Former Extension Educator, Family Life
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Wednesday, May 20, 2015
"I do it because I love it. It keeps me going, it gives me purpose." After running yet another 5k and finishing under 22 minutes, a 73 year young gentleman was being lauded for his active lifestyle. He kindly and humbly noted that his accomplishment was due to his dedication to age well.
While most of us do not aspire to attain such physical fitness or consider running a leisurely activity, there is truth behind this statement: aging well involves living well and living well involves leisure.
According to the World Health Organization "active aging" is defined as the process of optimizing opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age. Life satisfaction and quality of life are buzz words in the world of aging these days. The concept of leisure is often closely associated with quality of life as participation in activities we enjoy brings about a sense of meaning, opportunity, learning, and growth.
As we age and our physical body changes, taking part in productive activity can become increasingly difficult. However, research has shown that engaging in physical activity as we age is essential for good physical and psychological health. Furthermore, engaging in recreational activities as we age can reduce the impact of social isolation, contribute to our brain health, and potentially prevent primary and secondary chronic diseases like obesity and heart disease.
To age well with leisure, first you should decide what activities you enjoy or might enjoy. Think about activities you have enjoyed throughout your life and also consider activities you have always wanted to try. Brainstorm this list of activities and write every idea down – you may even consider activities you enjoyed as a child. Once you have created your list, examine it and set a goal to participate in at least one of the activities you have identified.
A healthy leisure lifestyle is well-balanced with a variety of activities. Consider your leisure lifestyle and determine how well balanced it is. If you find it is unbalanced, think about adding one or more of the following activities.
Engaging in physical fitness activities not only helps your body, but also helps your brain. Research has shown that participation in physical activities slows cognitive decline and keeps your brain active. Many communities have park districts or other organizations that offer organized fitness activities. Walking is a great fitness activity that only requires a pair of good walking shoes. Aim to participate in physical activities for 30 minutes, 3-5 times per week. Remember to consult with your healthcare provider prior to engaging in any physical activity program.
Many communities have a wealth of resources to stay active and engaged in community life. Libraries and senior centers are a great place to start! Both may offer book clubs, speakers, movies, and other events as well as social engagement opportunities. Look for ways to get involved and explore your community!
A great way to keep your mind sharp and to stay active is to engage in educational activities. These could be formal classes taught a local college or university or participation programs and events offered by your local Extension office. Another fun, low cost way to keep your brain sharp is to work brainteasers or puzzles.
Travel is a popular activity among older adults. Some senior centers and community organizations offer organized travel experiences. Another idea is to play a tourist in your own community. Visit local areas of interest and learn more about your community.
A great way to give back to your community and engage in meaningful activity is to volunteer your time. Many community organizations welcome volunteers with open arms. Identify your area of interest and check to see what is available in your community. If you've always enjoyed working with children, check local schools or day care centers for volunteer opportunities. If you love animals, visit the local animal shelter to see if they need help. Many communities have historical associations or community organizations that utilize volunteers. The opportunities to volunteer are plentiful!
Participation in expressive activities can provide a sense of empowerment and satisfaction. Some research has shown that older adults participating in arts programs reported better health, fewer falls, and improved mental health. Expressive activities can take on the form of formal art and dance classes to crafting including knitting, crocheting, and scrapbooking. Finding a hobby or starting a collection allows creativity to flow, engages the mind, and provides social engagement. Gardening is a great activity to express yourself and can be adapted to both small and large areas. Container gardening is becoming ever popular as well as community gardening. Another increasingly popular expressive activity is creating and keeping a blog (like the very one you are reading!) A blog is a web log that is a way to share life experiences and engage in online discussion. Find a topic of interest and get online! You could be a great resource to others while expressing yourself creatively.
Engaging in an active leisure lifestyle can help you age well. You can learn new things, keep your mind active, keep your body healthy, and enrich your social opportunities all while doing something that is fun and enjoyable. And, you may just find your activity that you love, that keeps you going, and that gives you purpose!
Leave a comment below: What do you do to maintain an active leisure lifestyle?