Aging successfully in the Brazos Valley

As part of Older Americans Month, Center for Population Health and Aging staff and local community partners share tips for promoting healthy aging
May 10, 2021

Every May the Administration for Community Living (ACL) leads the observance of Older Americans Month. This year, the national organization has set the theme of “Communities of Strength.”

According to ACL, “Older adults have built resilience and strength over their lives through successes, failures, joys and difficulties. Their stories and contributions help to support and inspire others. This Older Americans Month, we will celebrate the strength of older adults and the Aging Network, with special emphasis on the power of connection and engagement in building strong communities.”

Community partners serving older adults, as well as faculty and staff members of the Texas A&M Center for Population Health and Aging, share how older adults can benefit from and contribute to healthy aging in the Brazos Valley area of Texas (where Texas A&M University is located) and make our area a “Community of Strength.”

Q: What does successful aging look like to you?

“Successful aging is courageously facing the many physical, mental and emotional changes that are part of this life season with acceptance and dignity,” said Ninfa Peña-Purcell, PhD, MCHES, a research scientist with the center. “While the aging process is unique to each person, there are definable differences between someone in their sunset years and younger persons. Some of these differences are more pronounced than others, such as physical appearance and how the body functions. Yet, in spite of these changes, the older person faces these challenges in positive, healthy ways and adapts gracefully.”

She added, “A person who successfully ages is intentional to find new interests or hobbies, maintain an active social life, seek altruistic endeavors, engage in a physical activity, and boldly embrace their older years with a positive attitude. Aging is a natural life course, but with successful aging it is also a time to leave a legacy that your life matters to the world and others. Successful aging is leaving a lasting imprint that the person’s life was well-lived and a testimony of their legacy.”

Michele Buenger, RN, BSN, health and wellness coach, Certified Senior Advisor® and senior advocate for MatureWell Lifestyle Center, said successful aging is “being able to adapt to what life brings.” She added, “Successful aging occurs when the individual invests in lifestyle modifications in order to maximize health and wellness outcomes—not only physically, but mentally, spiritually and socially. It is an active, engaging process.”

MatureWell provides the opportunity for older adults to exercise safely, gather socially and engage in education and learning that empowers them to be their best self-advocates, while partnering with others for support.

“Successful aging will be unique for everyone, but the commonality is optimizing health, independence and well-being at every age,” said Center for Population Health and Aging Founding Director Marcia G. Ory, PhD, MPH. “That’s why the center’s motto is active for life—everyone, every age, every day,”

Q: How do you think the Brazos Valley community allows older adults to age in place?

“There are multiple resources that emphasize aging in place in the Brazos Valley,” said Wendy Creighton, RN, BSN, a registered nurse with the center. “A few are Home Instead Senior Care, Visiting Angels and Right at Home. The Brazos Valley Area Agency on Aging is also a wonderful resource to assist with aging resources in the community. I also appreciate the Sunday radio show on WTAW called ‘Brazos Wellness.’ This resource highlights a different topic each week on how to manage life as we age.”

“I used to be a part of the Brazos Valley Pickleball Association, and I loved learning from and playing with the older adults from the community,”Sayah Lee, center research assistant said. “I think such opportunities enable older adults to stay physically and socially active, which are essential to healthy aging and aging in place.”

Q: What can the Brazos Valley community do to help promote healthy aging in our community?

“We need to be continually reminded that healthy living decreases the need for medical assistance and promotes more opportunities to live longer more productive lives,” said Bea Houser with The Bridge Ministries. “I think if we ‘celebrate’ the senior and keep them in the forefront of our news and advertising we would promote healthy living naturally.”

The Bridge Ministries is a Food Pantry that provides nutritious foods to those in need. Many times, older adults choose food items that are not as healthy as their bodies need because of cost. Therefore, the Bridge provides basic pantry supplies along with meat, cheese, eggs and fresh produce. Their mission is to feed families in need; often, senior adults are the most in need.

“There needs to be increased focus and awareness surrounding the impact and value of lifestyle modification as a viable and necessary tool in the individuals’ quest for enhanced health and wellness,” Buenger said.

“We are still living in a unique time. Social interactions still may be quite limited for a number of people, especially older adults,” said Keri Carpenter, MPH, RDN, a registered dietitian with the center. “I believe the Brazos Valley community could encourage virtual and socially distanced communities to impact the burden of social isolation and loneliness at this time. How are we creating a sense of community for those who may not be able to engage in their physical community like they did in 2019?”

Ory calls on individuals and the community to get involved this month sharing and promoting positive messages for Older Americans Month. “Change perceptions of aging, dispel stereotypic views of aging. Provide opportunities for safe places to be physically active, provide access to healthy foods, find ways to identify older adults who are socially isolated/lonely and refer to appropriate services.”

— Lauren Rouse

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