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Keys to a long and successful life

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Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. -- Mark Twain

By Cheryl Case

Growing older is a lifelong process. We don’t just wake up one day and declare “I’m old.” Since the fountain of youth has yet to be discovered, it is important to live your life in a way that insures success, health and happiness in your later years. No one knows this better than centenarians, people who are 100 years old and older. America’s population of centenarians is the largest in the world and the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population. Today, approximately 70,000 Americans are 100+ years old. According to the U.S. Census Bureau this number is expected to rise to 600,000 by 2050. Centenarian studies demonstrate that life does not diminish with aging. In fact, 100 year olds are teaching us that the acceptance of aging can be a positive, joyful, and exciting experience.
On Tuesday, Jan. 22 at 1  p.m., the Harrison County Cooperative Extension Service will offer “Keys to a Long and Successful Life.”  This fun interactive presentation will include discussion and tips for 12 healthy behavior practices aimed at helping you to grow older gracefully, successfully, and with increased longevity.
Attitude is one of the most important keys to successful aging.  Positive attitude stems from doing things that make you happy with people you enjoy. One key to being positive is to get over your own stereotypes of aging. We are all old, at least to someone. Accept change and embrace the positive aspects of maturing.
A key that we hear repeatedly is to eat healthy and smart. Nutritious foods help maintain a healthy body and protect against various illnesses, disorders and chronic diseases. Diet and nutrition can also keep you looking younger by maintaining healthy skin, hair, nails and better posture. It is never too late to start eating well.
Most of us also know that physical activity can contribute to a longer and happier life. Being physically fit allows you to do the things you want to do. Exercise is not just about aerobics and weightlifting. Balance and flexibility exercises also improve quality of life and safety. Can you still reach items in the top kitchen cabinets? Are you able to turn your head enough to safely back out of a parking spot or change lanes?
The brain plays a critical role in all that you do? But if you don’t use it you lose it. Brain health and function can improve with proper brain exercise. You can remain mentally active through games, reading, writing, attending events and hobbies. Even tuning into the times by using today’s electronic gadgets can stimulate your brain. Video games can improve reflexes, memory, attention skills, reasoning and cognition.
Social activity makes physical and mental activity more fun. Exercising is almost always more fun with a buddy or in a group. According to the National Institute on Aging, people who maintain strong social connections have lower risks of illness, including heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
Aging successfully also means taking care of yourself by getting regular check-ups and screenings and then following your doctor’s orders. Managing stress and getting enough sleep are also keys to a long and healthy life. Don’t forget things like keeping your financial affairs in order and preparing for emergencies as keys to being happy and secure as you grow older.
If you would like more tips on successful aging call the Harrison County Extension Service, 859-234-5510, or attend Keys to a Long and Successful Life. The class is free and open to the public. Bring a friend and grow older together.