Medicare Memo: Engage and Enjoy

Independence and quality of life are top priorities when we think about getting older. We want to stay in our homes and get around on our own. We want to enjoy the freedom that our later years can offer. In short, we want to stay healthy and be happy.

What can you do to increase your chances for health and happiness as you age? A lot, as it turns out. And, better yet, you can enjoy doing it.

Do What You Love, Good Health May Follow

Researchers believe that older adults involved in social and meaningful activities may be healthier. Several studies have shown that active, engaged people may have a lower risk of health problems. And they may even live longer.

Much more is left to be learned, but at least one study may point to some reasons why. Older adults volunteered to help neighborhood schoolchildren improve their school success in a National Institutes of Health study. By the end of the study, the adults had increased their mental, social and physical activity levels. They also reported feeling good about the experience. Researchers think that results like these may decrease the risk for disability, dependency, and dementia in later life.

Ways to Get Involved

Positive health effects are good incentive for finding something to get involved in. But the involvement itself may be reason enough. Research shows that sociable people may be happier and less depressed than others.

Can’t think of anything to do? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Volunteer at a library, hospital, school or other local organization
  • Go to museums, plays, movies or sporting events
  • Join a walking group, a bike-riding group or an exercise class
  • Play cards, chess, cribbage or other games with friends
  • Try different restaurants, travel, visit friends and family
  • Share a hobby such as word working or knitting
  • Garden at home or in a community garden
  • Take an art, dance or cooking class
  • Join a book club, choral group, music group or theater troupe

Whatever you choose, it’s a good idea to start slow. Pick one activity and try it out for awhile. If you enjoy it, then decide how much time you want to devote to it. You may want to spend a lot of your time doing one thing. Or you may have two or three things you’d like to be involved in. Just be sure you don’t overdo it. If you have so much going on that you start to feel stressed, then your health may actually suffer.

Feel Good While Doing Good

You are not the only one who can benefit when you engage with others. Studies show that your family, friends and neighbors also have a lot to gain. For example, young people say that significant relationships with grandparents or other elders are important. Many say they helped shape their values, goals and life choices.

So staying engaged is a “tie that binds” as well as a key part of continuing to live independently. The spirit of this tie is core to May’s Older Americans Month. This year’s theme is “Never Too Old to Play.” It’s a celebration of the value that engaged older adults bring to their communities.

–This is provided by Medicare Made Clear

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