For the past several months I have been writing about the concept of “Successful Aging”, beginning with a brief overview of 9 “Habits of Successful Aging”. My subsequent posts have described and explained these habits in greater detail and suggested some avenues and options to more successfully include them in your lifestyle. This post's topic for discussion is "Be Self-Vigilant".

Check in with yourself

Being self vigilant about your overall physical, mental and medical condition involves conducting your very own personal “Wellness Audit”. This completes your “Circle of Wellness” by serving as a natural complement to all the Components of Successful Aging we have talked about so far, and will continue to talk about. Being self vigilant means asking yourself questions (e.g. “How do I feel?”), listening to the answers, and taking action where necessary.

Regular physical self-checks are an important part of self vigilance. While taking a shower or bath, for example, feel for any unusual lumps, bumps or skin discolorations. Ask yourself “How does this feel – how is it supposed to feel?", "How does this look – how is it supposed to look?" There are a number of websites that can show you how to do this, as well as what to do if you do find something. Check out WebMD for example - an excellent source of valid and reliable information on health and wellness.

Being self vigilant also involves establishing a good relationship with your physician. A regular ‘physical’ is a good opportunity for discussion. It can also provide the chance to follow up with him/her if your self-checks reveal something for which you feel you need more information.

A typical ‘physical’ will focus predominantly on medical issues – blood pressure, medications etc. – and will provide essential information for your “wellness audit”. Adding a more functionally oriented assessment will broaden your self-awareness, and for this you would need to visit a physical therapy or rehab clinic. A small number of highly progressive clinics specialize in older adults and provide a more behavioral ‘wellness-oriented’ approach to treatment. Some of these clinics (e.g. ActiveRx Rehabilitation) offer ‘walk in’ services that include a comprehensive functional assessment for gait, balance, strength, flexibility, and coordination. Assessments such as these are highly predictive of future disability for older adults and can also reveal risk factors for catastrophic life events such as falls. Once these factors are identified they can be addressed either with an appropriate therapeutic approach and/or a lifestyle change program that would develop healthy habits as well as improve physical function, independence and quality of life. Successful Aging is all about pursuing an active, healthy and meaningful lifestyle. Being self-vigilant is an essential, though often underestimated, aspect of this.

Check in with yourself : do something about your future before your future does something about you!

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