September is Healthy Aging Month, a subject which is always top of mind for clinical social worker Roxanne Cornell. “One of the best ways to maintain your physical health – including your mental acuity – as you age is to stay connected with active people,” Roxanne says.
Roxanne explains that studies have shown that when older people have close connections, they’re more likely to live longer, experience less depression and cope better with health conditions.
At 63, Roxanne knows this from personal experience. Last month, she participated in a YWCA women’s triathlon relay with her two nieces and more than 1,000 other women across multiple generations. The oldest triathlon participant was 85 years old.
“This is a great example of what we’re capable of when we buddy up with like-minded people,” Roxanne says. “I’m not saying you have to do a triathlon. I’m just encouraging you to seek out that wonderful energy – the comradery – that comes with being part of a physically and mentally active community.”
That was Roxanne’s inspiration for Vibrante Living, a home she owns and operates on Lake Nokomis where four like-minded women can live independently while living in community with one another.
“Connecting with others may extend your life,” Roxanne says. “At the very least, spending time with active people will help you stay active. It’s a lifestyle choice.”
Embrace your chance to live a longer life
Roxanne explains that when most of us think about retirement, including where we’re going to live and how we will fill our time, we don’t want that old paradigm of shutting down our lives.
“Baby boomers are leading the change,” Roxanne says. “Our parents weren’t necessarily focused on maintaining good physical health as they aged. But we are. We’re altering what it looks like to transition into the next 20 to 30 years of our lives.”
Roxanne is fascinated by studies of so-called “Blue Zones,” or hot spots where people are living longer than average without the typical age-related diseases. “These people move more than average. They have a sense of purpose. They support one another,” she says.
Roxanne has observed that more senior communities are focused on providing healthy meals and physical activities. They are marketing toward active baby boomers who are still biking, swimming and not satisfied with sitting still.
“When you’re alone in front of the TV or reading a book, you don’t have someone to bounce things off of,” Roxanne says. “We need others close enough to give us a reality check, to be our mirror when we’re starting to withdraw, to get us off the couch!”
Make a change today
If you’re ready to make a change, Roxanne suggests reaching out to communities and groups who enjoy the things you do. There are meet-up groups of all kinds, from biking and running to book clubs.
“It’s all about the interacting,” says Roxanne. “Joining a knitting group will help you stay connected with people. You’ll work on your small motor skills as you feed your mental health and keep your mind working on all cylinders.”
In addition to clubs, community activities and classes, Roxanne suggests adopting an older pet, taking daily walks to get to know neighbors and considering housing that offers opportunities to socialize with others.
Roxanne has attended yoga classes for the last 12 years. “These classes help nourish my sense of wellbeing and belonging,” she says. “The older women in my classes, including one woman in her 80s, are an inspiration!”