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Wellness and healthy aging just go hand in hand. Over the past decade, experts have gotten savvy on the role that whole body wellness plays when it comes to living well into our later years.

“Healthy aging means more than just keeping in good physical shape,” says Mary Scott Russell, Director of Community Relations of East Ridge at Cutler Bay, Miami-Dade County’s only true Life Plan Community. “Our bodies are complex and complicated machines, and focusing on each distinct aspect of wellness creates a result that’s greater than the sum of its parts.”

Much of this approach comes from continued research into how every aspect of our body plays into wellness and aging overall. “There’s so much we still have to learn about the mind-spirit-body connection and how it translates into overall health,” Mary says.

The Eight Dimensions of Wellness

In 1976, Dr. Bill Hettler – the co-founder of the National Wellness Institute – developed the idea of a six-dimensional model of wellness. He stated in his hypothesis that in order to lead a vital, fulfilling, well rounded and balanced life, certain lifestyle dimensions need to be met. When one or more dimensions is missing or falls short, the imbalance sets off an effect that throws off the entire equilibrium to one’s life.

The dimensions listed by Hettler at that time were physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, social and environmental. In 2012 the University Health Service at University of Michigan developed an eight-dimensional model that added vocational and financial to the picture. At East Ridge, the financial dimension has been replaced with health services.

“As Miami-Dade County’s only true Life Plan Community, we are providing financial wellness because our system is such that we protect our residents from increasing healthcare costs, no matter what they may need in the future,” she says. “We also provide peace of mind, because no matter what, our residents will always have a home with us, even if their financial situation changes through no fault of their own.”

How East Edge Is Redefining Wellness and Healthy Aging

“Our Vitality Program incorporates the eight dimensions of wellness to maintain the highest quality of life for our residents,” says Mary. Here are just a few examples of how East Ridge’s approach makes every day as healthy as possible for seniors of all ages and stages.

1. Physical: We have a full-time wellness coordinator on staff, whose goal is to improve residents’ quality of life, working with each person’s ability level.
2. Social: We foster relationships through activities such as birthday nights, travel club, movie nights, theatre, shopping trips and musical concerts.
3. Intellectual: Our book club, library lectures and expert guest speakers encourage residents to solve problems, think creatively and stay challenged mentally.
4. Vocational: Volunteer opportunities, woodshop, ceramics and the Village Crafters enable you to share knowledge, experience and wisdom.
5. Spiritual: Maintain a connection with inner values while finding peace and purpose in life. Opportunities include religious services, nature discussions, chapel and musical programs.
6. Emotional: Maintain a positive outlook, be happy, and feel good about yourself and others. Experience all this through our poetry groups, arts and crafts, and lectures.
7. Environmental: Preserve our land and care about our environment. Our 76 acres of green spaces and open areas are a great place to put this dimension into practice.
8. Health services: Enjoy peace of mind in knowing on-site assisted living, memory support, skilled nursing, rehabilitation and on-campus in-residence health care are all available to you through LifeCare at East Ridge.

Healthy Aging Tips from East Ridge at Cutler Bay

Eat a healthy diet. As we age, it’s more important than ever to get proper nutrition. After all, you are what you eat! Choose a diet that’s high in vegetables and fruits, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats. Avoid items that are high in salt, added sugars or fatty cuts of meat. Rescue the amount of alcohol you drink, and be sure to stay hydrated with water. Not only will your body thank you, but you’ll also be amazed at how good you feel after a few weeks of eating right.

Get moving. Experts suggest approximately 2.5 hours of moderate aerobic activity per week, which translates to about 30 minutes per day. You don’t necessarily have to do it all at once, either – which is great news for couch potatoes who may not feel up to running a marathon just yet. Even something as simple as a nightly walk around the block can do wonders for your metabolism, your mind and your physical health.

Visit your doctor regularly. It’s the whole “stitch in time saves nine” scenario. By staying on top of your medications and doing regular wellness visits (regular eye checkups, physicals, dental cleanings, etc.), you can stave off large health problems, or catch and fix something small before it turns into something more serious.

Keep your brain active. We’re finding more and more that a healthy brain is a key tenant of aging well. Exercising your brain through things like puzzles and mind games can help stave off cognitive decline and perhaps present the onset of dementias like Alzheimer’s disease. It’s also important to “exercise” your brain by doing things that you enjoy (such as a favorite hobby) and staying socially active (such as making new friends or staying in touch with old ones).

Cultivate a positive attitude. All these tips can naturally help boost moods and produce chemicals in our brain that reduce stress and improve our outlook. This is good news, because having a more positive outlook has been proven to help improve longevity and even reduce the risk of health issues like strokes, heart attacks and others. If you’re not naturally an optimist, there are things you can do to help “jump-start” a positive attitude, such as practicing yoga, being mindful and present and using mental techniques to change the negative channels in your brain. It won’t happen overnight, but with practice, you can definitely have a sunnier view on life.

About East Ridge at Cutler Bay

East Ridge at Cutler Bay is Miami-Dade County’s only true Life Plan Community. The not-for-profit community draws from the neighborhood charm of suburban Cutler Bay and the vibrancy of Miami in a lush tropical setting of 76 acres, located at 19301 SW 87th Avenue. The community offers a continuum of care including independent and assisted living apartment homes in a neighborhood setting, respite and skilled nursing care, and rehabilitation services available within Three Palms Health Center.

For more information or to schedule a tour, please call 305-256-3564.