Everyone talks about aging gracefully but let's get serious. When your ears suddenly sprout hair, you leak a little every time you laugh, and you habitually adjust your television's volume control to a very, very loud setting, “grace" is not the first word that enters your mind.
How many of us actually age like Harrison Ford or Jane Fonda? (They even named Fonda's character Grace on the show, “Grace and Frankie"!) In our less starry-eyed "real lives," we can nevertheless achieve a reality where our intellectual, emotional, and physical lives continue to grow happily. If you also happen to resemble Ford or Fonda while doing so, that's just the sprinkles on the cupcake.
In the end, it's not what you look like while growing older; it's just that you do it — as they say, it's better than the alternative! Staying positive, maintaining a sense of humor, and making positive choices that keep your body and mind strong and healthy will go a long way!
What Does Aging Gracefully Even Mean, Anyway?
No, we are not talking about floating through the air like the Sugar Plum Fairy. Nor do we mean getting plastic surgery — a few wrinkles here or there don't define a life.
Aging gracefully means to mature with intention: to stay healthy, happy, involved, curious, and physically active. To feel motivated to contribute to the world around you, to find meaning and purpose in your life, and to have something to look forward to every day.
A person who ages gracefully embraces growing older confidently and maybe with some laughs.
Tips for How to Age Gracefully
People are living longer these days. As of 2016, the average life expectancy in North America was 79 years. Compare that to 1960, when it was around 69 years — that's almost a decade longer — on average!
Did you know that people today live almost a decade longer than in 1960?
With all that time on our hands, it makes sense to use these years wisely and healthfully. We've created a handy-dandy guide for keeping your life happy and healthy for as long as you can.
1. "Chill Out" & Reduce Stress
When you're stressed out, your nervous system releases excess cortisol and adrenaline, which can wreak havoc on your health. With age, your body may not bounce back as easily as when you were younger.
Higher stress can cause or worsen health concerns, such as high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, and heart disease. Tame the stress monster through stress management techniques, like yoga, mindful meditation, tai chi, walking outdoors, or deep breathing.
Tip: I like to use a technique called square or box breathing. Sit quietly in a stress-free place and focus only on your breath. Inhale in a slow, controlled way to the count of four, hold for four, exhale for four, and hold again for four. Repeat for as long as it feels necessary.
2. Use Organic Sunscreen Wisely
Studies show that daily use of a high SPF, broad-spectrum sunscreen reduces signs of skin aging — brown spots, leathery appearance, and wrinkles.
Regular sunscreen contains harmful chemicals, so read the labels and only use organic sunscreens free of toxic substances. Some of the worst include avobenzone, fragrance, oxybenzone, parabens, and vitamin A.
Tip: Don't be fooled into thinking that the higher SPF means you don't also have to reapply sunscreen during the day or wear protective clothing. You can even buy clothes that include an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF), which provides additional protection from UV rays.
3. Stop Smoking
Knock off the nicotine habit. Not only does smoking promote all kinds of diseases, but it also does one gigantic number on your skin. Hello, premature aging, skin and oral disease, zits, psoriasis, and (ouch!) hair loss.
After just 8 hours without smoking, your heart disease risk begins to decline.
It is never too late to reap the health benefits of quitting smoking, no matter your age. After just eight hours without tobacco, your heart disease risk declines. If you want to end this unhealthy habit but don't know where to start, check out our article on six easy ways to quit smoking with helpful, practical tips.
Tip: After you kick the habit, try a lung cleanse to detox from the cigarette smoke, as well as environmental irritants, toxins, and chemicals. You will feel better!
4. Drink Plenty of Water
Staying hydrated keeps your skin from becoming dry, itchy, and dull-looking, but did you also know that not getting enough water is a major cause of hospitalization and death in older adults?
Daily Reminder: Make it a daily goal to drink half your weight in ounces for optimal hydration.
Warning signs of dehydration include constipation, headache, dry skin with poor elasticity — it doesn't "bounce back" when you stretch it — and a dry mouth, tongue, or nose.
Tip: Drink half your weight in ounces daily. People usually wait until they feel thirsty before they take a swig of water, but older folks have a reduced thirst sensation. Think hydration and drink water throughout the day, regardless of whether or not you feel thirsty. You will feel the difference!
5. Eat a Nutrient-Dense Diet
As you age, your body does not require as many calories, so you should consume more nutrient-dense foods — those packed with potassium, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, dietary fiber, and other nutrients.
Calorie-dense is not the same as nutrient-dense. Many calories — from sugars, from example — are just "empty" and contain nothing that sustains your health, and even may detract from it.
If you are retired, it's a great time to enjoy preparing healthy foods for yourself, your partner, or your kids and grandkids — or learn to cook for the first time.
Tip: Strive for a diet that contains an abundance of organic fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and gluten-free grains like brown rice. Avoid empty calories; they will just drag you down.
6. Don't Skip Out on Sleep
We all know that a good night's sleep is essential for good health; it protects against heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and depression. So how come one-third of American adults say they get less than the recommended seven to nine hours of ZZZs a night?
If you are sleepless in Seattle (or Chicago, Miami, or Cleveland), don't use any screen technology like your phone, laptop, or e-reader an hour before bedtime. Stick to a sleep schedule, even on weekends. Also, exercise early in the day because the adrenaline from a late-day workout can keep you up.
Tip: If you have chronic insomnia or snore, consider participating in a sleep study. Researchers will record your body's activity during your sleep hours, giving insight into the concern. For more ideas, check out our Can't Sleep? Causes & Natural Solutions article.
7. Exercise Regularly
As the saying goes, use it or lose it. As you age, your muscle mass declines, particularly in women after menopause. Strength training with even light weights can help keep your muscles strong, which protects your bones, boosts your metabolism, and helps your overall health.
Pro tip: Aim for 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week.
Aerobic exercise or "cardio," on the other hand, helps strengthen your heart. Swimming is one option that's gentle on aging joints, while stretching exercises — like yoga and tai chi — promote muscle strength and flexibility. All exercise can lead to lower blood pressure, a healthy weight, and better balance, flexibility, and mobility.
Tip: Check with your healthcare provider before starting any new regimen, but in general, aim to exercise at least three days a week. Mix it up; try doing light weights one day, an outdoor stroll the next, and gentle stretching as often as possible. Even twenty minutes of exercise will help.
8. Practice Mindfulness & Meditation
Meditation can help you feel good: It's a mental training exercise that encourages you to turn off that constant internal chatter, remain in the moment, and focus on emotions and sensations. Mindfulness meditation, in particular, means to stay mentally aware of what is going on, rather than living on autopilot.
Start meditating for 5 minutes per day, then work your way up.
One study shows that older adults are more mindful than younger people, which explains why they have better emotional well-being in the face of life challenges.
If you want to meditate, find a quiet spot, sit comfortably, and clear your mind of random thoughts. If your mind strays — and it will — just lead it back to the present, without judgment. Concentrate on your breathing or what you're feeling. For more ideas, check out our meditation guide for beginners article.
Tip: Start meditating for five minutes a day, and gradually work up to 20 minutes.
9. Maintain Your Brain
In addition to eating healthy and exercising, your brain should have some challenges and novelty to keep it sharp and to boost your memory.
Daily Reminder: Don't be scared to challenge yourself and try to learn something new each day! You got this!
Try learning something new every day: use the other hand to brush your teeth, take a different route when driving to the grocery store, learn a new song or instrument, take up a new hobby like knitting or woodworking, test your recall with lists, learn a foreign language, or do sudoku.
Tip: Anything that will get you out of the same-old-same-old, even for a few minutes, strengthens your brain and nerve cells. Some nutrients may also help keep your neurons strong and healthy — see our section on herbs and supplements below.
10. Try Intermittent Fasting
Did you know that intermittent fasting is linked to reducing the growth of tumors? That's amazing news!
Studies show that fasting has an incredible ability to kill off damaged immune cells and spur healthy ones to grow. Intermittent fasting has also been linked to lowered risks of fatal diseases and tumor growth — wow.[12, 13]
Fasting involves eliminating all food and drinks, except water, for a period. Intermittent refers to mixing periods of fasting with eating. Many people have had great success with water fasting for several days in a row. Check with your healthcare provider before beginning a fasting regime, but read up about its benefits first, as many are not familiar with the science behind it.
Tip: For intermittent fasting, you can eat normally for five days and fast for two (known as 5:2 fasting) in a given week. Fast days involve abstaining from calories for 14 to 16 hours — typically from 8 p.m. until 10 a.m. or noon the next day. Others follow this same fasting routine daily — having an early dinner and skipping breakfast — for a certain period, rather than just for two days per week.
11. Stay Social
What good is sitting alone in your room? Nothing, apparently. Older adults who remain social and spend a lot of time hanging out with a wide range of people are not only more physically active, but also have a greater sense of emotional well-being.
Tip: Put yourself out there. Join a club, take up a sport, invite over the neighbors, take a family vacation, volunteer, call up your old college roomie. Your mind and body will thank you.
12. Keep a Positive Attitude
Walking on the sunny side of the street — meaning you are hopeful, engaged, enthusiastic, generally optimistic, and can cope with life's bumps in the road — can reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
If you can accentuate the positive even during chronic illness or disability, even better. Try to remember that age is what you make of it, and don't sweat the small stuff. Don't get sidelined in life — keep a sense of purpose.
Tip: Keep a gratitude journal. In a gratitude journal, write down five things you feel thankful for every day. A journal reminds you to stay thankful for the little things like food, family, friends, laughter, and sunshine.
13. Laugh a Lot
Comedians Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, and Dick Van Dyke are all joking their way into their ninth decade. George Burns and Bob Hope were 100 when they died. So would it kill you to laugh a little? In fact, it may just help you live a longer life.
Get this — science shows people who have a sense of humor will actually live longer!
One major study of over 50,000 people found that older women who have a sense of humor live longer despite cardiovascular disease or infection; older men who laugh appear to have additional protection against infection. "Blazing Saddles," anyone? Doctor's orders!
Tip: Go to a comedy show with a friend. Not only does it get you out of the house, but it also gives you something different from the same TV sitcoms on replay.
14. Donate to Charity & Volunteer
You've heard of “runner's high," but did you know there is also a “helper's high"? Various studies have shown that people who help others have lower blood pressure, better self-esteem, less stress and depression, live longer, and are generally happier.
You can give till your heart's content!
Tip: Avoid falling into the trap of charity scams. Research organizations thoroughly before giving money. Even better, volunteer with an organization so you know that your time and money are well spent.
15. Cut Back on TV Time
Did you know that people who watch more than six hours of television per day live nearly five years less than those who watch no TV?
Experts have associated watching a lot of TV with a higher mortality rate, comparable to other major chronic disease risk factors such as physical inactivity and obesity. Excess TV viewing is, in particular, linked to greater heart disease risk.
Tip: Find your favorite show, and eliminate the rest. Limit TV viewing to one hour per day. Get out and do something active instead!
16. Boost Your Nutrient Intake
Complement your healthy diet with vitamins, minerals, herbs, and supplements. These not only fill the gaps but also provide some of the substances that an older body may become deficient or low in, like pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ). Read on to learn more.
Vitamins & Minerals
Keeping your body healthy means having a nutritious diet well into your golden years. If your diet falls short, take vitamins and minerals to boost your body's health. A few vitamins particularly benefit you as you grow older.
Some studies indicate that vitamin C may help normalize your risk of excessive cell proliferation, as well as heart disease, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and cataracts.
Vitamin D may improve bone health and lower the risk of osteoporosis, especially when taken along with calcium and magnesium. However, vitamin D (which is a hormone) can interfere with certain medications so check with your healthcare provider.
Herbs & Supplements
Certain herbs and supplements have helpful properties for those dealing with the ordinary issues that go along with aging.
PQQ and CoQ10 are natural substances your body produces that decline with age; taking them together can help you age gracefully.
Ginseng has a soothing effect, which can reduce the risk of some serious health conditions and promote long-term wellness. Try a ginseng supplement for an energy and health kick!
Turmeric also soothes systemic redness and swelling, which negatively affect your health in many ways. Related to ginger, turmeric root is traditionally used in Chinese and Indian Ayurvedic medicine.
Lithium orotate is an incredible brain-strengthening mineral that some experts consider "essential" for health. Lithium is one of the only known substances to encourage brain and nerve cells to regrow and to boost gray and white matter in the brain — incredibly helpful for the aging mind.
CoQ10 (coenzyme Q10) naturally occurs in the body, but declines with age. This antioxidant plays a role in cellular metabolism, which gives your tissues energy.
Taking it supplementally has been shown to help boost heart health by promoting normal cholesterol, blood pressure, and triglycerides. Studies also found that it reduces systemic swelling and irritations.
PQQ (pyrroloquinoline quinone) is a cofactor in certain biochemical reactions in your body, particularly ones inside the mitochondria — cellular organelles responsible for energy production.
Human studies have observed a soothing effect from dietary and supplemental consumption. Through this action, it may help protect your heart and brain — and give you an energy boost as well. PQQ and CoQ10 also work really well together. I recommend Global Healing’s CoQ10 & BioPQQ® with Shilajit — a synergistic blend of antioxidants that protect your mitochondria, tiny energy-producers inside your cells.
Points to Remember
We're living longer and enjoying it more! Get up, get out, and take charge of your own self-care. Manage your mental well-being by lowering stress, staying socially connected, laughing, being optimistic, donating, volunteering, and practicing daily mindfulness.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle by getting enough sleep, drinking a lot of water, reducing TV time, and quitting smoking. Keep your body in shape by eating a nutrient-rich diet, exercising, and taking plant-based supplements and vitamins as required, such as CoQ10, PQQ, ginseng, or lithium orotate. Together, all these things will help you take on age with grace and style.
Then, you know what? Come hear the cabaret! (But put on your organic sunscreen first.)
What do you do to keep yourself forever young? What activities have you tried? Or have you found any particular supplement, herb, or nutritional approach helps? Comment below!
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†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.