For centuries, our Elders have been held in a place of deep regard. They are culture bearers, holders of wisdom, traditions, stories and knowledge of how to live in harmony with each other and with the earth.
As you transition from middle age into Elderhood, think ahead to ways that will keep you healthy and engaged in life, no matter how old you are.
Taking care of your body
Eating a healthy diet and moving your body are natural ways to keep in good shape, even as you enter your 70s, 80s and beyond. If you can move it, do it! If you are faced with a disability or limitation, do what you can within your doctor’s guidelines. If you are perfectly healthy, continue to get regular checkups. This is when natural challenges due to aging (vision and hearing loss, bone loss) can be identified and addressed.
Taking care of your spirit
Staying positive and being active in your community and in your family is a proven way to feed your spirit and enjoy your elder years. Make new friends, play card games that make you laugh, watch a movie with a younger generation, dance and sing! Tackling a project is also a way to stay energized: try recording your stories or memories of the “good old days.”
You could learn new technology to do this on your own, or enlist the help of a friend or “youngster” to help you document cultural traditions, language or place names. Giving back to the community is another feel-good way to maintain an active lifestyle: become a guest speaker at your local school, volunteer at the library, crochet hats for babies – the options are as limitless as your imagination.
Aging in place
Many Elders want to grow old at home and live independently as long as they can. What is your living situation? There are ways to adapt your environment to meet your needs as you age. For example, if you live in a two-story home, you could consider a move to a one-story place, or adding a chair lift on the stairwell. You could add safety bars in the shower or bath area for stability, among other modifications that will make it possible to live at home safely and comfortably.
Medical care & care giving
Elders simply need more medical care as they age. Talk to your doctor about goals for healthy aging, and be sure you visit regularly to create a good history of what’s “normal” for you. That way you’ll see any anomalies early on. Talk to your doctor, and your children, ahead of time about any preferences you have about who will take care of you in the future if you need dedicated care.
Your community may offer programs ranging from meal delivery to senior centers where you can find more resources and caring staff. Seek them out and get to know your options. It can make a huge difference in your physical and emotional health to have these community supports.
Many articles in this section were adapted from WeRNative.org, a website for Native Youth by Native Youth