Population aging is a topic you will hear about more frequently over the next decade. We are seeing a significant demographic shift, as the entire “Baby Boomer” generation (born 1946-1964) will be at least 65 by the year 2030. People are living longer, and the number of older adults over 65 will make up approximately 20% of the total population. For the first time in US history, there will be more 65+ adults than children. This shift will present an opportunity to change the way we talk about aging.
Contrary to the ageist stereotype, older adults do not fit into a “one size fits all” category. Yes, there are some potential challenges around aging, such as physical/mental health changes, navigating the health care system without discrimination, unexpected early or late retirement, changes in family structure, access to services, or increased risk of chronic health conditions. But aging looks different for every individual, and not everyone will experience one or more of these challenges. This population is diverse, and as my college professor Dr. Phillip Clark always says, “You’ve met one older adult; you’ve met one older adult”.
The aging process can present vast opportunities for connection, personal fulfillment, new roles, and spiritual growth. You can start by fiercely advocating for yourself, friends, family, and community members. The term “Healthy Aging” refers to the ability to promote and maintain quality of life and well-being as we get older. Below are a few tips for healthy aging, encompassing mind, body, and spirit.
- Engage in physical activity, healthy eating, and avoid smoking/heavy drinking.
- Follow up with doctors and monitor health conditions if/when needed.
- Maintain connections and relationships with family, friends, and the community.
- Engage in social and productive activities that bring you joy, fulfillment, and mental stimulation.
- Incorporate leisure activities, hobbies, mindfulness, and self-care.
- Utilize resources and services related to aging, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
- If you are struggling with your mental health, JCS has a counseling center with clinicians specializing in older adults. Those needing immediate mental health support should contact the BH Link at 401-414-5465 or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 988.