The world is getting older. No, I’m serious, the world is getting older! Not just the actual planet, but the population more specifically. In America, those 65 and over make up 12.9% of the population according to 2009 census data. In 2030 it is predicted that 19% of the American population will be 65 and older according to the Administration on Aging.

As you can imagine from these stats, the topic of healthy aging is really important to a large portion of society. Here are some tips to remember.

1) Moisturize! As you grow older your body doesn’t produce new skin cells at the same rate as when you are younger. As a result you can end up with sun spots, enlarged pores, and wrinkles. Moisturizing can help prevent these things from happening by protecting your skin from the harshness of weather and pollution. Moisturizing can also make your skin look and feel younger and more supple.

Not only should you moisturize your skin, but your hair as well. As people get older the scalp becomes drier. This can mean brittle hair, loss of color, and frizz. Adding a leave in conditioner or using a thick hair mask on a weekly basis can combat this from happening, or at least slow the process. It will also make your hair shinier and healthier.

2) Eat Well! The sooner you start the better. Look for foods that are high in nutrients and low in calories. How many calories you need on a daily basis is going to depend on your age, gender, and level of physical activity. The better your diet the better your body will function and look in the long run.

3) Exercise! Getting fit is a lifetime habit that everyone should have. Beginning at 25 the body begins to lose 4% of its strength every decade. By exercising regularly you can get back that strength, increase flexibility and endurance. Working out for at least 30 minutes 5 days a week is a goal that will keep you healthy and fit. This doesn’t mean you have to live in a gym either. Simply taking the stairs instead of an elevator or walking your dog for an extra 10 minutes can make all the difference.

4) Stop smoking! Smoking can cause a plethora of health conditions from heart and lung disease to cancer and so on. Not only is it bad for your insides but your outsides as well. Smoking has been proven to accelerate the aging process for your skin as well. With that being said, there is good news. Once you stop smoking, the benefits to your health are almost immediate. Within 20 minutes your heart rate drops. Within 12 hours the level of carbon monoxide in your body will decrease to normal levels. Within 3 months you will decrease your risk for heart disease. As you age these benefits take longer to kick in, but they do kick in! When you quit smoking you also reduce your risk of unintentional fires, hip fractures (yes smoking affects your bone density too), and increase your mental acuity.

5) Support/Socialize! “We all need somebody to lean on” is not just the lyric to a great song but a fact of life. This is especially true as we age. In a 2005 study by the United Neighborhood Houses of New York, they found that seniors who have a strong support system (friends, family, and neighbors) are more satisfied with their life, and experience better mental and physical health. You don’t have to have a large social circle either; you just have to have quality relationships that will last. Those with strong support systems are more likely to communicate to others when they are having problems and are less likely to become isolated and over looked.

Chicago Cares provides a wide range of programming that focuses on nutrition, exercise, socialization and healthy living in general, benefitting people of all ages. For more information and to volunteer please visit our website.

Today’s post is by Chicago Cares resident senior expert, Rosie Drumgoole.