The U.S. Census Bureau regards baby boomers as those who were born between 1946 and 1964. Landon Jones, in his book Great Expectations: America and the Baby Boom Generation (1980), characterized the baby-boom generation as being from 1943 through 1960, when yearly births increased over 4,000,000. Authors William Strauss and Neil Howe, well-known for their generational theory, define the social generation of Boomers as the age group born between 1943 and 1960, who were too young to have any personal memories of World War II, but who are old enough to recall the post-war American High. (Source: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baby_boomer#Definition)
However one defines a Baby Boomer, the fact is that we are all aging. Growing older can be a frightening process for anyone and Baby Boomers are certainly no exception. For many, growing older is often about loss: loss of agility, loss of health, loss of friends and family, loss of employment, loss of independence. All these losses can cause emotional stress and can carry the possibility of hopelessness and depression.
None of us can doubt that we are aging rapidly when arthritis makes strangers of our hands and knees and when it’s so difficult just to get out of bed in the morning. Then having the media inundated with flu warnings for seniors and Alzheimer’s stats, it is a wonder that anyone can look at the future with a positive attitude. There is some evidence that what Baby Boomers fear most is the loss of their memory and mental functions. There are countless stories in newspapers, radio and television about people who are living with a lost sense of their own identity. That would frighten anyone.
We cannot stop the aging process, but we can definitely fight the accompanying debilitation that so many of us simply accept as part of our lives. We can repair some of the damage we have done over the years and restore some mental and physical fitness.
Every day medical science is working on finding new drugs or herbal concoctions that might help preserve failing memories or hopefully even restore them. The delay between discovery, testing and release to the public is quite long. But in the meantime, there are a few simple things that we can do to help our memory and thought processes and some activities we can engage in that will improve our physical fitness and nutrition levels. All of these are totally up to you and don’t rely on medication or joining a gym.
Puzzles are excellent for tuning up your mind. It doesn’t matter if you are solving crossword puzzles, word search puzzles, Sudoku puzzles, or any other type. The only thing that matters is that puzzles will help to keep your memory and mind active. Jigsaw puzzles are another great activity for mental welfare. Solving the daily crossword in your newspaper while drinking your morning coffee is no longer a waste of your time!
Find a Hobby
Another great activity that is important for healthy aging is participating in hobbies. Again, it doesn’t matter which hobby turns you on. Keeping your mind busy with a fun hobby makes the time fly by. Knitting a blanket for a grand-baby or finding new things to do with a piece of wood is pure mind-strengthening gold. Why not try doing genealogy research for your family? Write your life story, create a lovely scrapbook. All of these ideas involve multiple techniques and cognitive processes. Regard them as mind exercises. These types of activities release stress and add balance to your emotions.
Along with your hobbies or crafts, adding some type of physical activity is helpful to both your mental and physical health. Physical activity is a very important factor in brain fitness and can help delay or prevent Alzheimer’s. We now know that physical exercise increases our chances of living longer, with fewer possibilities of disease or disability. It is also clear that those who participate in regular physical activity have younger bodies than people of the same age who are not active.
You don’t need join a gym unless you want to. Just incorporating some simple activities into your daily life will be quite beneficial. Walking for 15-30 minutes every day is known to help sustain health. It is commonly recommended for those with Type II diabetes.
Try walking in the local park or garden. If you live near the beach, that’s perfect for a walk. Take your digital camera, snap some photos along your way for use in your scrapbook, or make a slide show for your grand-kids.
If you walk in a park with a lake and ducks, carry some bread or hot dog buns and you’ll soon draw the quacking crowd. If the weather is bad, try the mall for some window shopping while you walk. Some malls do open early for seniors to walk before the regular shoppers come in.
Gardening is a great type of non-stress activity. Planting flowers or vegetables will increase your flexibility and will lessen the chance of falling. It also has mental benefits such as planning, watering and looking forward to the harvest.
Social contact is a great way to get out of the house and moving. Take a dance class with friends or meet new ones there. Go bird-watching, join a gardening club or get a space in a community garden. Start a picnic-in-the-park group with your friends or neighbors. You’ll be outside enjoying nature at a pleasant social function that will be good for everyone involved.
Lets talk a moment about nutrition. Our bodies are not as forgiving as they used to be years ago. In addition to diminishing exercise, our diet has become a lot less nutritious over the years since we left our mother’s kitchen.
Some years ago, it was believed that the only way to lose weight was to eat less and increase our exercise. Counting calories was almost a religious experience. Now it is pretty common knowledge that counting calories is less important than knowing what to eat and how to do it. Avoiding all fat is not the way to go. Healthy fats are necessary. Some healthy fats include virgin olive oil, walnuts, almonds, flaxseed, avocado.
Yams, brown rice, pasta, rice, whole wheat bread, oatmeal and sweet potatoes are natural carbohydrates. These are beneficial for energy and heart health. Green vegetables, in addition to onions and mushrooms will also support the body’s health.
Grass-fed beef and low-fat dairy are healthy additions to our diets, along with tuna, salmon and chicken breasts. If we give our bodies what they need to improve our health, we will have less disease in our lives.
Staying in the house or apartment, spending the time with the TV set and refrigerator is the path to depression and loneliness. Being around people is as important to your mental health as getting active and solving puzzles.
It has been said that Baby Boomers are known for being creative. So, use that creativity for better health. Don’t waste the post-retirement years sitting on the couch or avoiding people. If old friends and family are gone, make new friends. Invite a neighbor for a walk, play cards, go to the movies and share popcorn. You will benefit and you’ll feel better for the effort.
The mental stimulation and companionship will keep your mind sharp and can reverse the damage that may have already been done. It’s never too late to take charge of your own future.