The relationships between aging and illness are sometimes subtle, but a positive attitude can go a long way toward good health in seniors according to Renette Wardlow, human development specialist, University of Missouri Extension.

“The aging process makes older people more susceptible to disease and more vulnerable to physical and mental stress,” said Wardlow.

But unlike illness, aging is a natural part of life. It cannot be avoided but the effects can often be delayed or softened.

“Remaining active can ensure happiness in later life and a positive attitude is important. People can develop that attitude by getting out and by being active, by forcing themselves to seize opportunities by practicing the keys to adapting,” Wardlow said.

Happiness and good health go hand-in-hand.

“Emotional health is a key ingredient to longevity. It’s not known precisely why the organs of the body begin to function less efficiently with age, but it shouldn’t color all thought and action,” said Wardlow.

Often, when someone is forced into retirement, the person begins to feel that all kinds of activity are things of the past. That precipitates thinking and acting old.

“Probably more people worry about a decline in their intellectual abilities than about any other sort of decline,” said Wardlow. “Intellectual ability is impaired chiefly when the circulation of blood to the brain is lowered to the point that the brain is deprived of oxygen.”

Another factor can be dangerously low vitamin reserve. Plus, with some older people, there may be a decrease in motivation or interest and a narrowing of the outlook which makes it appear there has been some decline in their intellectual ability.

“Some older people find themselves moving in an unhappy circle after retirement. Frustration frequently leads to depression, depression to loss of appetite, lost appetite to improper diet, improper diet to illness and illness to further depression,” said Wardlow.

For more information, contact any of MU Extension’s human development specialists in southwest Missouri: Renette Wardlow in Christian County at (417) 581-3558, Dr. Jim Wirth in Taney County at (417) 546-4431, or Angie Fletcher in Texas County at (417) 967-4545.