Written by: June Duncan
If you’re an older adult, you may not be quite as active or mobile as you once were, but that doesn’t mean you can’t continue to lead a healthy, balanced life. Staying active is a big part of that, but you also need to get the nutrition and sleep it takes to remain active, no matter what age you are.
Balance is always important, but never more than when you enter retirement age. That’s an important point for a growing section of the population: In the last census, people age 65 and over accounted for 13 percent of the populace, a number that continues to grow as more and more of the Baby Boomer generation continues to age.
Here are a few points to emphasize if you’re looking to get the most out of your golden years:
Exercise continues to be important even if you don’t get out and about as much anymore. You don’t have to do marine calisthenics to stay limber and vital; just find something you enjoy doing, either individually or with friends, and make that your go-to exercise every day. It’ll help you maintain a healthy weight, uplift your mood, get better sleep, and alleviate stress and anxiety.
If the weather’s too cold for you right now, set up a small workout area indoors using resistance bands, light weights, a yoga mat, and a medicine ball. Swimming, yoga, walking and resistance-band training are great for seniors and will keep you limber.
Determining when it’s no longer safe to be driving is often a difficult and contentious matter. If you and your loved ones have decided it’s time to let someone else do the driving, consider the many options available to you, including public transportation and community-based volunteer driving programs, or take advantage of Uber or Lyft. Visit Eldercare.gov for more information about senior transportation.
Drinking plenty of water benefits your body in an amazing number of ways. For seniors, staying hydrated keeps your joints strong, benefits your musculature, and boosts cell, tissue and organ health. As a general rule of thumb, seniors should drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. Try mixing things up a bit and include some green or herbal tea and vegetable juices every day.
The same old reliable rules about eating healthy continue to apply as you age. That includes getting a nice balance of vegetables, fruit, protein, whole grains and low-fat dairy. A moderate, carefully-balanced diet will help prevent a range of health problems that often plague seniors, such as heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. If you are suffering from a loss of bone mass or if you’re a woman with osteoporosis, you may need to take calcium and vitamin D supplements.
Remember, as a senior, it’s important to pay careful attention to serving sizes, fat grams, and salt content. Don’t forget to opt for colorful foods (the more colorful, the healthier) such as broccoli, carrots, oranges, apples, etc. You can get a lot of the nutrition you need with simple, fun and easy-to-prepare recipes, like banana split oatmeal, healthy breakfast frittata, or crustless spinach pie.
There’s no doubt about it – falling is one of the most serious threats to a senior’s well-being. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1 in 4 Americans over the age of 65 falls every year. That translates into a lot of injuries (many of them severe), a lot of visits to the emergency room (1 every 11 seconds), and an erosion of personal confidence, which makes seniors afraid to venture outside and can lead to a sedentary, isolated lifestyle. Keep electrical cords, throw rugs and shoes picked up and out of the way.
Compare Medicare plans for seniors, and keep an eye on AARP Medicare Supplement Plans as your healthcare needs shift. Given the rising costs of healthcare, it’s important to stay apprised of updates to Medicare and Medicaid plans.
Make a point of staying active, no matter what “being active” means to you. As a senior, it’s important not to settle for a sedentary lifestyle, so find your exercise groove, and stick with it. Remember that being healthy means leading a balanced life, with a healthy diet amid a safe living environment.
June is the co-creator of Rise Up for Caregivers, which offers support for family members and friends who have taken on the responsibility of caring for their loved ones. She is author of the upcoming book, The Complete Guide to Caregiving: A Daily Companion for New Senior Caregivers.