Age Well with WIHA

A newsletter from the Wisconsin Institute for Healthy Aging

Age Well with WIHA: May/June 2023

WIHA’s newsletter is published bi-monthly and sent by email. View the email newsletter online or read the full stories below. Don’t forget to subscribe!

What would you do with another 7.5?

Attitude is Everything. Changing perceptions about growing older leads to greater longevity.

Bob Simonson never thought much about what it would be like to be ‘old’.  “It was never on my mind,” said the retired teacher and cross-country ski enthusiast.  “I guess I had pretty good role models.  My aunts all lived well into their 90’s – one reached 104. They never slowed down much so I never really thought about aging as a negative.”  

For many people, aging is synonymous with decline and its little wonder. From anti-aging skin creams to insulting greeting cards, we’re bombarded with messages that both subtly and not-so-subtly tell us that aging is to be avoided.  However, research has proven that people with positive attitudes toward growing older actually live longer — a whopping 7.5 years longer! 

Not only do they live longer, but according to Becca Levy, PhD, a researcher at the Yale School of Public Health, they better recover from illness and injury, have better memory and brain performance, and feel a greater sense of control over their lives.  Not surprisingly, these people are also more likely to talk to a doctor about health problems, get preventive care such as blood pressure screenings and flu shots, and engage in health promotion programs.

“Attitude is everything,” says Kris Krasnowski, executive director of the Wisconsin Institute for Healthy Aging – a non-profit organization that offers evidence-based health promotion programs throughout Wisconsin.  “Feeling confident in your ability to take care of yourself is a key factor in whether people take steps to stay well and that’s where health promotion programs come in.”   

Now 89, Simonson maintains an active lifestyle – exercising daily, eating right, reading regularly, and socializing often.  He agrees that how you feel about aging is important. “There’s always something to look forward to,” says Simonson, “I feel like I can take care of myself no matter what my age.”   

Learn more about health promotion programs by visiting 

One Simple Move for Better Health

Would it surprise you to know that by doing one simple thing you can improve sleep, blood pressure, brain health, heart health, anxiety, weight, bone strength, and balance and coordination? Seems too good to be true, doesn’t it!? Well, it is true! And it’s easy! No pills! All it takes is a little movement.  

Physical activity – or movement – is one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health and longevity. 

Many people believe that as we grow older, we automatically decrease activity levels, lose strength, balance, and flexibility – in short, we’re simply not able to do the things we used to do. However, these “signs of aging” aren’t a symptom of getting older – they happen when we stop being as active as we used to be.  

While the old saying “use it or lose it!” is true — it’s also true that if you haven’t been physically active in a while or ever, it’s not too late to get started. Research shows that older adults can reverse muscle loss, bone loss, and balance loss with physical activity.   

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend older adults participate in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week, as well as 2 days of strength training and balance training. What is moderate-intensity? Working at a level 5-6 on a 10-point scale where 1 is sitting and resting and 10 is being chased by a bear and you’re moving as fast as possible. You should be able to say a full sentence without needing to take a breath. Walking is one of the best moderate-intensity exercises!  

Strength and balance training are especially important for older people. You should perform muscle-building activities 2 days per week to reach all major muscle groups. Older adults should do balance training as often as they can (3+ days per week). Read more about how much activity older adults need. The National Institutes for Health (NIH) provides some great information on how to get started.  

WIHA also has programs that are great for beginner-level people. Our Stand Up for Your Health program helps people get more light-intensity movement by sitting less throughout the day. Our Physical Activity for Lifelong Success (PALS) program is designed for beginner-level older adults and teaches people how to exercise safely and slowly increases activity so you’re meeting the physical activity guidelines by the end of the 10-week program. The Walk With Ease program is an easy walking program that helps people increase their walking time and teaches basic flexibility and strengthening exercises. Find a workshop near you

The Things We Don’t Talk About – But Should: Incontinence

It can happen without warning. A hearty laugh. A sneeze that sneaks up on you. Suddenly, you’re racing to the bathroom hoping to make it there in time. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, “over 25 million adults in the U.S. experience temporary or chronic urinary incontinence.”  While the condition affects both women and men, it is twice as common in women.  If you are having issues, you’re not alone. Talk with your health care provider about bladder control problems right away. They may recommend steps that you can take on your own to control your symptoms including managing your fluid intake and the foods you eat, watching your weight, and more.  

Fluid Intake: It may seem intuitive to drink less as a way to decrease your risk of an accident, but that’s not a good idea.  Not drinking enough fluid can irritate your bladder which can cause an increased urgency to have to urinate. How much fluid a person needs will vary however the National Association for Continence recommends that the right amount of water per day is 6-8 8-ounce glasses of water per day.  

Food & Drink: Certain foods and beverages may irritate your bladder causing you to rush to the bathroom.  Caffeine and alcohol are diuretics. Also, according to Johns Hopkins Women’s Center for Pelvic Health some other potential bladder irritants include citrus fruits and juices, chocolate, tomatoes, and artificial sweeteners. Limiting the intake of these drinks and foods may help reduce the urgency you feel to urinate.  

Weight: By losing weight, you may be able to lower the risk of leaking urine. Extra weight around the middle of your body puts pressure and extra stress on the pelvic floor muscles. If you are overweight, have a conversation with your health care provider on how to lose weight. 

Exercises: Pelvic floor muscle exercises, Kegel exercises, are exercises that strengthen the muscles that support the bladder. These exercises are beneficial for both men and women. Kegel exercises involve tightening and relaxing the muscles that control urine flow. To learn more about Kegel exercises, visit NIDDK ( 

Don’t let incontinence symptoms keep you from doing the things you love to do. Good habits such as drinking enough fluids, eating right, maintaining a healthy weight, and practicing pelvic floor exercises may help keep your bladder as healthy as possible. 

Featured Program: Mind Over Matter: Healthy Bowels, Healthy Bladder

Mind Over Matter (MOM) is an interactive and fun workshop designed to prevent or improve bladder and bowel symptoms.  A trained facilitator leads the 3-session (2 hours per session) workshop that meets every other week. Participants work together to set and meet personalized goals and create a feeling of self-confidence in their ability to avoid or reduce incontinence symptoms. 

Research: Mind Over Matter was researched and shown to improve bladder leakage symptoms in 71% and improve bowel leakage in 55% of participants. In addition, the program may decrease the reliance on incontinence-related products, medications, and even surgeries.   

Who is it for: Mind Over Matter was designed to help women over 50 build the skills and confidence they need to prevent or improve incontinence symptoms.  

How to participate: You can participate in Mind Over Matter in-person or virtually. Find a workshop near you. 

“Since taking Mind over Matter, my urine leakage problem is so much better. Thank you for helping.” 



MOM Logo Image

5 Steps to Reduce Your Risk of a Fall 

“It happened so quickly – one minute I was at the sink rinsing my coffee cup and the next, I’m on the floor with my dog Charlie looking at me apologetically as if to say ‘did I do that?’”.   

Falls become more common as we get older – that’s true. But it’s important to know that there are things you can do to reduce your risk of a fall. Falls can lead to injuries such as hip fractures or other broken bones, brain injuries, and more. Fewer falls mean fewer injuries, fewer trips to the emergency department and fewer hospitalizations!  

Remove falls hazards in your home: 
Did you know that most falls happen in your home? By making some simple changes you can make your home safer. Add nightlights to your bathroom and dark hallways. Install grab bars in your bathroom. Remove clutter on stairs and walkways and remove throw rugs and other tripping hazards. Be alert to your surroundings – especially pets underfoot like Charlie.  

Review your medications: 
Certain medications may affect your balance. Ask your health care provider or pharmacist to review your medications and supplements to see if they might increase your falls risk. Any time you get a new medication, or a new dosage, ask about interactions with your other medications and if they might increase your risk of a fall.  

Practice balance and strength exercises: 
Adding simple balance and strength exercises to your day can improve your stability and help you stay independent. Joining a group exercise class is another great way to stay active and meet new people, all while improving your strength and balance. Check out these simple strength and balance exercises here.  

Check your shoes and vision: 
Our vision changes as we age. Getting regular eye exams, at least once a year, can help catch vision changes. Just as we should check our vision regularly, we should also check our shoes! Replace shoes with worn tread. Wear shoes that provide good support to help you stay upright.  

Take an evidence-based falls prevention class: 
WIHA’s Stepping On program is proven to reduce falls by 31%! In Stepping On workshops, we take fall prevention step-by-step. You’ll learn how to build and maintain the physical strength and balance you need to walk confidently and learn how to decrease your risk of falling. Stepping On workshops are held once a week (one 2-hour session per week) for 7 weeks and are conducted by trained facilitators statewide.  

Learn more about preventing falls here

Find a Workshop

WIHA offers 14 different programs across the state to help you improve your knowledge and skills about caring for yourself as you age. Most programs are offered at low or no cost and are available either in-person, over the phone, or online. To find a program near you:

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