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