Every year in September we celebrate the well-being of older adults and encourage them to take steps to live healthier, more active lives.
The goal of the celebration is to provide information to improve the lives of seniors in the areas of physical health, mental health, socialization and financial well-being.
The bottom line message is that it is never too late to implement changes that can make a big difference in your senior loved one’s health and quality of life.
Making changes can be difficult because it could require breaking lifelong habits, but taking personal responsibility for their own well-being will give your senior a feeling of empowerment.
What can you do to encourage your senior to live life to the fullest?
We have 7 valuable tips to empower your senior to change for the better!
1. Stay Active
This is such an important lifestyle habit that we can’t say it enough. It is time to find an activity that your senior enjoys, if not more than one, and help them start getting active.
Exercising strengthens muscles, improves balance, gets the heart pumping, improves cognition, and can even add years to your senior’s life by slowing the aging process.
Schedule the time each day when activity becomes a priority. It can be something easy like a walk or something to which you travel, such as an exercise class, dance, resistance training or sports.
Plan to participate in a tai chi class, yoga, swimming or mall walking club.
Would they like to use a gaming station, such as a Wii, that has an exergame such as Dance Party, bowling, tennis or golf that will get them off the couch and participating?
Exercising or getting moving is easier if they have a buddy, but it doesn’t have to be you. Maybe a neighbor, friend, family member or group at the senior center. There are special programs geared to seniors, such as Silver Sneakers, that combine physical activity with socialization that could really meet your senior’s needs.
It is recommended seniors perform at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week, at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or a combination of these two approaches.
It doesn’t have to be done all at one time or one day, spread it out over the week in a variety of activities of at least ten minutes to add in fun and social engagement opportunities.
2. Well Balanced Eating
Seniors need to adjust the amount of calories they need each day based on whether they wish to maintain, lose or gain weight, but their nutrient requirements continue. Cutting out food types or amounts can lead to nutritional deficiencies if a variety of nutrients are not included in the day’s meals.
Choosing nutrient dense foods that pack a punch should be the goal for all seniors. Including lean protein sources at each meal will help protect muscle from wasting and which can lead to weakness and falls.
Fresh fruits and vegetables especially in deep colors; whole grain bread and cereals; healthy fats; as well as nuts, seeds and beans should be on their plates.
Drinking adequate water for hydration, limiting sugar sweetened beverages and empty calorie foods will get them on the road to good nutrition and wellness.
3. Get & Stay Connected
The benefits of social interactions are well documented. In addition to stimulating seniors’ brains, social engagement can ward off feelings of loneliness, isolation and depression.
Seniors need to connect to lifelong friends and make new friends by participating in community events, calling them regularly on the phone and having meetings or sharing meals on a routine basis.
We can connect them to family and friends, both near and far, through the use of technology. Have they gotten connected with Facebook, Skype or FaceTime? They will love it and you can help them utilize technology and prevent isolation.
Seniors can also find opportunities to use their knowledge and skills to help others through volunteerism. They could help in a library, hospital, church or animal shelter. They can do things that match their abilities, there is always something that needs doing.
4. Sleep Like a Baby
One way to be successful and age well is to get enough sleep each night.
Sleeping at night in a restful manner is important and there are ways to improve their sleep pattern.
How long do they sleep at night? Do they wake for the bathroom? Do they eat or drink too close to bedtime? Is their mattress ready for an upgrade? Is their room comfortable, quiet, soothing, or distracting for sleep? Are they taking long naps or napping too close to bedtime?
What changes can you facilitate that will improve their sleep at night?
5. Review Medications
Many seniors take a multitude of prescription and over the counter medications. It is very important to get regular checkups of the medication list from their pharmacist or doctor to be sure there are no duplicates, interactions or problematic side effects that could impact your senior’s well-being.
You should always keep an up to date medication list handy, perhaps using an app or computer program such as Evernote, so that it is easily updated and portable if the need to access it quickly arises.
6. Give Their Money a Makeover
Being financially well is important for seniors as they age so that they can not only maintain a desired standard of living but also meet their needs as they age in place.
The cost of healthcare continues to climb. Out of pocket expenses can be crippling for seniors on fixed incomes. In-home care can mean the difference between staying home or going to a facility but it can be costly for seniors.
Planning ahead, budgeting current assets and preventing becoming victims of financial abuse or fraud will be key to seniors’ successful aging in place.
It is a good idea to get expert advice to help plan their finances and review their investments to ensure they are serving them well.
7. Put Health First
Healthy aging can be accomplished when your senior loved one remains as healthy as possible. This involves getting regular medical checkups, completing all preventive health tests such as prostate screening and mammograms, getting all scheduled vaccines including seasonal flu shots, having annual dilated eye exams, going to the dentist, taking medications as prescribed, using sunscreen and stopping smoking.
Your senior needs to be empowered with the knowledge that they are taking all the necessary steps to stay well. Once they have been diagnosed with a chronic disease, they should be in control of it and manage it appropriately.
Spreading the Healthy Aging Message
In addition to creating information for family caregivers of seniors that will help inform and inspire them to make positive changes that will lead to improved quality of life for everyone, I also enjoy the opportunities that I have to share experiences and knowledge face to face.
To celebrate healthy aging month, I have the pleasure to be a part of a senior outreach program in my community. Speaking to the group of senior adults who are trying hard to remain independent, socially active and learn ways to improve their health is a joy for me.
This group of seniors faces the same struggles as many of the senior adults for whom you care. They are trying to learn ways to stay physically active, keep their independence and prevent immobility of the body and mind. They face many challenges but are active participants in their own wellness.
I love interacting with people who put their health first! We can all do the same and be included in the club of seniors who are doing what it takes for healthy aging!