It’s just a fact that we are all going to get older, and it’s largely up to us whether we are going to experience good health in our senior years or become frail and debilitated. There are many things we can do to stay, for the most part, healthy and vital into old age.
The Right Diet
One of the most important factors in staying healthy at any age, but especially for seniors, is to maintain a nutrient dense diet, but unfortunately, for many seniors, this is one of the first things to be neglected. Inadequate funds to buy nutritious foods, problems with teeth or ill-fitting dentures, fatigue or depression that make it difficult to plan meals, shop and cook, can all impact an aging person’s ability to maintain a healthy diet. This is a critical part of maintaining good health and a little outside help with shopping or preparing meals has to be considered at least until the individual has regained enough health to take on those tasks again. Just like younger people, seniors need proteins, calcium, and a full complement of vitamins and minerals on a daily basis to maintain health, bone density and a strong immune system.
Regular Exercise Your Own Way
Regular exercise is another important part of a healthy routine because it maintains good physical functioning and helps produce a clear mind and positive outlook. One doesn’t need to become a marathon runner or competitive bicyclist to maintain good health, however, if those are things someone has enjoyed doing over a lifetime, there is no reason why they cannot continue doing them as they age, assuming that their physician gives them the okay. But even just taking a relaxing daily walk can provide great benefits, both physically and emotionally.
Beware of Depression
Depression is another thing that plagues some older folks and makes them unable or unwilling to eat properly and get a little exercise, and it’s sometimes easy to just write off depression as simple tiredness. The social circle of many elderly folks tends to shrink, and without a little attention, loneliness and isolation can become a serious problem. A person can lose interest in getting out and enjoying the things they used to love, and this can cause a significant decline in both physical and emotional health. People start to feel disconnected and alone, and this can cause an unwillingness to visit with friends and family, or even to do the things necessary to take care of themselves.
Assisted Living Communities
Most communities have resources for seniors that can assist with things like shopping, house cleaning and laundry as well as providing some social interaction. Senior centers may have an assortment of activities like senior exercise groups, card parties, bingo and many other things that can help people stay alert and connected to others in the community. Many also provide things like transportation to doctor’s appointments or even shopping at the mall for people who prefer not to drive themselves, or for whom driving has become unsafe.
For seniors who have remained physically active, most communities have bike trails where seniors can take a leisurely bike ride and enjoy the changing seasons. Biking in the summer might be best done in the early evening once the sun begins to go down and temperatures are a bit cooler. This is a perfect activity for a few friends to enjoy together, providing both exercise and company. Keeping mentally active is equally important since research has shown that mental acuity has a lot to do with how much we “exercise” the brain. Reading, crossword puzzles, word games, memory games, card games and many other fun activities can help people stay alert and mentally sharp. This is one area where the old “use it or lose it” adage is truer than we might think, and a healthy mind is definitely part of staying physically healthy long into old age. People are better equipped to take care of themselves and perform the activities of daily living effectively when they are alert and tuned in to others and to their environment.
This could be a much longer list, but the last thing to consider here is volunteering opportunities. There are endless possibilities available, depending on one’s interests, from preschools where you can read to the little ones, hospital nurseries where seniors can sit and rock tiny babies for awhile each day, libraries, theater groups, soup kitchens, veteran’s hospitals, adult study groups where one can help people prepare to get their GED or learn to read; truly, the possibilities are nearly endless, and giving to others often results in receiving more than one can imagine. It provides a feeling of usefulness and satisfaction like few other things can, and that can be a huge part of maintaining good health for a lifetime.