Aging. We all work to slow it down, avoid it or reverse it, but there is no getting around it. Typically, aging is referred to as a period of declining physical health and cognitive decline, so no wonder there is such ambivalence about getting older. People in the U.S. are living longer than ever before. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about one-fifth of employed workers are at least 55 years old. As corporate benefit programs expand their focus to overall employee well-being, we can learn a lot about preserving health by considering healthy aging. Well-being involves a more holistic approach to wellness by touching on additional aspects of individuals beyond the mere physical to include emotional, mental and spiritual well-being.
Well-Being improves as people age.
Comprehensive research is changing our perspective on aging by showing that people actually enjoy greater well-being as they mature! Psychological well-being includes life satisfaction, feelings of happiness and purpose or meaning in life. Sure as people age, there is a decline in physical health. Exercise, healthy diet and proper preventive medical care can help one “age well”. Consider what other factors contribute to well-being such as resilience, absence of depression and greater optimism.
A Successful Aging Evaluation study from researchers from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Stanford University found that people with high resilience, even if they had low physical functioning, had higher self-ratings of successful aging. While more research on interventions to enhance resilience are still needed, it is evident that increasing resilience and reducing stress enhances overall body and mind functioning for healthy aging.
Why does emotional well-being improve with age?
In the most fundamental ways, emotional functioning changes little with age. Personality traits also remain largely stable. As a person ages they collect more experiences. Experienced emotions triggered from negative life events such as disappointment, loss of relationships, financial hardships become more predictable. The social and emotional ups and downs of life happening less often, but negative emotions can become less frequent as resilience builds over time.
How can corporate wellness programs promote successful aging?
- Reduce depression. Depression does not have to be a natural part of aging. Promote EAP programs and offer stress management and mindful meditation.
- Manage stress. A study from the Journal of Gerontology found that adults who reported greater work stress in midlife were more likely to show disabilities and physical difficulties in older age.
- Encourage volunteer programs. Volunteering just one day a month gives life a greater sense of purpose. * Volunteering helps form new relationships with and strengthens community and feelings of self-worth.
- Support annual exams and preventive visits. A personalized prevention plan to prevent disease and disability based on current health and risk factors.
- View aging from a new perspective. Learning to accept the natural changes that occur with getting older as an opportunity focus on what is important to us and get happier and healthier with age.