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What Does It Mean to Age Gracefully?

elderly woman and caregivers walking
By Publisher of Great Senior Living - Excerpt chosen by Dennise Vaughn, Homewatch CareGivers Administrator

Simply put, we all age differently. And since we can't control time, aging slowly isn't possible. But some people do seem to look younger than others of the same age.

But graceful aging doesn't necessarily mean accepting wrinkles and gray hair and learning to love them. Instead, to age gracefully means to pay attention to what makes you feel best. So check out these four commonly asked questions about the outward signs of aging and learn what you should consider:

1. Going Gray: What Should I Do?

Gray hair can even be a source of controversy. But a growing number of people now embrace silver or gray hair. In fact, even some younger people are opting to dye their hair those colors: The gray hair trend was one of the biggest beauty-related news stories of 2018.

Should you color over graying hair? This is a complicated question for many seniors. But the natural process of hair turning gray is actually quite simple: The follicle at the root of each hair strand contains pigment cells with a substance called melanin that determines the color of that strand. As we age, these pigment cells gradually die off, so new hair strands become more transparent. The result? Gray, silver, or white hair.

Although it's nothing to be ashamed of, hiding gray hair is a big industry. According to an article in Psychology Today, Americans spend over $2 billion annually on women's hair-coloring products and $150 million on men's products. And despite the cost, an AARP article notes that about 56 percent of women over 70 color their hair.

One factor that can complicate the decision to stop dyeing your hair is that going gray gracefully is difficult without an awkward transition phase. But if you want to stop coloring your hair, a hairdresser can help you create a plan.

2. How Can I Protect My Skin?

For some seniors, in addition to deciding what to do about going gray, looking great also involves making decisions about skin care. After all, wrinkles, fine lines, and age spots are another part of the normal aging process as our skin becomes drier and less elastic. And with age, some of the lifestyle choices we made back in our youth may show up in our skin.

Of course, many of us try to keep our skin looking youthful as long as we can. That's why you'll find hundreds of skin-care products making big promises related to aging.

Most skin-care products don't work instantly, so you won't see immediate results. But that doesn't mean you should give up and buy something new. In fact, cosmetic companies make a lot of money from our ongoing quest to find the best anti-aging skin-care product. So if you're not sure what works for your skin, focus on products' ingredients (not the marketing) and talk things over with your primary care doctor or a dermatologist.

Also, remember that good skin starts from within. No matter how much money you spend on anti-aging treatments, if you're not looking after your health, it can show in your skin. Good nutrition, moderate exercise, and sleep can all help.

And, of course, sunscreen is essential—even on cloudy days.

3. Hygiene: Why Do Old People Smell Different?

Even seniors with impeccable hygiene can develop a distinct odor. Although this is sometimes referred to as "old person smell," the correct term for the cause of the odor is nonenal. And contrary to popular belief, it's not caused by poor hygiene or lazy housekeeping. Instead, it's the result of the normal skin-aging process:

  1. Our skin produces omega-7 fatty acid.
  2. The acid degrades when it oxidizes on our skin, which produces a chemical called 2-nonenal. This chemical has a marked odor.
  3. As we age, our skin produces more fatty acids. At the same time, our bodies' antioxidant abilities decrease. The result is an increase in 2-nonenal production.
  4. Seniors sometimes experience lifestyle changes that can make the smell stronger. For example, an elderly person might not bathe or shower as often if they're afraid of falling.

Odor prevention can take some conscious effort. That's partly because normal soap doesn't necessarily prevent nonenal. Who knew? Odor removal must target the specific compounds produced by the skin. Although most soaps are formulated to tackle the smell of perspiration, many aren't effective with nonenal, so you need soaps that work for nonenal. In addition to nonenal soap, lifestyle changes can help:

  • Drink lots of water.
  • Wear cotton clothing so that your skin can breathe easily.
  • Bathe or shower regularly.
  • Moisturize after bathing or showering.
  • Exfoliate your skin.
  • Reduce your stress, since it can increase the production of nonenal.
  • Wash your laundry on a regular basis, if possible.

4. How Can I Avoid Age-Related Changes to My Posture?

Seniors are at risk for osteoporosis, muscle loss, and compression of the discs in the spine. The result can be a distinctive stooped posture, as well as aches, pains, and mobility limitations. Plus, how you carry yourself influences how others view you. So good posture and mobility can help with all aspects of aging gracefully, especially your ability to enjoy activities. It can also protect your health since good posture reduces the risk of falling and helps with breathing.

Here are some good ways to work on your posture to avoid age-related changes:

  • Stretch. Try doing some simple stretching exercises or enroll in a yoga class. Staying flexible helps prevent muscles from tightening and keeps you limber.
  • Sit up straight. While you're sitting, focus on engaging your core muscles. Don't thrust your head too far forward. You may have to move your TV or computer a bit closer to you.
  • Maintain a strength-training program. Strength training can address the muscle imbalances that lead to poor posture.
  • Improve your core strength. Pilates, yoga, and gentle calisthenics are great activities for core strength. Swimming is also good.
  • Talk to your doctor about supplements or medication. Vitamin D supplements and medications like bisphosphonates can help strengthen bones.

Aging Gracefully: You Have the Power

One of the most concise and popular aging quotes is from Frank Lloyd Wright, the famous architect: "The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes."

We are always here to help the older adults and their families in our community. If you have any questions or need help with resources, please contact us at 331-702-9975.

Excerpt Sourced from: https://www.greatseniorliving.com/articles/aging-gracefully

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