Many of us get into daily routines which do not include activities that give us an improved sense of life satisfaction. Occupational Therapy professors at the University of Southern California (USC) have found that small, healthy lifestyle changes, coupled with involvement in meaningful activities, are critical to healthy aging. It is important that we identify and pursue our individual passions and interests – and build our daily lives around those activities to create fuller, richer lives.

Visiting a museum, volunteering to read to children in an elementary school, taking a nature walk with a friend, going to a free lecture at a senior center or university, volunteering at a soup kitchen, taking a painting class, and many other enriching activities can lower rates of depression and improve one’s satisfaction with life. Here in the desert, we are blessed with beautiful year-round weather that is ideal for all forms of outdoor activity. Our community is also rich with educational and volunteer opportunities that enable everyone to get involved.

A blend of leisure activities and hobbies, coupled with physical, social and mentally stimulating activities enhances a person’s sense of well being. This balance is what we should all strive for in the name of prevention and wellness.

Florence Clark, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, professor and associate dean of the Division of Occupational Science at USC and president of the American Occupational Therapy Association, states that “making positive changes in how we live each day, and sustaining those changes over the long term, is critical for maintaining independence and healthy aging.”

Older Americans also bring a lifetime of skills and experience that can be tapped to meet community challenges. Senior Corps, a National Volunteer organization, offers a powerful way to link seniors to meaningful opportunities to make a difference. Dr. Erwin Tan, director of Seniors Corps at the Corporation for National and Community Service states, “As the 78 million-strong Baby Boomer generation looks for ways to give back to their communities, our Senior Corps program engages older Americans in solving problems and serving those most in need, making senior service a vital investment for our nation now and into the future.”

“Along with delivering enormous social and economic benefit to communities nationwide, volunteer service also allows older Americans to remain active and healthy, an outcome that is critical as our nation strives to lower health care costs in times of budget constraints,” adds Tan.

You have so much to give! Try adding one healthy and positive change to your routine each week. You’ll be surprised at the joy it adds to your life and the healthier lifestyle it creates!

Betsy Rosen is a licensed and registered Occupational Therapist with over 25 years of industry experience. She also has a certification in Accessibility Consultation, Home Modifications and Assistive Technology, and Strategies to Advance Gerontology Excellence. She can be reached at [email protected] or 760-913-7233.

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