Despite what many people believe, a decline in physical health is not a necessary consequence of aging. Many people continue to stay fit and healthy well into old age, prompting others to wonder what their secret could possibly be. The answer isn’t anything particularly exciting or groundbreaking — in fact, it’s downright mundane. Sustained good habits are still very much the key, and the good news is that they are all achievable at any age.
Proactive health habits are one-half of aging well — preventative measures for staying safe make up the other half. The most important ones are the measures you take to prevent injury in your own home. Broadly speaking, these fall into three categories of home modification: safety, accessibility, and convenience. Ideally, you should focus on them in that exact order, with safety being your utmost priority and convenience improvements being something you can work toward when you have the extra money. These modifications, combined with a routine that keeps your body and mind in shape, are your best bet at having the chance to age in place in your own home without assistance or live-in support.
Above All, Exercise
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts it plainly: “The loss of strength and stamina attributed to aging is in part caused by reduced physical activity.” The problem isn’t that you’re getting too old for exercise, it’s that a lack of exercise is making you feel older. Seniors who exercise regularly see improvements in energy, balance, flexibility, strength, and overall mobility.
And it’s not all about physical well-being. According to USA Today, several organizations across the country are using exercise to combat the feeling of loneliness and irrelevance that often comes with old age. Exercise keeps you active, yes, but it can also get you out of the house and connect you to other members of your community. When you combine this with the well-recorded mental health benefits of exercise, it is obvious that if there is one habit that seniors should be prioritizing, it’s regular physical activity.
Many seniors are scared of exercise, believing they are too fragile or out of shape to tackle it. However, you are never too out of shape to exercise: you’re just simply doing the wrong exercise, at the wrong intensity. Take it slowly with gentle workouts like walking, swimming, or yoga, and start strength training with very low weights to build up your strength.
Several factors contribute to a decline in nutritional quality in the diets of senior citizens. Some of these are physical, such as a loss of smell or tastebuds, while others are social, such as a lack of motivation to cook for just one person. However, seniors and their families need to make sure that they are feeding their bodies with enough fruit, vegetables, protein, fiber, and healthy fats (not to mention plenty of water). This guide to nutrition for seniors by Everyday Health contains some great guidance and tips to try.
Of course, there are other good habits to maintain to ensure good health. However, exercise and diet are great places to start since they tend to have a knock-on effect in other areas of your life. People who exercise regularly tend to sleep better and, as discussed, will often socialize as part of their fitness routine. A healthy diet can help regulate your moods, positively impacting your mental health. A healthy body can even mitigate the damage of a trip or fall — but it can’t necessarily prevent it from happening. This is why a combination exercise, diet, and preventative safety is the secret to seizing control of your own well-being at any age.
For more information check out Jason Lewis and www.strongwell.org