People are living longer and want to know how to live better.
A group of four NDSU graduate students recently took the latest research on healthy aging to residents at Bethany Retirement Living in Fargo. The students created a one-hour, interactive program to reinforce healthy habits and introduce new ways to remain mentally and physically fit.
Developmental science students Courage Mudzongo, Meagan Jones and Zhen Yang, and communications student Whitney Anderson used their knowledge of the Theory of Successful Aging to design the program. The theory highlights behaviors and adaptations that can maintain health as people age.
Heather Fuller-Iglesias, assistant professor of human development and family science at NDSU, said the program was important because it contradicts the more passive prevailing model that focuses on treating illnesses later in life. The students highlighted research that promotes active ways to live a happy, healthy life.
Mudzongo addressed the factors that contribute to healthy cognitive aging: physical movement, good nutrition, cognitive engagement and social interaction. He introduced the online brain-training website, lumosity.com, as a resource for remaining mentally sharp. The website was developed by neuroscientists to help people live healthier by exercising their minds.
Jones covered how emotions affect older adults and how something as simple as music can alter mood. She asked people to close their eyes and listen to an upbeat song by Benny Goodman. Jones also played the music video for the song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams before asking everyone how they felt. Perhaps not surprisingly, happy was the consensus.
Yang discussed the importance of physical movement and exercise. She asked the residents to join her in tai chi movements. Tai chi is a traditional Chinese exercise that uses constant, slow movements to increase or maintain strength, flexibility and fitness.
Anderson discussed nutrition and ways to maintain a healthy diet. She brought samples of an easy-to-make snack that has nutrients that are especially important for older adults.
After the presentation, a resident approached Fuller-Iglesias. “Thank you very much,” he said. “I really appreciate it. I learned a lot. I see that I’m doing a lot of things right. There are a few things that need improvement. But for 91-years-old, I must be doing all right.”
The man’s feedback and comments from other residents sparked Fuller-Iglesias’s interest in developing long-term education outreach programming for the age group.
“I think these students did an excellent job,” Fuller-Iglesias said. “They learned as students, they taught people about new and exciting research, and they engaged in outreach in the community. Doing all of those things gave them a more complete educational experience.”