Three ways for “wellderly” living
March 19, 2018
By Jeanine Blanchard MA ’99, PhD ’10
Jeanine Blanchard is a project manager at USC Chan and was a member of USC Well Elderly Studies research team.
It is well known that the aging population is rapidly increasing. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the percentage of people 65 and older is expected to double, reaching a total of 84 million people, from the year 2012 to 2050.
Unfortunately, this growing statistic correlates to the number of adults with chronic diseases and disabilities such as heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and stroke. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, therefore, is one of the most important ways people can prevent illness and chronic diseases.
The USC Well Elderly Studies, conducted by former faculty member Florence Clark and a research team at USC in the 1990s, demonstrated that Lifestyle Redesign interventions for older adults improved health outcomes and worked to prevent health declines.
In the spirit of National “Wellderly” (Well-Elderly) Day, recognized this year on March 19, here are three tips for adopting a more healthy lifestyle, based upon the USC Well Elderly Lifestyle Redesign program:
1. Analyze your own activity patterns. It is important to be aware of what you do each day. Consider how your various activities may (or may not) contribute to your health and well-being.
Next, think of ways to modify the occupations that might be less healthy, or balance them out with other occupations that are more health promoting. For example, reading can be a sedentary and solitary activity. One way to modify this occupation to make it more active and social is by taking your book to the gym and read it while riding a stationary bike.
2. Create and follow a personalized plan for healthy living. Personal habits and routines provide daily structure for an individual and allow freedom from having to consciously think about every action performed in the course of a day. But creating new habits and breaking old ones is easier said than done.
One way to begin changing daily habits is to create a plan, write it down and check it frequently to see how you are doing. Your plan should take into account your individual health status, risk factors, personal goals and environmental supports and constraints. Write down concrete steps needed to achieve your goals, start working toward them each day and be sure to congratulate yourself when you reach certain milestones.
3. Recognize and reflect on your new emerging self. As you begin to modify your daily routines, you will notice small changes in other areas of your life. You may see improvements in your health, such as increased energy or lower blood pressure. Don’t be surprised if you notice additional changes such as dressing in ways that reflect your more active lifestyle, or spending more time with friends that also enjoy health-promoting occupations.
All of these seemingly small changes are signs that you are starting to redesign your life. As you notice these signs, reflect on how the changes you made in your occupations have led to improvements in your health and your self-image, and encourage yourself to keep working at it. Gradually, your healthy habits will become solidified as you become a new, healthier you!