For more than 20 years, we’ve recognized September as Healthy Aging Month. While many things have changed over the last two decades, people across the United States still want to stay active and engaged in life as they get older. We see this every day in our work with the senior community as we help our clients live fuller, more independent lives. With that in mind, here are a few tips to help you stay at your best. Don’t forget: the sooner you begin developing these healthy aging habits, the better your later years will be.
Regular exercise keeps the heart healthy and makes bones and muscles stronger — all things you’ll be thankful for as you age. Also, exercise helps keep common age-related chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension at bay. There’s also evidence that moderate physical activity could play a significant role in preserving the brain health of adults at high risk for Alzheimer’s Disease. To get the most out of exercise, the government recommends seniors perform at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week, as well as muscle-strengthening activities at least twice per week. If you don’t exercise regularly, it’s okay to start slow! Activities like gardening, swimming, and walking are great, low-impact ways to get your heart pumping.
As we age, our social circles become smaller. Children grow up. Friends, family, and spouses pass away. Limited mobility makes it harder to get out and meet new people. In this environment, it’s easy to understand why many older people become socially isolated. Unfortunately, isolation and loneliness are bad for your health. “Studies have shown that social isolation leads to higher risks of mortality for people 52 and older. Perceived loneliness contributes to cognitive declines and dementia and is also a major risk factor for depression. Furthermore, studies also show that social isolation also puts seniors at greater risk of elder abuse.”
As you age, it’s crucial to stay engaged with the world around you. Volunteer at a local nonprofit. Help take care of your grandkids. Identify a few new people to socialize with each month. The effort will pay dividends through improved physical and mental health.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Everyone knows that good sleep and good health are closely related. Adults typically require 6-7 hours of sleep each night to perform at their best. By some accounts, however, “50% of seniors report problems like insomnia, difficulty falling or staying asleep, or not feeling refreshed when they wake.” To make matters worse, studies show that seniors take longer to fall asleep than younger people, experience shorter R.E.M. cycles, and have their sleep interrupted more often. Many times, chronic conditions like sleep apnea, arthritis, and renal disease account for these differences. Fortunately, seniors can improve their sleep with a few simple steps.
Adopt a Pet
Adopting a new furry friend — especially a dog — brings along a host of mental and physical benefits. Good pets offer seniors much-needed companionship that can stave off the loneliness and depression, which often accompanies social isolation. In addition, a recent study found that “dog ownership was associated with lower body mass index, fewer activities of daily living limitations, fewer doctor visits, and more frequent moderate and vigorous exercise.” Why? Because owning a dog forces seniors to get outside and walk it. So if you’d like to meet your new best friend in the world, and be healthier in the process, take a trip to your local animal shelter.
Make a Plan
Perhaps the most critical step you can take to ensure healthy aging is to accept the fact you’re aging in the first place. This simple step allows you to anticipate your future needs, plan for them carefully, and maintain as much control over your future as possible. A great place to start is by drafting your advanced directives. These legal documents include items like a durable power of attorney, living will, and combined directives. Together, they’ll codify your wishes in the event you’re hospitalized and can’t make decisions for yourself. Then, consider how you’ll obtain and pay for care as you begin to require more help to accomplish everyday tasks. With the cost of caregiving exploding around the country, this will be a pressing issue for seniors everywhere.
Nothing But A Number
We’ve all heard the saying, “age is nothing but a number.” While this is undoubtedly true, healthy aging requires more than just a mindset. It also requires acting planning and sustained effort. These tips, combined with a positive outlook, will help launch you into the best years of your life.
About Generations Home Care
Generations Home Care personalized in-home care and support services help those recovering from illness, injury or surgery, living with a chronic disease, or dealing with the natural process of aging. We help people live a fuller, healthier, and independent life.
We offer levels of care ranging from companionship, to respite for the primary family caregiver, to homemaking services, to assistance with activities of daily living, to Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Generations Home Care takes a holistic approach and emphasizes a consistent, client-centered plan of care.
Our Specialty Services Include:
- Rehab or hospital-to-home programs for safe discharge.
- Short-term post-operative care during recovery periods.
- Non-medical life management services for people with chronic conditions.
- Veteran’s connection to care program.
- Live-in services and couples care.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, contact us today at 602-595-HOME (4663) or by filling out the contact form on our website.