Outlook, being around others can determine quality of life for seniors

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Local senior centers, extension expert share their outlook on the subject

According to University of Missouri Extension Human Development Specialist Renette Wardlow, a positive attitude can work wonders in promoting good physical and emotional health in seniors, proving that happiness and health really do go hand-in-hand.

"The aging process makes older people more susceptible to disease and more vulnerable to physical and mental stress," Wardlow said. "Emotional health is a key ingredient to longevity. It's not known precisely why the organs of the body begin to function less efficiently with age, but it shouldn't color all thought and action."

While aging is just part of life and can't be avoided, attitude can be controlled and can determine quality of life in seniors.

"Remaining active can ensure happiness in later life and a positive attitude is important," Wardlow said. "People can develop that attitude by getting out and being active, by forcing themselves to seize opportunities by practicing the keys to adapting."

"I think if you're upbeat and stay positive, your outlook is better, and being social also helps a lot," said Cristina Atwood, center administrator for the Cassville Senior Center. "If you're isolated, it leads to a poor outlook and so the more social seniors are, the more happy and better outlook they have, and that leads to better health, in my opinion."

Atwood added that, along with attitude, diet, adequate fluid intake, exercise, as seniors are able to, and staying active are also important ingredients to maintaining good health.

"A lot of our volunteers are seniors," she said.

Sara Patterson, center administrator at the Shell Knob Central Crossing Center, has also observed the benefits of staying active in seniors.

"The more active a person is, the better they are," Patterson said. "They do what they can physically. I have a gentleman in a wheelchair who is blind who comes down because he wants to try to walk with a cane. So I have a volunteer who follows behind him. As long as they try to do what they can, staying active is the best thing in the world for them. The seniors see other people who aren't as active, and don't want to be in a nursing home. They fight to stay in their home."

Patterson said being social is also extremely important to good health for seniors.

"What I've noticed is that the people who don't sit home and think about their arthritis and aches and pains, and get out and be with people -- and it's people that make them healthier -- do best," she said. "They can play cards here, work out in the fitness center, go to the library, or play games that keep their mind sharp.

"I think if a person sits home and feels sorry for themselves, they get depressed, but if they come out here and just get around other people, they're talking and laughing and joking, so they don't have time to get depressed because they're too busy being with other people."

"If seniors can get up and come in here, there are people to talk to, and just making it here, gives them a boost," said Janet Horine, volunteer at the Central Crossing center, who works about 20 hours a week greeting people and working in the office, and herself a senior. "As a senior, I get a big boost myself coming in here and as a volunteer, I get one from seeing the people who come in."

Horine agrees that staying active is key.

"Most of the time, because you're up moving, it gives you a good attitude," she said. "It's when you sit and do nothing, that you become depressed. That's about the worst thing you can do. Staying active can be working in your garden, volunteering some place, even reading books and working on puzzles to keep the mind going as well. If you can keep your mind going, that improves your attitude as well. Sitting there watching TV is not what will keep you going. Being active is the best thing for seniors."

According to Wardlow, retirement equating to decreasing or non-activity is not good for seniors, and only promotes aging and poor health.

"Often, when someone is forced into retirement, the person begins to feel that all kinds of activity are things of the past," she said. "That precipitates thinking and acting old. Probably more people worry about a decline in their intellectual abilities than any other sort of decline.

"Some older people find themselves moving in an unhappy circle after retirement. Frustration frequently leads to depression, depression to loss of appetite, lost appetite to improper diet, improper diet to illness, and illness to further depression."

For more information or resources, people may visit the extension website at http://extension.missouri.edu, or call the Cassville Senior Center at 417-847-0131, or the Central Crossing center at 417-858-6952.

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