aging/index.html
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