Could simple changes be the key to improving senior health? If you’ve spent some time researching senior health online, you’ve likely found advice telling you to make easy changes to take more control of your health and wellness. And it’s true that some of the simplest changes can have the greatest impact on your physical and mental health.
What all of those articles don’t tell you, however, is that before you can successfully change your habits, you need to ask yourself some tough questions. Because if you want to get serious about your health, you have to be willing to get serious about assessing your current lifestyle choices. Start with these questions:
Is Driving Becoming Too Dangerous for You?
This is one of the most difficult questions for older Americans to answer, because the ability to drive is often equated with the ability to live an independent life. Still, older drivers need to be aware of some common issues that can prevent them from driving safely, and could even result in senior drivers being involved in deadly car accidents. Reduced vision, medical problems and stiff joints can all make operating an automobile hazardous for older adults, so consider assessing your capabilities at least once a year. The good news is, even if you can no longer drive yourself safely, there are plenty of transportation options that can help you maintain your independence and quality of life. You can opt for public transportation, volunteer driving programs, paratransit service, hospital shuttles or even rideshare services.
Is Your Home Becoming Too Much of a Burden?
Regular physical activity can help seniors stay healthier as they age, but you don’t need to rely on the state of your home to keep you constantly on the move. Maintaining and paying for a larger home can often become overwhelming for older adults, so you could consider downsizing your home. Aside from providing financial benefits to seniors, a smaller home can alleviate stress, therefore reducing the risk of stress-related illness. Too much stress can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, depression and many other serious health conditions that could reduce your life quality, or even result in premature death. So think about your housing options, and also think about whether you may need more care, and whether assisted living may be the best way to stay in control of your mental and physical well-being.
Is Sticking to Bad Habits Harming Your Health?
Adapting your daily habits can be difficult, especially as you age. The longer you have held onto a less-than-healthy habit—whether that’s tobacco use, poor diet choices, or a sedentary lifestyle—the more conditioned your mind and body will be to those routines. If you really want to improve your health and happiness with age, you have to be willing to let those bad habits go.
Start with small changes, and then build up to creating bolder self-care and health practices in your daily life. For example, if you want to make healthy eating easier, try adding one serving of vegetables to a meal the first week, another the following week, and so on until you reach the recommended serving amount (six to nine per day). Need some motivation to get moving? Start with short, 10-minute walks to get your heart pumping, and increase your workout time and variety from there. No matter what type of lifestyle change you are trying to make, sticking to baby steps is always a better idea than making drastic changes that are less likely to stick and more likely to cause harm to your health.
Change is rarely comfortable, especially when it comes to your health, but discomfort isn’t always a bad thing. So long as you know that discomfort is leading you to better health and better aging in retirement, you can stay motivated to make simple, yet challenging, modifications to your lifestyle to improve your life quality. Honestly, it takes a lot of courage to answer these tough questions about yourself, and it takes even more courage to change your life for the better. But it will all be worth it when you have more control over your health, happiness and peace of mind.
Author: Jason Lewis
Photo Credit: Unsplash
If you’re like most seniors, you likely want to stay at home after you retire. But, there are hidden dangers lurking in plain sight, and you may not have considered how your house can affect your ability to stay safe down the road. Even when you are in good health, a few simple modifications can reduce the chances of accidents and injuries and improve your quality of life. Making these changes now will give you a better chance of aging place.
Adjustments for aging
As you get older, your body naturally undergoes changes that can make even familiar surroundings feel like a foreign land. One place this is glaringly evident is the stairs. Eye diseases, cataracts, glaucoma, and other vision problems common among older people make it easy to misjudge height and distance. When this happens, you may take a step expecting solid ground only to find open air. This can result in broken bones and a bruised body. If your home has stairs, make a point to move your primary living and sleeping areas to the lowest level of your home to reduce the number of trips you make up and down each day. Increased lighting and visual markers on the stair treads can also help.
The bathroom is another area that tends to trigger slips and falls, as slick surfaces make the bathroom a dangerous place. Preemptive planning can help you negate many of the issues that could cause a serious injury. Refinishing your bathtub to include a non-slip surface or adding safety bars to help you in and out are just a few examples. Angie’s List also recommends adding a zero-entry shower, which is one that will allow you to bathe even if you are in a wheelchair or cannot step over a bathtub wall.
After the bathroom and stairs, the kitchen poses the next greatest risk. If you have mobility issues, lowered countertops and more accessible storage can help you avoid reaching over your head or out of your comfort zone. This is another area where added lighting can increase safety and livability, especially if your eyes aren’t quite what they used to be.
Lifestyle changes matter
Having the ability to stay at home may require more than a simple remodel. You can also make lifestyle changes to improve your environment. One of the most important, which also happens to be the easiest, is to clear out clutter. Throw rugs, unnecessary furniture, and excess personal belongings can all get in the way. By removing unneeded accessories, you will have less to clean and fewer obstacles in your way as you navigate from room to room.
As you get older, your daily routine should also include exercise, and nutrition must be a priority. Both of these actions work together to keep your body strong and your mind alert. Philips Lifeline further asserts that low-impact aerobic activities can even help prevent joint injuries. When you exercise, you also give your body the oxygen it needs to heal minor injuries like bumps and bruises. Similarly, eating foods that are high in calcium – sardines, kale, yogurt, etc. – can slow bone loss, meaning you will be less prone to fractures.
Your home safety checklist won’t be complete until you have evaluated your entire property, including the bedroom and yard. If you find that you are overwhelmed with this new responsibility, your adult children and grandchildren may be able to help. Ask them to come for a visit and simply spend the day with you. They can make notes of places where you appear to have trouble and together you can come up with an aging-in-place plan that will put you all at ease.
Author – Lydia Chan
Genetics play a role in your longevity, but they don’t define it. When it comes to staying healthy in your 60s, 70s, and 80s, lifestyle is more important. That may sound like bad news, but even seniors can improve their well-being through healthy habits and lifestyle changes.
Staying Active as an Older Adult
As a senior, you need at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise every week and strength training twice per week. You should also introduce balance exercise into your fitness regimen. Balance training improves your body awareness and stability to prevent falls.
Exercise is challenging when first starting out, but many adults come to enjoy exercise for its ability to relieve stress and pain, lift moods, and improve physical ability and independence. Exercise has also been shown to help improve gut health, which can become a problem when good bacteria and bad bacteria are unbalanced. If you’re not accustomed to exercising, talk to your doctor about your fitness plans and increase your activity level gradually to prevent injury.
Preventing Falls and Injuries
A fear of falling shouldn’t limit your life as an older adult. In addition to taking precautions before exercising and training for balance, you can prevent falls by adapting your home to your changing body. More than half of all senior falls happen in the home, but with modest renovations, you can make your house safer for aging.
- Add handrails to staircases, replacing steps with ramps where possible.
- Apply non-slip strips, mats, and flooring on stairs and wet areas.
- Install grab bars in bathrooms.
- Remove area rugs and replace high-pile carpeting with low-pile carpet or hard flooring.
- Install waist-level kitchen storage.
- Increase lighting at entrances, in stairways and hallways, and other dark areas.
Overcoming Senior Nutrition Challenges
Many seniors face nutrition difficulties, including:
- Limited incomes that make it hard to afford fresh food.
- Mobility and/or vision loss affecting cooking safety.
- Dental health problems.
- Loss of appetite or interest in cooking.
These issues put older adults at risk of malnutrition. Seniors who are malnourished have weaker immune systems and are more prone to falls and injury.
To avoid malnutrition, you need to employ strategies as you age. If cooking at home is difficult, ergonomic kitchen products or grocery delivery may help. If your health is an obstacle, talk to your doctor. For seniors struggling to afford healthy food, these resources provide assistance.
Avoiding Medication and Substance Problems
How many medications do you take? If you’re like the average 65-year-old, you’re taking six or more prescriptions. That alone isn’t a problem, but seniors run into trouble when they mix up medication schedules, take drugs in a way they’re not prescribed, or combine prescriptions with other remedies without checking with their doctor. Whether intentional or accidental, medication misuse is extremely dangerous for your health.
Alcohol is also a concern for seniors. Not only is mixing alcohol with medications risky, but many seniors don’t realize they should drink less as they get older. Due to age-related changes, your body can’t process alcohol as effectively as when you were younger.
Socializing for Health
A healthy lifestyle goes beyond your habits at home. A social life is an important part of a balanced life, and seniors who remain socially active have better physical, mental, and cognitive health than socially isolated seniors.
Staying social is different without the company of colleagues and kids, but there are many opportunities to get out and socialize:
- Get involved with a local senior center.
- Join a hobby or fitness group.
- Take a class.
- Attend neighborhood events.
- Keep in touch with family and friends.
Retirement is a life of leisure compared to your working years, but that doesn’t mean you can slack on your health! Your lifestyle influences your health at every age. If you want to feel your best today and into the future, these healthy lifestyle habits are the best way to do it.
Our veterans have put their lives on the line for us, and some have made the ultimate sacrifice for us.
Let’s remember them and show our appreciation.
On Wednesday, November 7th from 10:00 am – 12:30 pm, we will celebrate our veterans at the Hastings Community Senior Center located at The Lord’s Temple Fellowship Hall, 140 Gilmore Street in Hastings.
Click here or on the flyer to see the full-size flyer.