Successful Aging: Staying Independent With Macular Degeneration
Last updated: May 2023
One of the most frightening aspects of living life with macular degeneration is the threat of our independence being stolen away. Absolutely, injections directly into the eye can truly feel terrifying along with so many other aspects of this disease.
But, for many of us, such a life-altering diagnosis sparks a real fear about what will happen in the future. This fear suddenly becomes the forefront of our concerns and we begin to wonder about things that we never thought we’d have to wonder about…
Will I still be able to see my loved one’s faces? Will I still be able to drive? Will I be able to write or read? How will I cook for myself? Or shop for myself? Will I be able to live by myself?
What is aging successfully?
According to the Rowe and Kahn model of successful aging, “Healthy aging is not merely the absence of disease or disability, but requires physical and mental health and ongoing social engagement.”1
This 1997 model continues to be the most well-known and widely used model for aging successfully. It highlights three main factors of successful aging: avoiding disease and disability, high cognitive and physical function, and engagement with life.1
Welp, if you’re here reading this article, there’s a good chance that you’re already dealing with some form of disability with the disease diagnosis of macular degeneration. Besides that, many of our community members here at maculardegeneration.net are over the age of 65.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that among adults aged 65 and older, 80% have at least one chronic condition. And, the National Alliance for Caregiving adds that one in three adults of the same age experience limitations in their daily activities such as eating, bathing, and driving. This can really feel like an uphill ‘healthy aging’ battle against independence. Am I right?2 3
Tips for aging with macular degeneration
Deep breaths, friends. Independence is still possible for us all! For some reason, the things we can’t do in regards to macular degeneration seem to speak more loudly than the things we can do. For example, we hear, “We can’t restore lost vision,” or, “There is no cure for macular degeneration.” Those things scream at us!
But, what we CAN do is what’s important when trying to move forward; that’s where I choose to focus my time and energy. I’m here to show you how to focus on aging successfully and staying independent - despite our difficult diagnosis. In your face, macular degeneration!
Living a healthy lifestyle
What we choose to do with our time matters significantly. If we choose to find ways to stay independent and take care of our whole bodies; mind, body, and eyes… we have a much greater chance of staying independent and aging successfully.
The importance of physical health among the aging
According to the CDC, people who are obese, compared to those of a healthy weight are at increased risk for many serious diseases and health conditions including:2
- All-causes of deathHigh blood pressure
- High LDL cholesterol or low HDL cholesterol
- Type 2 diabetes
- Coronary heart disease
- Gallbladder disease
- Sleep apnea and breathing problems
- Low quality of life
- Mental illness such as clinical depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders
- Body pain and difficulty with physical functioning
Exercising isn’t just about losing weight, especially for those of us with macular degeneration. Including exercise in our normal daily lives does help keep our weight down, and in return keeps more pressure off of our fragile retinas. But, it does so much more than that for us.
Without exercise, our bodies don’t release the hormones necessary for proper nutrient absorption. Why choke down those vitamins with breakfast and eat that salad for lunch every day if your body isn’t able to process it properly? Our aging bodies need exercise to help us stay healthy and keep other age-related diseases at bay.
The importance of mental health among the aging
Are you ready for a hard truth? Vision loss is a lot more complicated than just a loss of vision.
When dealing with MD, We. Must. Take. Care. Of. Our. Emotions. It’s virtually impossible to move forward from this in peace if we don’t, friends. This diagnosis doesn't just deliver vision loss; it delivers grief, fear, worry, anger, anxiety, and hopelessness as well.
I could go on and on about these certainly special deliveries. They pose just as much threat to our health as our diagnosis does to our sight! Taking care of your emotional well-being is so very important. It’s so important that it’s a major part of the go-to successful aging model.
Wondering how to take care of your mental health needs? Click here.
Staying connected to others is another important piece of the successful aging puzzle. In a recent article I wrote titled 'Managing Loneliness and Macular Degeneration', I explained the importance of staying connected to others as we age. Having a sense of purpose not only helps us continue to live independently but also boosts our emotions and overall sense of well-being.
Knowing how to care for our whole bodies is important to those of us who are aging and battling a diagnosis of macular degeneration. With proactive lifestyle choices, we CAN stay healthy, stay independent, and even feel peaceful and happy… macular degeneration diagnosis or not.
True or False: "I've found a regimen that works for me with dry AMD."