Published: Jul 7, 2015
The secret to aging well isn’t really a secret: stay active, eat well, and avoid those bad habits that can make you ill and cut years from your life. Easy, right? In theory, yes, but in practice these simple tenets are difficult for many people to adhere to. People form habits throughout their lifetimes that can be difficult to change once they reach their senior years. Unfortunately, the effects of these habits (inactivity, poor diet, smoking, etc.) are often not felt until the senior years. Changing these habits, though, can help seniors stay healthy and independent throughout the later years of life.
One of the healthiest changes seniors can make to keep themselves independent is to get active. Being active and physically fit can strengthen the core, which helps maintain balance and reduces the risk of falls. Physical activity aids with mobility and flexibility, both critical factors for independence. Strength training not only builds muscles but also strengthens bones, reducing the risk of fractures and breaks. General physical activity is also an excellent means for reducing risk of, delaying, or controlling chronic disease; regulating blood pressure; and releasing stress. Seniors should take the precaution of talking with their doctors, though, before engaging in any physical activity. Their doctors can recommend activities appropriate for their ages and physical abilities to avoid any injuries or illness.
Ensuring they get the right nutrition is also vital to keeping seniors healthy. Many illnesses can be prevented or alleviated with good nutrition. Seniors who have difficulty knowing what to eat and how much should consult with their doctors. Eating right does not have to be bland or boring, and medical professionals can refer seniors to nutritionists who can make recommendations on healthy nutritious meals. Seniors who need help with food preparation can obtain help from professional caregivers who can help with shopping and meal preparation. Professional caregivers can also monitor what and how much of foods the senior is eating to help the senior follow prescribed diets.
Other changes seniors can make can be as simple as turning off the television and getting socially and mentally engaged. Interacting with peers and family can ward off depression and keep seniors from being isolated. Numerous studies have shown that social isolation increases the risk of cognitive decline in seniors and other health problems, which relates to loss of independence. Breaking unhealthy habits, such as smoking or drinking in excess, can also prevent seniors from acquiring debilitating illnesses such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and help them stay healthy and independent.
Adopting new habits can be easier with social support. Sticking with a fitness program is easier when seniors can do the activities with others, and it is easier to get the proper nutrition when meals are shared. Seniors who live alone and need help with some daily activities can hire professional caregivers who can help them adhere to doctor-prescribed exercise and nutrition programs as well as provide company throughout the day. For more information on how professional caregivers can help seniors stay engaged and independent, contact your local Comfort Keepers® office today.
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National Institutes of Health. (n.d.). Exercise: Benefits of exercise. NIH Senior Health. Retrieved from https://nihseniorhealth.gov/exerciseforolderadults/healthbenefits/01.html.
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