Guide to Healthy Aging in Maryland & Washington D.C.
September is National Healthy Aging Month. It’s an excellent time to inventory how you or an older loved one is making the most of opportunities to live a healthy lifestyle. While some aspects of health are due to genetics or environmental factors, there are many ways to make major and minor changes that can significantly impact healthy aging. This can improve both quality of life and longevity for an older person.
What is Healthy Aging?
A hot topic, healthy aging, is widely discussed and differently defined. The Centers for Disease Control focuses on ways to remain active and independent as long as possible through exercise, a healthy diet, eliminating tobacco, regular checkups, and awareness of family history and brain health. The National Institute on Aging, a division of the National Institutes of Health, also includes sleep, stress management, leisure activities, and social engagement as important factors influencing healthy aging.
Healthy aging is a paramount concern within the DMV, as the diverse community maintains an active lifestyle. The region’s commitment to enhancing healthy aging is reflected in its resources, programs and services designed to promote health and well-being for aging adults. With a combination of top recognized medical care, a variety of recreational opportunities and a focus on community engagement, the Washington metropolitan area is an ideal place to promote quality of life and aging with dignity.
The DMV is also recognized for the importance of overall well-being including the psychological and emotional aspects of aging. Additionally, the region has a network of geriatric specialists who offer personalized care and guidance for managing chronic conditions, medication management and overall health.
How Can Adults and Seniors Get Started with Healthy Aging?
Healthy aging takes practice, attention, and the development of regular habits. Getting started can feel challenging, but many ways, large and small, can contribute to healthy aging. The AARP has 60 suggestions, and there are many more. The key is to assess your current lifestyle and identify changes that can cause incremental, achievable improvements in your health. Rather than starting with changes that feel unpleasant or difficult, look for ways that appeal to you so that the change feels effortless and fun.
Healthy Activities in the DMV For Seniors and the Elderly
Getting out and active does not mean training for a triathlon (unless that’s your thing!). Instead, it can mean finding regular outings and events that reduce isolation, engage your mind and body, and contribute to your overall well-being. Here are some suggestions.
- Museums and Art Galleries: The Washinton DC, area is filled with museums appealing to all sorts of interests. The Smithsonian museums offer free admission, and many other museums offer senior discounts.
- Botanical Gardens: Enjoy the beauty of nature at the United States Botanic Garden and the National Arboretum in DC. If you’re in Maryland, Brookside Gardens is beautiful and located in Silver Spring, Montgomery County.
- Parks and Recreation: The DMV has one of the best parks available in a larger metropolitan area. Many have outdoor activities or simple strolls and picnic areas to enjoy.
- Senior Centers: Many cities in the DMV area have senior centers that offer various activities such as exercise classes, crafts, educational workshops, and social events. Other locations, like the YMCA, offer classes for seniors as well.
- Cultural Events: From the Kennedy Center to Wolftrap and the Strathmore, there are venues that offer theater performances, musical concerts, and dance recitals. Often, tickets are available with senior discounts.
- Cooking and Culinary Classes: Participate in cooking classes or workshops to learn new recipes and culinary skills.
- Book Clubs: Join or start a book club to discuss literature and meet like-minded individuals.
- Volunteer Opportunities: Many organizations in the area need volunteers. Seniors can contribute their time and skills to various causes, such as mentoring, food banks, animal shelters, etc.
- Clubs and Sports Leagues: Whether it’s gardening, pickleball, bird watching, or chess, there are many groups in Maryland and Washington DC dedicated to these activities with a senior focus.
- Movie Screenings: Enjoy classic movie screenings or matinee shows at local theaters.
The DMV prioritizes healthy aging. Through comprehensive healthcare services, recreational opportunities and a commitment to social and emotional well-being, the region creates an environment for seniors to age safely, with vitality.
A Contrast to Think About as You Enter Your Senior Years
We recently interviewed our client liaison, who is also a Certified Dementia Practitioner. During the interview, he reflected on the divergent retirement experiences of his own parents. He started by shedding light on the undeniable influence of an active lifestyle on long-term health.
He said that his mother, a retired consultant, embraced her post-career years with a vibrant energy by incorporating physical activity into her daily routine. She frequently goes for long walks with her dog, travels, and holds social gatherings. She is committed to staying active and that has been a driving force behind her youthful appearance and overall well-being.
Conversely, his father, who also retired around the same time, opted for a more sedentary lifestyle. His father spends a significant amount of time in front of the television. The emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic only exacerbated the situation, further derailing his already limited physical engagement. This unfortunate combination led to a series of health issues, resulting in frequent hospitalizations. Medical professionals didn’t hesitate to link his health challenges to his lack of activity.
This glaring contrast between his parents’ paths serves as a powerful illustration of the profound significance of staying active as we journey through the later stages of life. “We are a result of what we put our time and energy into,” was his concluding remark as we wrapped up the interview.
A Final Word About Healthy Aging
If all these possibilities seem overwhelming, it can help to work with a professional. For example, SmithLife Homecare’s team can help you develop a plan for engaging in healthy aging activities. SmithLife Homecare offers free-in-home assessments to help older adults identify their needs. These include locating activities and having a home healthcare aide provide safe transportation to and from the activity. Contact us today for an assessment and more information about our customized services.