The holidays can prove a challenging time for anyone to keep up healthy habits. Regardless of your age, religion, or customs, the end of the year usually spells indulgence. Thankfully, the New Year presents the perfect opportunity to get things back on track. This is especially important for seniors, who must take extra care to ensure that their diet and lifestyle choices are working in their best interests.
Seniors often have health needs that exceed those of their younger counterparts. When we’re older, we’re more prone to chronic illnesses that require constant management, and we often have more frequent doctor’s checkups, more medications, and more health-related concerns to juggle. But good, healthy habits go a long way. And while healthier adults tend to become healthier seniors, it’s never too late to take charge of your life by establishing preventative practices that put your wellness center stage. Here are five ways to start:
A healthy diet goes a long way to protect us against chronic illnesses, and shield us from daily nuisances like constipation, diarrhea, and other conditions that can lead to bigger problems over time. Our digestive system slows with age and we also become more prone to dehydration. As such, it’s incredibly important for seniors to drink plenty of water and eat a high-fiber diet, flush with fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, to stay ahead of the game. The saying you are what you eat is true, and apples tend to last much longer than cheeseburgers. The world’s centenarians have something in common: they eat a largely plant-based diet (especially beans) and limit meat consumption. They also eat their smallest meal of the day in the late afternoon or evening. If you’re in an eldercare facility, ensure that such options are available. The Allure Group’s centers serve kosher and other religious or culturally geared menus, which are crafted while keeping balanced nutrition top-of-mind.
Focus on Prevention
Health insurance companies have finally embraced the idea that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Seniors should take advantage of the fact that, given this shift, preventative care is easier to attain than ever before. Insurance plans (including Medicare) happily cover frequent well-checks, as well as health screenings for cholesterol levels, various cancers, heart problems, and other issues. During the first 12 months on Medicare, seniors are offered free physicals. After that first year, they receive free annual wellness visits. Regular visits to the doctor can also help with medication management, ensuring that a professional is monitoring possible drug interactions, side effects, or other symptoms resultant from starting or stopping medications. It’s also important to make sure that you’re up to date on vision and dental appointments. Updating eyeglass prescriptions can prevent accidents like falls or driving-related injuries. And because our risk for cavities increases with age, seniors should visit their dentist every six months. After all, mouth infections have been linked to other serious health conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
Sleep gives the body the time it needs to heal. Unfortunately, seniors are more prone to frequent waking and insomnia, disrupting our body’s efforts to fight disease. Ensure that you get the best sleep possible by keeping your room comfortable and quiet. Going to bed and rising at the same time every day (and resisting mid-afternoon naps) also helps regulate sleep patterns. You might also consider adopting a nighttime routine that relaxes you. This should involve turning off the TV early and avoiding other activities that could inadvertently stimulate the brain. A routine might involve listening to soothing music before bedtime, meditating, or drinking chamomile tea. Pick a routine that works for you and stick with it. The body responds to habits, and once it learns that sleep follows your nightly meditation, it will listen. Also be sure to empty your bowels right before bedtime and, if tea is a part of your ritual, limit your intake so that you’re not waking up to urinate. If soothing rituals aren’t enough, consider trying other options. Certain essential oils are used in aromatherapy to relax the body, and it might be worth integrating these into your routine. Likewise, there are plenty of other natural sleep aids available on the market, including sleep masks, gravity blankets, white noise machines, and much, much more.
Socialization helps seniors feel connected. Whether you decide to spend more time with your family, or you pledge to get out more with friends, these relationships can energize you, making them beneficial to your physical and mental well-being. This is especially important if you have mobility issues, as friends and family can help you spend more time doing the things you love. Relationships help us stay in touch with our inner child, connecting us to the source of wonder and play that keeps us young. So much of our wellness stems directly from our minds. Feed yours with plenty of companionship and stimulation. And on days when you can’t be social, keep your mind active with crossword puzzles, hobbies, or other brain-boosting activities. In fact, the best way to keep your brain sharp in old age is to challenge yourself to learn new things. So if your grandchildren aren’t available for Sunday visits, schedule a lesson instead. Learning a new instrument, a new language, a new dance craze, or even just reading a challenging book, can keep your cognitive skills at their peak.
Get More Exercise
Like diet, staying physically active can set the tone for your golden years, keeping you mobile and healthy longer. A physician-approved exercise plan, even if it only consists of short strolls, can improve your energy, mood, and even your memory. While some health issues are inevitably tied to aging, exercisers tend to bounce back from illness and injury faster. Inactivity also increases your chances of falling. In fact, falling incidents rise sharply in the spring after many seniors have been inactive all winter. While it’s important to avoid ice and other winter-related risks, it’s also crucial to stay active year-round so that you can better enjoy the arrival of nice weather later on. Many elder care facilities, like The Allure Group’s six New York-based centers, offer residents state-of-the-art exercise facilities so that indoor activities can be enjoyed throughout the year. If, however, you don’t have access to a gym or an indoor pool, consider walking indoors at a mall or walking along the sidewalk of a shopping center. Assuming your physician approves, there are also plenty of low-impact, online videos you can try, like free yoga classes or tutorials on Tai Chi.
Every senior deserves to be as happy and healthy as possible, and adopting these five tips will help you live your life to the fullest. You don’t need to be perfect. A little positive change can go a long way. Plus, starting small and building incrementally can make the changes easier to adopt, and improve the chances that you’ll stick with them long-term. Whether you are riddled with health concerns or healthy as a horse, positive habits can extend your life and improve its quality, too. And what better time to start than the dawn of a new year?