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The secret to a longer, healthier life

Older Americans are living longer than ever before. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of adults over 60 is set to double by 2050. But as life expectancy increases, so does the need to adopt healthy habits that increase your physical, mental and emotional well-being.

Moira Keller, LCSW, a clinical social worker at Piedmont Sixty Plus Services, shares the secret to living a longer, healthier life.

1. Prevent diseases. The best way to prevent diseases is to adapt a healthy lifestyle and receive ongoing oversight from a medical provider.

“Eat a Mediterranean diet with lots of vegetables and fruits, fish, and not much red meat,” Keller says. “Get sound sleep every night. And try no to consume too much alcohol, though an occasional glass of red wine is fine.”

It’s also important to schedule regular preventative health screenings with your physician.

2. Boost brain function.  As you age, it’s important to stimulate your mind to improve cognitive function. Research has shown that reasonable physical and mental activities can create new brain cells and prevent cognitive decline.

“Try to exercise regularly,” Keller says.  “And make sure you have fun while you do it, like walking with friends, or listening to good podcasts while you're jogging or lifting light weights.”

To stretch your mind, get involved in a new activity or try new things.

“Variety is the spice of life, so try to learn something that absorbs you and requires concentration," Keller says. “ It could be a new language, or difficult knitting patterns, or how to take your car apart and put it back together.”  

3. Spend time with others. Without social engagement, older adults risk social isolation, which often results in clinical depression.

“Depression can lower one's cognitive abilities,” Keller says. “So it’s important to spend time with people you enjoy so that you can laugh regularly. Even those who appreciate solitude need contact with people on a regular basis to live an optimum quality of life.”

4. Keep an eye on your finances. For many adults, living longer means spending more on daily needs, and it can be costly. Health problems may create a need for family members, friends, or hired helpers to assist caretaking. And long term care facilities, like assisted living, personal care homes, and nursing homes, are a substantial investment. 

“It’s essential to have advance directives in which you appoint powers-of-attorney for health care and finances,” Keller says.

Along with these documents, you should talk about your financial status with those you trust.

“It's important, so that a realistic plan can be put in place as you age," Keller says. “It's also one of the greatest gifts you can give to your family-- clear information about your income, assets, and expenses so they won’t be left scrambling if you are unable to manage your finances yourself.”

Click here for more information about Piedmont Sixty Plus Older Adult Services.

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