What is quality of life? More than 3,400 older adults spread over 11 different countries were asked what they considered to affect their quality of life. The sample identified five major categories that they considered to be the greatest impact on their quality of life: autonomy, role and activity, health perception, relationships, and financial security.
This was the number one response. Think about all the things you do today that you don’t usually give a second thought to, like walking to the mailbox, putting laundry detergent in an overhead cabinet, going to the bathroom on your own, showering on your own, standing up from a recliner without assistance … the list goes on and on. People do not want to be a burden on their loved ones and maintain their dignity. So, what can you do to maintain your independence? Strength training! Skeletal muscle decreases as we age. Resistance training has been found to improve muscular fitness and functional performance, even in aging populations. It’s never too late to start.
Role and Activity
This refers to the ability to do the activities you enjoy doing. That’s what life is all about, right? Doing what you love. What do you love to do? Spending time with loved ones, creating art, working, learning … the list goes on. How many of these activities require strength, endurance, or mobility? The activities we enjoy change as we age but is that because we lose the ability to do the things we used to enjoy or because we genuinely change our interests as we age? Exercise increases not only sport performance, but also performance of activities of daily living. Specifically, exercise has been shown to decrease the likelihood of falls in older adults.
Perception of Health
People with fewer symptoms tend to perceive their health in a more positive way. Interestingly, older adults with few symptoms tend to perceive their health more positively than younger adults. Is this because the older adults are more grateful and appreciative of their health? Are they more educated? Why is your perception of health important to the quality of life? Health complications tend to add a lot of pain, stress, financial hardship, and anxiety to your life. Perceiving yourself as healthy means you’re most likely not experiencing too many negative symptoms and as a result, living a more relaxed and pain-free life.
Humans are inherently social creatures. The need for meaningful relationships is crucial to quality of life. Building relationships with friends and family results in better health and can add years to your life. Our social circles tend to shrink as we age, but they become increasingly important. Maintaining these relationships and creating new relationships is key to increased perceived health, social support, and managing disease conditions. Most of these benefits come from the emotional impact of having strong positive relationships.
Financial stress greatly affects quality of life. Not being able to afford medication, treatment, or pain management that often comes with advanced age can be incredibly stressful. Living on an income that may be less than previous income, and being responsible for increased healthcare costs that are associated with an advanced age, add up a lot of financial stress. Now think about trying to afford hobbies you enjoy, vacations with family, and everything else you find important when considering a high-quality life. Therefore, setting yourself up with a solid retirement plan early is important in avoiding the stress of being financially insecure, especially in older age.
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