Seniors who make physical fitness a priority spend 25 percent less time suffering with injuries or disabilities than those who don’t. Likewise, those who understand how food impacts health tend to be healthier and enjoy a better quality of life. If you’ve found yourself getting up on years but feeling down in the dumps about your physical or mental health, it’s not too late to make changes that will improve your life for the better.
Good food in, good things out
The foods you eat have a direct impact on everything you do, from your ability to sleep well at night to the appearance of your skin. There is mounting evidence that suggests the regular consumption of foods high in antioxidants, such as blueberries can even slow cognitive decline. If you haven’t already, it’s time to start paying attention to your diet. Fast food and microwave meals simply don’t offer the right balance of nutrients your body needs to thrive. It may be a little more work, but cooking at home is the best way to give yourself the vitamins and minerals necessary for physical energy and emotional wellness.
Each meal should consist of a variety of colorful, whole foods, whole grains and lean proteins. A treat every once in a while probably won’t hurt but the bulk of your diet should be comprised of foods that are identifiable on your plate. In other words, eat potatoes instead of potato chips, and fresh fruit instead of gummy bears.
Physical fitness is an everyday priority
Regardless of your age, you have to keep moving. Even as few as 15 minutes of mild to moderate physical activity each day can significantly improve your health, according to Medicare.org. But if you have aches, pains, and stiff joints, exercising may be difficult. There are numerous senior-safe fitness routines that can keep your blood flowing, your heart pumping, and your muscles engaged. Swimming, for example, is low-impact and puts very little pressure on bones and joints. Many communities have public indoor swimming pools that are accessible year-round.
At home, you can practice balance exercises, such as yoga or use technology to your advantage. Health apps and online videos can introduce you to a variety of exercises so you don’t get bored. If you enjoy a more interactive experience, the Wii Fit Plus is an easy-to-use console accessory that offers strength training, aerobics and balance games that are safe for all ages.
Health isn’t just about your body
When you think about being healthy, you probably think of your weight, muscle tone and physical abilities. But your physical health is only one aspect of your overall wellness. As a senior, you’re at a higher risk of depression brought on by loneliness and concerns over money once you retire and are forced to live on a limited income. Signs of depression include decreased socialization, feelings of persistent sadness, unexplained changes in your appetite, feeling hopeless, feeling worthless and having trouble making decisions. Thankfully, if you notice these issues early on, there are many ways you can prevent a major depressive episode. Spending time with friends and family is one of the most important. Dr. Robert Wilson, a geriatric researcher, tells Seniorly, “Humans are very social creatures. We need healthy interactions with others to maintain our health…” Even if you don’t have access to an established social network, there are still plenty of opportunities to socialize. Your local senior center, neighborhood school, or women’s shelter can help you find volunteer opportunities; volunteering will not only help you avoid social isolation but can also improve your outlook on life.
Now I lay me down to sleep
With each stage of life, you’ll find that you have different sleep patterns and sleep needs. As a baby and toddler, you needed up to 20 hours of sleep every day. In your teen years, this may have fluctuated between eight and 12 hours depending on your level of physical activity. While it’s widely accepted that adults of all ages require approximately eight hours of sleep each night, changes in your health can result in more wakeful hours. The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School reports that older individuals experience chronic sleep deprivation and suggests treating any underlying medical conditions and taking steps to improve your nighttime hours.
Even if you’re healthy, you should know your risks
Your aging body is it isn’t as able to fend off disease like it could in your 20s, 30s, and 40s. Seniors are more susceptible to a number of health conditions including Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and stroke. If you want to give yourself the best chance of staying well for the long-term, you should be familiar with health problems common to seniors and know your family history. Having a parent or grandparent that suffered with dementia, cervical cancer, or heart disease, for example, puts you at a greater risk of these. Ask your doctor about ways you can identify potential issues before they arise.
Taking control of your mental and physical health is the best way to improve your quality of life. After all, we only have so many years, there’s no reason we shouldn’t do everything in our power to enjoy them.
About the Author
Jason Lewis’ passion for seniors started when his mother needed intentional support and care. Currently, he is developing programs for them and their caregivers.