May is Older Americans Month — Engage at Every Age!

May is the month that we celebrate aging!

Well, Senior Care Corner® celebrates aging year-round, but May is when the Administration on Aging leads a formal celebration each year.

The theme for this year’s celebration, the 55th annual celebration, is Engage at Every Age!

This year’s theme emphasizes that you are never too old (or young) to take part in activities that can enrich your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

It also celebrates the many ways in which older adults make a difference in our communities.

It is never to early – or too late — to get involved physically and socially to gain benefits.

Family caregivers know well the importance of staying active in all ways, especially physically and emotionally, with age and encourage their senior loved ones to stay engaged in their communities.

Age Your Way

If you have ever tried to get someone else to do something you want them to do but they do not, you will know how truly difficult that can be.

No one wants to listen to others, eat what they are told, or go to bed when they are told.

Most of us, including our senior loved ones, want to make our own decisions and do things in our own time. We may not object to what we are told, but aren’t ready to do it when asked.

It’s not unlike telling your young child to clean their room right now. Ok, they know they should pick things up off the floor and put the toys away, but they are doing something else and will do it later, in their own time. Seniors (and all of us) are no different.

Telling an older adult to become more active is another suggestion that won’t go over well, even though we all know by now how important physical activity is to our overall health and well-being.

It’s All in the Approach We Take

But what if family caregivers ask them what they enjoy and facilitate them in becoming active doing what they will love?

Instead of saying let’s go for a walk, find a park and take a nature walk with older adults who love the outdoors and bird watching. Bring a picnic basket with a healthy snack you can enjoy together.

Maybe your senior loved one likes music and dancing, maybe they would love to swim again, perhaps throwing a ball out in the yard or playing with the grandkids will finally get them off the couch.

Often incorporating some of their favorite things, perhaps things they have long forgotten they enjoyed, will make it easier to engage them in an activity to benefit their health.

Staying active can prevent depression and loneliness, improve memory and cognition, offer ways to socialize, and improve longevity through health.

Eat Your Way

Another way that seniors can age well is to eat a healthy diet.

Unfortunately, many seniors are not eating as well as they should to help them be healthy as they age.

Keeping their muscles strong, preventing falls, maintaining bone strength, managing chronic disease, and achieving a healthy weight are health goals that can be achieved with good eating.

Eating well isn’t glamorous and, for many older adults, it can be hard to achieve.

Perhaps they don’t believe they can afford healthy eating. Some seniors may have physical problems that interfere with shopping and cooking healthy. They may have functional limitations, tire easily, or vision problems that make it hard to prepare their meals. Maybe they don’t enjoy eating alone.

When convenience and low cost become the standard, nutrition suffers because these easy to prepare foods are generally lower in nutritional content. Cheaper foods are usually calorie dense rather than nutrient dense. This can mean seniors miss essential nutrition to help them age well. Eating nutrient dense foods should be the goal.

But again, who wants to be told what to eat when they think they are getting by alright at least in their own minds.

How Family Caregivers Can Help

There are many ways in which family caregivers can help and support senior loved ones in eating their way. Here are some things we hope will trigger ideas that can help your seniors.

  • Identifying problems with meal preparation that can be solved with modifications such as special tools and utensils, a chair in the kitchen to take a break, food and equipment in reach
  • Bringing meals to them to reduce their need to prepare their own, take them out to their favorite restaurant regularly or connect them with local meal delivery service
  • Planning to eat some meals with them or encourage family and friends to share meals so that you can reduce their loneliness and reduced intake that eating alone can cause.
  • Shopping with them to show them how they can buy healthy foods on their budget and skip the cheaper and nutritionally lacking foods, check their pantry to be sure healthy foods are available
  • Setting up food ordering online so that they don’t have to go to the grocery store
  • Checking their mouth and teeth to be sure no problems exist that could be keeping them from eating well

Naturally, all these options should engage your senior. Ask them what they like to eat. Let them pick the foods you buy online. Take the opportunity to guide their choices.

Seniors should have the opportunity to make their own decisions, not just with their day-to-day activities but also what they eat. But, a family caregiver’s influence is strong, so you can guide them to a healthier lifestyle.

Family caregivers can help seniors stay engaged as they age.

Engage in life for a better quality of life!

Happy Older Americans Month!