According to this study, researchers observed that old aged people take some effort especially if you're already 65 or older. There are, however, four areas in which older men and women can take some non-drastic steps to improve their chances of what Cleveland calls "aging optimally." They are sleep, diet, exercise and social interaction.
"It can be hard for older adults to make lifestyle changes," said Jo Cleveland, M.D., professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem. "Some things are easier to implement than others, and a lot depends on the individual and their particular situation. It'd be a lot easier to take a pill. But there's not a pill for this."
It's a common misconception that sleep needs decline with age, according to the National Sleep Foundation, so seniors need the same seven to eight hours of sleep as younger adults. But sleep patterns do change, and as people age they tend to have a harder time getting quality sleep. "It's often disrupted sleep in older adults; they wake up because they have to go to the bathroom or because they roll over on a hip that's painful," said Cleveland.
More a pattern of food consumption than a "diet" in the usual sense of the word, the Mediterranean diet emphasizes fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, grains, olive oil (as opposed to butter), herbs and spices (as opposed to salt), chicken and seafood (as opposed to red meat), plus a glass of wine. Research has shown that this type of diet reduces the risk of heart disease and is associated with reduced incidence of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases and cancer.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people over 65 get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-level physical activity each week to promote endurance, strength, balance and flexibility. She also endorses two 20-minute sessions of weight-strength training each week with exercise bands or hand weights.
But before beginning an exercise program, Cleveland said, older adults should "consult a physical therapist one time to make sure what you're doing is safe and right for you."
"When we talk about staying healthy longer a lot of us think of that as meaning physically healthy, but the cognitive piece is just as important," Cleveland said. Stimulating the brain plays a vital role in combating cognitive decline, but not all mental activity is of the same value, she said. While socialization is crucial to mental fitness, it's often left by the wayside as people age, because of lack of transportation, physical issues or other reasons.
"Getting out, being around people and doing what you can do is a big part of staying healthy."