“Aging well is all about attitude and managing expectations,” he says. “Many seniors I have worked with don’t view themselves as old, only inconvenienced by the aging process. They tend to work at maintaining their vitality and independence.”
On the flip side, he recognizes that some seniors view aging and health decline as their lot in life: “They do nothing to stem the tide of decline in their physical, mental, or emotional state.”
Your Aging Body
Based on his work with seniors of all abilities, Cohen argues the point that health decline is unavoidable. In fact, even seniors who have Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, dementia, debilitating arthritis, heart issues, and loss of sight attend his fitness classes because they are committed to staying as healthy as possible.
“They come to exercise because they can, and they want to maintain that capability,” he says.
To that end, Cohen encourages seniors to not dwell on what they can’t do but on what they can do, and build from there.
Effects of Aging on the Body
Of course, there’s no denying that aging will affect the body in a variety of ways.
“From a mobility view, the most common effects I see are declines in lung capacity, strength, balance, flexibility, sight, hearing, and motor control,” says Cohen. “These ailments lend themselves to an aging person doing less and less as the decline worsens.”
This decline leads to loss of independence in activities of daily living such as driving, cooking, and climbing stairs. From there, says Cohen, fear begins to take hold – fear of falling, injury, being alone, and not being able to do the things that were once enjoyable.
Exercise for Older Adults
To alleviate the effects of aging on the body, Cohen advises seniors to walk as much as possible – even those who are chair-bound can march in place. He also encourages seniors to learn diaphragmatic breathing, which brings a great deal of oxygen to the body.
In addition, the certified Tai Chi instructor is an advocate of “movement with intent for everyday living.” This involves regularly practicing the movements involved in the activities you need to do on a daily basis. Movements may include lifting your arms; reaching overhead; sitting down and standing up; and touching your toes while seated.
“Movement is life,” he says. “The more you move, the more you will be able to keep doing.”
Coping with Aging
The fact is, as long as seniors stay as active as possible, aging does not have to be a fearsome prospect.
“Exercising your body and mind to keep both working is crucial to healthy aging,” says Cohen.
For those who have physical limitations, he recommends working within your capabilities – with an emphasis on work.
“Do what you can do, and you will be surprised at the improvements you can make,” says Cohen. “At a minimum, you will maintain what you have for a longer time.”
MORE: Aging happens; follow OurParents on Twitter for encouragement on how to embrace it…