Virtually every country in the world is experiencing growth in the size and proportion of older persons in their population. There were 703 million persons aged 65 or over in the world in 2019. The number of older persons is projected to double to 1.5 billion by 2050. In the macro context, population aging is a human success story on all levels—we’ve overcome the many conditions, injuries, diseases, etc. responsible for early deaths and limited human life spans across history. At the individual level, this time in life may feel like a time of endings for some people, but it does not have to be. Science is showing that the more active people are physically, emotionally and spiritually, the more this time of life can be full of wonder, joy and independence.
With that in mind, there are four factors related to aging well: maintaining physical function, cognitive function, stress reduction and mental health, and continued involvement in social and spiritual activities. Let’s take a deeper look.
Maintaining Physical Function
When we think of aging, especially for women, we think bone health, risk of falls and prevention of disease. Osteoporosis is often considered a silent disease because, just like high blood pressure, it has no initial symptoms. In the U.S., 25% of women over 65 have osteoporosis. With osteoporosis, the bone breaks down faster than it can build, the structure weakens and the individual is left with an increased risk of fracture. The most common areas of fracture are often the hip or the wrist.
Unfortunately, walking for physical activity does not strengthen the bones. Like muscles, bones need to be challenged to grow and strengthen. Strengthening exercises can include weight-bearing or resistance training, which forces the body to work against gravity. Eating for bone health is also beneficial, and should include calcium and vitamin D.
Julie Bach, executive director of Wellness for Cancer, is a thought leader within the spa and wellness industry and has spent 20 years as a cancer advocate to facilitate greater access to integrative wellness modalities. She was named Leading Woman in Wellness at the Global Wellness Summit in 2017 for her dedication to creating a more inclusive well world. Bach is a yoga therapist, health coach and Heartmath Resiliency trainer.