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To 100 and Beyond

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A guide to getting mom or dad there happily.

When it comes to helping your parent remain happy and healthy until the age of 100 or older, there is a growing number of individuals from whom to seek personal advice about how to reach this impressive milestone. Genetics are certainly a factor, but the so-called secrets to success vary broadly. Centenarians, doctors and scientists agree lifestyle is a major factor in long-term health and happiness. These are the most important areas you can help steer to ensure your parent or loved one is happy and healthy as long as possible:

Keep moving

Encourage your parent to move every day. Exercising the body helps loved ones continue to do the things they enjoy and remain independent as they age. This does not require running or racking up hundreds of miles on a bike in order to be effective. Many recreation centers offer water aerobics classes, strength training or yoga that may suit your parent’s interests, or a brisk walk around the neighborhood or simply raking the lawn could suffice.

The most important thing is to do an activity that is enjoyable every day. Exercise and activity help maintain a healthy weight, flexibility and can help treat or prevent chronic diseases common in old age such as hypertension or arthritis.

Dr. Debra A. Fleischman of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago recently completed a study further suggesting physical activity can even guard motor abilities against the effects of normal age-related brain damage.

“This underscores the importance of a more active lifestyle in older people to prevent movement problems,” said Fleischman.

Eat and drink well

What Mom puts in her body matters. Harvard Health Publications suggests encouraging your loved one to eat a diet of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and lean protein to help prolong good health into old age.

Drinking enough liquids also helps the body continue to work properly. Older adults often don’t feel thirsty even when their bodies need more liquid, so it is important to be mindful of fluid intake. While water is ideal, other drinks without added sugar are good ways to boost hydration, such as 100 percent juice or low-fat milk. Foods with high moisture content work as well, like broth-based soups, vegetables and fruit. Alcohol should be avoided or consumed in moderation.

Stay connected and challenged

The health benefits of social interaction include reduced risk for mental health issues like depression and potential reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease, high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems. As adults age, it is common to feel less useful and lonely, so encourage your parent to find new ways to stay engaged in the community. This may include acts of kindness for others or a meaningful volunteer role.

Mental stimulation throughout life is important for brain health according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Help your parent keep his mind active by playing challenging games, learning new skills and doing other activities that require an engaged mind.