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Century Park Blog

What Does Wellness Really Mean as We Age?

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Health Tips

What Does Wellness Really Mean as We Age?

Wellness is much more than physical health. It is a practical, holistic philosophy that encourages a lifestyle that enhances the body, mind and spirit. Research on healthy aging shows that seniors who embrace wellness as part of everyday life receive significant benefits.

What is Wellness?

The National Institute of Wellness (NIW) states: "Wellness is an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence."

  • It’s an active process – which means it takes time and intentionality.
  • It needs awareness – which means paying attention to the different aspects of your life.
  • It requires choices – which means you’re in the driver’s seat.

The Dimensions of Wellness

Because humans are multifaceted creatures, wellness looks at different dimensions of life that are interconnected. When all dimensions function well, so does the human.

There are six key dimensions of wellness as defined by Dr. Bill Hetler, NIW:

  • Emotional: Showing awareness and acceptance of your feelings and the ability to express them in a healthy way. This includes how positively you feel about yourself and your life, the ability to manage your feelings, coping with stress and realistically assessing your limitations.
  • Physical: Understanding your body and its relationship to nutrition and physical activity. It involves eating well and building strength, flexibility and endurance in safe ways; but it’s also about taking responsibility for your health, paying attention to your body’s warning signs and seeking medical help when necessary.
  • Intellectual: Expanding your knowledge and skills through creative, stimulating mental activities. Develop your intellectual curiosity, stay on top of current issues and ideas and challenge yourself.
  • Occupational: Contributing your unique skills and gifts to work that is rewarding and meaningful to you. It can mean working at a job, but it also means developing new skills, volunteering, mentoring, teaching or coaching others.
  • Spiritual: Recognizing the search for meaning and purpose, developing an appreciation for life and the world around you, and letting your actions become more consistent with your values and beliefs.
  • Social: Contributing to your community and environment and recognizing the interdependence of people and nature. This is about making choices to build better personal relationships, a better living space and a better community.

Importance of Wellness for Healthy Seniors

A long-term study by the MacArthur Foundation found that 70 percent of physical aging and approximately 50 percent of mental aging is determined by lifestyle choices we make every day. Continued research into senior wellness activities confirms those findings and shows how the dimensions of wellness could be keys to a longer life.

  • A Yale study on aging and retirement found that seniors with a positive view of their lives lived an average of 7.5 years longer than those with more negative views.
  • Older adults who are physically active have lower mortality rates and are less likely to have heart disease or Type 2 diabetes.
  • Memory function in seniors is improved by regularly doing tasks that require active engagement and that are challenging.
  • Volunteering as a senior is associated with health benefits such as enhanced cognition, delayed physical disability, reduced risk of hypertension and an improved sense of wellbeing.
  • Religious and spiritual involvement is associated with higher levels of well-being. One study estimates that religious involvement prolongs life by about 7 years.
  • An active social life is associated with better cardiovascular outcomes, greater immunity to infectious disease, less risk of depression and a longer life.

So what does wellness mean as you age? It means you’re not done. Whether you are part of a senior living community with a wellness program or on your own, you can find ways to nurture every aspect of yourself. And that can help you get healthier, be happier and enjoy life more fully.

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