Why giving up some independence helps aging people gain
One of the keys to longevity is living a life with purpose
Written By Lauren Glendenning
Brought to you by Castle Peak Senior Care Community
As people age, everyday tasks such as cooking and cleaning start to require a lot more energy, leaving little left over for activities that actually boost quality of life.
Yet aging people often hate the idea of giving up those chores because they think it signifies giving up their independence, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“When you give up that little bit of independence, you gain a lot more back,” said Monica McCarroll, director of Marketing at Castle Peak Senior Care Community in Eagle. “If you allow someone else to do some of those basic things like preparing meals and keeping the house clean, it allows you to spend that energy on things you do enjoy.”
That’s important when you look at research on the longest living people around the world. Known as Blue Zones, the habits of these folks include a variety of meaningful activities, with socializing and quality family time among them.
“As your quality of life increases, your mental well being increases, which means you’re more resilient and you have more purpose in life — which leads to longevity,” McCarroll said.
The nine habits of people in Blue Zones include physical activity, never overeating, eating plenty of vegetables, having purpose, unwinding from stress, having a sense of belonging — often to some kind of faith, putting family first, enjoying a glass of wine or two per day, and socializing with folks who practice the same habits.
As Castle Peak, residents have the time and energy to practice all of these habits.
“Nobody says, ‘I had a great day, I watched TV all day,’” McCarroll said. “Whereas if you do volunteer, do an art project, spend time with family — it’s meaningful and it gives you purpose.”
This ability to find purpose is what Castle Peak provides for its residents. The programming offered there is all centered around this theme.
“Having a purpose in life makes one feel important,” said Stephanie Sheridan, director of Life Enrichment and Volunteer Services at Castle Peak. “It provides an increase in happiness, decrease in stress, decrease in anxiety and depression, and so much more.”
Social interaction is something that often decreases for the elderly, which raises the risk of developing problems such as depression, anxiety and sickness due to isolation. By creating opportunities for social interaction, Castle Peak helps residents maintain or improve cognition and physical activity, she said.
Sheridan said the programs and activities aren’t just about keeping residents busy in order to fill the time — every activity incorporates a sense of purpose.
“We provide a sense of purpose for each person to meet their individual needs and wants. As therapeutic recreation specialists we are there to help guide and show them new ways in doing things or maintaining functioning,” she said. “We don’t just put a program on the calendar for the heck of it, we do it based on what residents want and will benefit from.”
Regardless of age, physical activity is essential to overall health and well being. Physical exercise helps in disease prevention, mobility, weight management and even mental health. In aging populations, physical activity becomes harder but never less important.
Matthew Mesibov, the Clinical Physical Therapy Specialist with Centrex Rehab, which works with Castle Peak, said the consequences for not remaining physically active can lead to functional declines such as increased hardship in doing daily tasks. It can also lead to health-related issues like diabetes, heart disease and cognitive decline. All of this can lead to increased costs to stay alive, as well as earlier mortality, he said.
“Our experience is that older adults would prefer to stay as independent as possible,” he said. “Maintaining one’s physical activity level is a large part of being able to maintain one’s independence.”
Every person is capable of varying levels of physical activity, which is why Mesibov recommends consulting with a physician or nurse before undertaking any new physical exercise.
“There are so many varieties of exercise that will help with strength, flexibility, balance and endurance — the key four components of a strong exercise program,” Mesibov said. “Once you are cleared for exercise, keep in mind or recognize what your motivation is. Seek out a professional or group program that meets your goals. Recognize that physical activity is like keeping gas — or for some, electricity — in your car and an engine which is kept in tip-top shape by servicing it regularly.”