As seniors age, it is vital that they develop routines to protect their health and fitness. Staying active, exercising the body and brain regularly, living in a healthy environment, and adopting healthy eating habits can help protect bone health, control diabetes, and heart disease, promote brain health, and more. Here are eight tips to maintain health and fitness for the elderly.
Do Weight-Bearing Exercises For Good Bone Health
As people age, they lose bone density. This is especially prevalent in post-menopausal women. The drop in estrogen levels can adversely affect bone density and can lead to osteopenia or osteoporosis. Fractures are a major health problem for the elderly, with hip fractures having approximately a 20% mortality rate in the first year after fracture. For these reasons, it is important to include weight-bearing exercise in a fitness routine for seniors. Weight-bearing exercises can help the body fight bone loss and can contribute to keeping osteoporosis at bay.
Weight-bearing exercises do not need to include heavy weightlifting. On the contrary, the best weight-bearing exercises for seniors use their own body weight. Elderly adults can develop a fitness routine that includes exercises such as heel raises, modified push-ups against a wall, and squats, all of which are excellent weight-bearing exercises. When using weights to supplement these exercises, seniors should use light hand weights. One- or two-pound weights can have a significant effect.
Walk Regularly To Maintain Mobility
There are a number of health benefits to walking for seniors. A daily walk around the neighborhood, a local mall, or a park helps to keep joints loose and lubricated, which can decrease joint pain in those with arthritis. Walking is a form of weight-bearing exercise, so it helps to lower the risk of fracture in older adults. Walking gets the heart rate up which is important for cardiovascular health. In addition, walking increases serotonin levels which are important for counteracting depression and anxiety. Many seniors experience these challenges as the uncertainty of aging unfolds for them.
Walking can help older adults maintain their mobility. Elderly adults who are not able to stay mobile without assistance are more likely to need extra care. The need for caregivers is increasing and the demands on them are intense. Staying fit enough to maintain some level of independence helps the elderly avoid the costs and stress associated with extra, more invasive care.
One of the best ways to prevent or manage diabetes in older adults is to maintain a healthy weight. Excessive weight gain can tax the body’s systems and bring on diabetes later in life. Diabetes can lead to a host of serious health problems such as heart disease, an increased risk of cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and kidney disease. With the decreased activity of many elderly adults, maintaining a healthy weight can be a challenge.
Eating a balanced diet, in addition to regular exercise like walking, is the best way to maintain a healthy weight. A healthy diet includes lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products. Staying within the recommended daily calorie intake level and eating enough variety to get all of the necessary nutrients and vitamins is also extremely important.
Elderly adults also need to be concerned about muscle loss, which can hurt mobility and make seniors more prone to injury. As one loses muscle it becomes increasingly difficult to perform daily tasks around the home. Gardening, walking and climbing the stairs all require strong muscles.
Older adults require more protein in their diet to maintain muscular health. Muscle loss can begin as young as 50 and muscle mass continues to decline over the years. To maintain muscle mass, in addition to exercise, eating protein with every meal can help. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, published by the US government, encourages older Americans to choose from a variety of protein sources to ensure adequate protein intake. Proteins such as those from legumes or string beans, in addition to lean meat, make for a healthier heart. Also, consider the fact that seniors’ digestive systems are relatively weak, so having leafy greens and fiber along with their protein sources (spinach, lentils, legumes), etc. is important.
Maintain A Healthy Home
A key tip for health in elderly adults is to maintain a healthy home environment. Our environment directly affects both our health and wellbeing. Poor air circulation can lead to stagnant air, which promotes the growth of bacteria. This can directly affect the respiratory health of older adults. Proper filtration for HVAC systems is vital to maintaining good air quality. Seniors should also consider using an air purifier to keep allergens out of the air in their homes.
An excess of clutter promotes the accumulation of dust and other contaminants. In addition, too much clutter in the home can increase a sense of worry or stress. Keeping the home clutter-free promotes a sense of calm in the home that is important for maintaining mental health.
Common household chemicals can leave toxins in the air, affecting respiratory health. Older adults should consider cleaning with less toxic chemicals to maintain good respiratory health.
As important as the physical, chemical health of a senior’s home is its social environment. Keep seniors’ homes calm, and quiet. Excess noise or activity can lead to stress, anxiety, and confusion.
Practice Yoga For Flexibility And Balance
As adults age, they tend to lose flexibility. Coupled with the other challenges of aging, this can make it much harder for elderly adults to get around. Yoga is a fantastic form of exercise for maintaining or rebuilding flexibility. Modifications within a yoga practice can be made in order to accommodate the limitations of many older adults. Many yoga studios offer classes that are geared specifically to seniors, using props and modifications to support these adults in their practice. These classes are specifically created to promote flexibility for elderly adults.
Yoga also promotes balance. Loss of balance can lead to falls and, too often, fractures. Maintaining good balance helps elderly adults to avoid these falls, keeping them healthy and mobile.
Advances in technology have created new opportunities for elderly adults to stay fit. From telehealth appointments to automated pill dispensers that keep track of medicine intake to emergency alert systems, older adults have tools to keep living safely on their own.
If an elderly adult no longer drives, it can be difficult to get to doctor’s appointments. For many, this is the barrier that keeps them from accessing regular healthcare services. In this technological age, telehealth appointments are readily available and allow seniors to access routine healthcare services without leaving home. This extra care can mean catching problems earlier when they are easier to address. In addition to connecting with their physicians through telehealth appointments, seniors can also access mental health services via video appointment, helping to manage the depression and anxiety that can often set in with elderly patients.
Older adults are often on a number of medications and keeping track of when to take which pill can be challenging without assistance. Automated pill dispensers can take on the burden of monitoring times for taking medications, relieving the elderly of that concern, and helping them take all of their medications regularly.
Medical devices that allow elderly adults to push a button and get help in emergencies are another technology that can save lives and promote independence. With something like Life Alert, a device worn around the neck, seniors can reach their doctor or a loved one if they experience a medical emergency. Not only can this be a life-saving intervention, but it can also give the elderly and their loved ones peace of mind. Smartwatches are worth a mention, too. Some smartwatches can monitor seniors’ heart rates in case of cardiac trouble, constantly check blood pressure and sugar levels, and seniors can call 911 from them.
Exercise-The Brain To Maintain Mental Acuity
Just like the rest of the body, the brain requires regular exercise. Regularly challenging the brain to perform different tasks helps to keep brain function sharp and active. There are so many choices for exercising the brain that older adults can find one or two that interest them.
Games are a great way to challenge the brain. Chess is a mentally stimulating game that requires one to think ahead and consider various scenarios. This is excellent for promoting brain function. Puzzles are another good brain workout. No two puzzles are exactly the same and it requires problem-solving skills to complete a puzzle. This keeps the brain active and engaged. Puzzles can include jigsaw puzzles, sudoku puzzles, crossword puzzles, and many others.
Reading is an excellent activity for working out the brain. Reading can improve memory and strengthen decision-making skills and abilities while reducing stress and improving sleep habits.
Anxiety and depression are common in the elderly population, so it can be powerful to give a senior the tools they need to express themselves or pursue a passion. Model building, poetry, and baking are all great examples of things seniors can do that will stimulate their brains and make them happy.
Older adults have a variety of tools at their disposal for maintaining their health, mobility, and independence as they age. It is vital to exercise regularly, including weight-bearing exercise for bone health, exercise for flexibility and balance, and regular walking. Eating well, especially eating an adequate amount of protein to maintain muscle mass, is another component of healthy living. In addition, living in a healthy environment, using technology for support, and regularly exercising the brain can support elderly adults as they continue to age.