We all know that the secret to good health is to eat well and exercise frequently. However, as we enter our senior years and certain health issues begin to occur it can be all too easy to make excuses and to let those bad habits slip in. It is important we equip ourselves with the knowledge about what old age really means and familiarise ourselves with some of the potential problems we may experience later in life. And the sooner we start to make any necessary lifestyle changes now, the better our health will be in the future.
With this in mind, we want to look at some of the ways you can stay fit and healthy as you enter your senior years:
Use It Or Lose It
The old saying of “you need to use it or lose it” is never truer than in your twilight years and this is equally relevant to both our physical and mental health. To maintain the quality of life that you have been used to will require some effort, but it’s important to remember that you are no longer a teenager, and you cannot do some of the things you once could. Depending on your age and capability now may be the time to reach out and ask for help. Don’t worry we’re not sending you to a care home just yet, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong in looking at the options for live in care, especially if you are keen to keep your independence and continue living in your own home. A live in carer won’t take over your life, they are simply there to assist you and to help maintain the quality of life you are so desperate to keep hold of.
It might be that you are completely physically able, but your memory isn’t quite what it once was, and this can become a problem if it means you’re forgetting to take medication, or if you are struggling with certain day to day tasks. Or perhaps you’re the most switched on person you know, but frustratingly it’s your body that’s starting to let you down and you now find it a struggle to get up and down the stairs or do some of the household chores. Live in care can help with all of these things and more, but at the same time encourage you to keep on using your brain and your body in order to maintain that level of independence that we worry so much about losing.
As we age it is inevitable that our pace of life begins to slow and there’s nothing wrong with that, but there is a difference between slow and static. We must keep moving and we must keep looking after ourselves if we want to continue enjoying the life we have. After all, getting old doesn’t mean that it’s time to give up just yet. Many of us still have plenty of years ahead of us and staying fit and healthy in our senior years just means we get to enjoy those years a lot more than if we were to just sit back and do nothing
Stay Physically Active
Exercise, as we all know, is essential for good health. It helps us to maintain a healthy weight; it reduces the impact of illness and chronic disease; it improves flexibility, mobility and balance; and it is good for our mental health too. All very important factors as we get older.
If you are someone who has always exercised, then continuing this healthy habit may seem easy. And that’s true if your body hasn’t yet encountered any issues, but if you start to notice more aches and pains, it is important to listen to your body and adjust your workout accordingly. Any movement is good movement, even going for a walk or doing some gardening counts as exercise, and what is most important is that you are moving regularly in a way that doesn’t put strain on your body.
If on the other hand you are someone who is new to exercise, it doesn’t mean that age needs to be a barrier – you are never too old to start! You will however, have to be a lot more careful about the exercise you choose and this is where getting professional help will benefit you, as personal trainers will be able to work out a fitness plan completely tailored to your ability.
You may consider yourself too frail or too old to exercise, but that is really is no excuse. Everyone can exercise, it’s all about finding the right kind of exercise for you and adjusting the intensity accordingly. As a general guideline, adults over the age of 65 should be aiming to do some kind of activity every day, with at least 2 of them involving something like yoga, Tai Chi or Pilates to help with flexibility, balance and strength, and at least 15o minutes of moderate activity every week, such as a gym workout or a brisk walk etc. This kind of exercise will help make you feel stronger and can really help the fight against osteoporosis, which is a particular concern for women who have gone through the menopause and are now in their senior years.
Keep Your Mind Healthy
Regular exercise is also good for brain health and mental wellbeing, but there are also other things you can do to keep alert and cognitive in your senior years. Dementia and Alzheimer’s are common diseases among the elderly and while we can’t do anything to completely prevent them, especially if there is a family history, we can delay them for as long as possible. As we get older and start to slow down, so too do our brains. Just like the muscles in our body, if we use them less they work less and gradually they start to deteriorate. The same is true of our brain and the effect is that we become more forgetful and our ability to learn decreases.
Brain stimulating activities that are good for the senior years include crosswords and Sudoku, jigsaw puzzles, reading, chess and other board games. Activities such as these help stimulate parts of the brain that deal with problem-solving, memory, concentration and attention. It is essentially exercise for the brain, a mental workout if you like, and according to a study undertaken by the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, this can result in brain function that is 10 times younger than your actual age.
Activities like these are easy to come by, they’re cheap, and are simple enough to fit into your day. But what if your eyesight is starting to deteriorate? This is where the option of live in care could be of huge benefit, as they would be able to come in and assist you with this, by reading clues etc. or challenging you in ways you might not challenge yourself. And talking of challenges, while puzzles and word games are great for improving your memory, it is important to also continue to learn new things in your senor years, because learning and challenging yourself to try new things is what keeps the brain at its most active.
You could for example:
- Learn a new language
- Improve your computer skills
- Trace your family tree
- Follow a recipe to create a meal or cake that you’ve never made before.
Doing anything that mentally stretches you a little is great for brain health and also to instil a sense of purpose and self worth.
What and how we eat changes as we progress into our senior years. We generally need fewer calories as our metabolisms slow down and we move less. Eating well not only helps us in a physical sense, but it also promotes mental health, it boosts energy levels and can increase resistance to illness, which are all incredibly important factors in old age. And it’s important to remember that healthy eating doesn’t automatically translate as dieting and giving up the foods we love, it is about eating nutritionally balanced foods that support the body while still allowing us to enjoy and take pleasure in what we eat.
Foods that are rich in omega 3 fatty acids, such as olive oil, oily fish, nuts and seeds, are great ‘brain foods’, helping to improve cognitive function as well as keeping joints supple. It is a good idea to also include lots of calcium rich foods in your to reduce the risks of osteoporosis. Foods like canned fish that contain bones; green leafy vegetables; milk; cheese and yogurt are all great options.
If you live on your own, it can be hard to get motivated to cook for just one person. Batch cooking is great as it allows you to stock up the freezer with your own healthy ready meals that are nutritionally balanced and means you’ve always got something in. Spaghetti bolognaise, stews, chilli, and soup all freeze really well and it is easy to get extra vegetable portions into these. You can then add little extras like grated cheese or salad when you serve them. This will also allow you to save money at the supermarket, as you can buy bigger packs of things that you know won’t go off before you’ve had a chance to eat them.
If you are no longer able to cook for yourself, live in care will be able to assist with this and it means you can retain some degree of independence by telling them what foods to buy from the supermarket and the type of meals you like to eat. There may come a time in the future when moving into a care home becomes the best option for you, but before then it’s important to know that there are other choices available to you that mean you can remain in your own home.
Loneliness is one of the biggest issues we face as we get older and this can have a serious impact on our health. It is estimated that over 2 million people over the age of 75 in the UK live on their own and more than a million only get to speak to close friends, family or neighbours just once a month. As humans we thrive in the company of others and without that interaction our health can rapidly go into decline.
If you are still able to get out and about by yourself, then it’s up to you to make the effort to look for new opportunities to connect with people. Reignite a passion for a hobby you once had by joining a group and make friends with like minded people. Or think about volunteering, a great way to connect with people whilst also helping out in the community too. This will also give you a sense of purpose that you may have missed from your younger days.
A live in carer would also be hugely beneficial if you aren’t so physically able, as they could help you to get around, either within your own home or out and about too. Plus they themselves offer that human connection, simply by visiting you when you need them.
Everyday we get older, it is something that is beyond our control. However, what we can control is how we approach old age and how our bodies and minds are equipped to deal with the issues that arise during our senior years. Taking the time to exercise, eat well, spend time with others and to keep ourselves mentally challenged are four simple ways that can help us to stay fit and healthy. And no matter what our personal circumstances or current health situation is, there is help out there if you are willing to accept it.