If, like most of the senior population in the United States, your aim is to live independently at home and stay active, there are certain things you need to do. These tips are not surprises — in fact, they’re habits you’ve probably heard about all your life. If you’re an older adult who’s always taken things like exercise and nutrition for granted, now’s a good time to change course. Preventing chronic health problems and staying physically fit doesn’t happen unless you take action. Here’s some information on how those good habits will keep you fit, happy and healthy.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, if emphasizing nutritious food and a well-balanced diet seems dull and limiting, try varying your menu choices. Change up your protein choices; instead of fish three times a week, work in some lean meat and serve it up with a selection of beans or peas (there’s nothing wrong with fish three times a week if that’s what you like). If you’re a long-time vegetable hater, it’s worthwhile to find something you find tasty. If green, leafy vegetables mean broccoli and spinach to you (i.e. the smelly stuff mom made you eat as a kid), why not try something different. Roasted carrots on the grill, for example, gives this super-healthy vegetable a whole new taste and consistency, and it goes with just about anything.
Fruit can be a very tasty, healthy choice, and it works for dinner and dessert. For example, try an almond butter, banana, and strawberry chia jam sandwich if you want a delicious snack or meal menu item. Maintaining a healthy diet doesn’t have to be a chore.
It’s a good idea to learn as much as possible about assisted living facilities in your area. That way, you won’t struggle to find a community if it becomes too hard to care for yourself. Knowing how much assisted living costs and what services are provided (housekeeping, meal preparation, medication management, etc.) will help you make an informed decision. Fortunately, there are plenty of web-based resources that can lead you to useful and current information. For example, A Place for Mom explains that in the Los Angeles area, the “annual median cost for assisted living is $54,000.” That’s a lot of money, but it’s not indicative of how much all facilities cost, so it pays to shop around. In addition to researching costs and provisions, make a point to tour communities so you can really see what they’re like and get a feel for what you can expect if you were to move in.
According to the National Council for Aging Care, it’s not too late to begin exercising — even if you’ve avoided it most of your life. A Swedish study on exercise found it to be the primary contributing factor in living a long and healthy life. Exercise is a self-perpetuating health practice because it activates endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that make you feel good. It also helps prevent dementia and memory loss, helps you sleep better, and strengthens the immune system. And you don’t have to run a two-minute mile; simple exercises and holistic practices like meditation and yoga will strengthen you in body and mind. What’s more, yoga is pretty inexpensive — all you need is a $15 mat and some free YouTube videos to get started.
Too many seniors suffer the effects of isolation, loneliness, and depression. They’re often the effects of a life bereft of opportunities for personal interaction. As we grow older, relationships may slip away, and making new friends becomes more difficult. If you’re comfortable using social media, Facebook and Instagram can help you meet new people, even if it’s only in a virtual sense. And if you’re disconnected from loved ones, social media is a quick and easy way to stay in touch. (Don’t forget to check with your local senior center, which may offer social events and opportunities for older adults to exercise together and make new connections.)
Healthy habits come in many forms, from nutritious eating to regular exercise. Staying active, staying connected, and being informed are powerful strategies for older adults who want to enjoy all aspects of life well into their senior years.