If you have seniors in your life—a grandparent or parent, a neighbor, a friend—you want them to be the healthiest they can be and to have the highest quality of life. Senior medical and mental health issues can be different from those at other stages of life. Here are five tips to improve senior wellness and quality of life.
1. Exercise Isn’t Just for Young People
In fact, exercise it’s just as important for seniors—if not more so—than it is for a younger person. Exercise can stave off disease, some cancers, and obesity. It can help regulate circadian rhythms, making it easier to fall asleep and fight insomnia. And it can also help with strength and balance, which will reduce the risk of injuries from falling accidents.
There are four types of exercise that everyone should do, but that are especially helpful for seniors. Doing all of them will increase the benefits. First, endurance activities such as walking, swimming, and biking increase the heart rate and breathing. Second, strength exercises such as lifting weights or using resistance bands build strength and resiliency. Third, balance exercises prevent falls. Fourth, stretching exercises keep you flexible.
If the senior in your life hasn’t been exercising for a while, they may be hesitant to start. They can certainly begin slowly and build up from there. Check YouTube for short 15-minute exercise videos or go on a walk with them through the mall. All it will cost is the price of comfortable walking shoes if they don’t have them to start off with. Gradually, increase the pace or the length of the walks.
2. Mental Health Is as Important as Physical Health
If seniors feel lonely, isolated, or useless, they can develop mental health problems. This can lead to a decline in health overall if they decide to stop exercising, socializing, or eating well. Poor mental health can also lead to mental decline and developing neurological disorders. The World Health Organization reports, “The most common mental and neurological disorders in this age group are dementia and depression, which affect approximately 5% and 7% of the world’s older population, respectively.”
We all experience stress and worries throughout our lives, but with senior mental health, it can be stronger, considering that one of those stressors includes an ongoing loss in capacities and a decline in functional ability. It may be harder for a senior to move and navigate the world, leading to a smaller pool to play in, as it were.
Fortunately, these issues can be treated. For example, though there isn’t a cure for dementia, early diagnosis can do a lot to promote optimal management and to involve the thoughts and wishes of the senior in question. Having their input will make them feel more in control of the situation. Regular check-ins with a mental health professional are also a good idea. You can help them keep connected with their most meaningful social connections between friends and family.
Journaling and reading will help their minds stay sharp too and have been proven to mitigate some daily stress and anxiety. There are lots of online resources—many of them free—such as brain teasers and puzzles to keep the mind engaged as well.
3. Nutrition and Eating Habits
As we age, we may experience a decrease in our senses of smell and taste, which may make it more difficult to make those healthy eating choices. Aging might also come with dental problems and depression. Shopping for groceries and preparing dinner might be too much of a hassle or too difficult. After all that, how easy and pleasant it sounds just to go out to a restaurant for dinner or to order a meal for delivery.
The thing is, meals from restaurants may be tasty and filling, but they aren’t always nutritious. Make sure the senior in your life understands the difference. Good nutrition—making sure to get their daily servings of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins—is different from simply feeling full. It can also have an impact on general health, energy, and independence.
Also, seniors also require more of certain vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, vitamin D, and vitamins B6 and B12. After age 50, the daily need for these vitamins increases exponentially. If your senior is less apt to prepare their own meals, have your senior ask their doctor about a multivitamin supplement. They can also ask about liquid nutrition supplements. While it doesn’t take the place of a real meal, it can help them get the nutrition and energy they need as a stopgap. There are also nutrition services programs such as Meals on Wheels and many resources online.
4. Social Interaction and a Sense of Connectedness Can Make a World of Difference
This is a stage of life when seniors may lose a lot of their connections. Your senior might have retired from their job, and there’s a lot of socializing done in the workplace. Friends and family may be passing on or moving away into assisted living or retirement communities. Even if their connections are only moving, it may create an extra obstacle to visiting them. If your senior isn’t technologically savvy or not much of a phone talker, this could be an even bigger roadblock to them.
There are plenty of ways to help your senior make and keep connections that are important to them. Help them plan (and keep) a regularly scheduled phone call or a video call. They can also sign up for a class or a volunteer opportunity with an organization they’re passionate about.
5. How About Letting Solterra Senior Living Help?
This is something we’re passionate about too. A senior living community is a great way to make new connections and keep them—since your friends are now your neighbors, just steps away down the hall. We also plan lots of engaging activities, and we love arranging nutritious meals and entertaining outings for our residents. Contact us today or come and visit, and we’ll show you what it means to live well.