We all know how to be healthy—eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, exercise regularly, and avoid things like smoking—but how does that advice change when you are a senior adult? What are the top tips to staying healthy as you age? There are really just two categories of how to stay healthy: healthy body and healthy mind.
Habits of healthy minds
Habits of healthy minds include how to keep your mental capacity in tiptop shape, keeping a positive attitude as you age, using technology to aid you as you age in place, and utilizing your senior network of friends, family, and professionals active to help you as the years go on.
How do you keep your mind healthy as you age? You do this by reading, doing puzzles, crosswords, games, and anything else that stretches your mental abilities. Managing your retirement portfolio serves two purposes of course, and sometimes try the calculations in your head instead of by calculator. If you have hobbies such as gardening, playing chess, or knitting, these are the kind of mental activities that can keep you sharp.
And that healthy body plays a large role in a well functioning mind too. Clinical studies show that regular exercise improves blood flow to the brain and helps stimulate brain cell growth, which can improve both memory and attention span. One study found that women who were physically fit during middle age were roughly 88% less likely to develop dementia than their peers who were only moderately fit – those are good odds for fitness!
Another component of a healthy mind is maintaining a positive attitude. With age comes a lot of challenges, so keeping positive thoughts can be difficult at times. Seniors do better at staying positive when they can engage in hobbies they enjoy and spend time with those close to them, whether that’s family, friends, or a next-door neighbor. Generosity to others helps avoiding sinking into self-isolation, and attending religious services and being involved in community projects can also keep your attitude one of satisfaction and gratefulness instead of melancholy.
In addition to the people in your life, seniors are definitely embracing technology to stay healthy and happy. This includes devices such as Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri to ward off loneliness and be connected to the world of information and entertainment. Helpiing devices such as medication reminders, smart watch bio-monitors, wearable alert systems, or home improvements with a built in medical alert system – these are all part of the mushrooming range of simple and affordable technology aids for seniors. In the extreme, these aids can contact family members or an ambulance in case of a fall, heart attack, or stroke when no one else is around.
Your personal social network also plays a crucial role in staying healthy. Being connected and interconnected with your own tribe plays a huge part in staying healthy and happy as we get older; this has become quite clear during the 2020-21 COVID pandemic, which caused millions of people to quarantine for weeks or months without seeing or hugging their loved ones. Grandparents had to get creative and check in with family and grandkids via technology such as Zoom, FaceTime calls, or Skype. Demand for services such as UberEATS, Door Dash, and Instacart saw an unprecedented surge due to the pandemic, often the only way that the elderly could get food or groceries delivered to their doorsteps. Luckily, the right technology was here to help all of us.
Habits of healthy bodies
So what habits lead to the healthiest bodies for senior citizens? Diet is obviously important, especially as we age. Certain nutrients may be lacking such as vitamin D or B, so taking the appropriate supplements (under the advice of your doctor or local clinic) and eating a healthy diet can help maintain a healthy body and mind. exercise is also a habit of maintaining a healthy body.
In your later years especially, you want to choose something that is fun to do and that you enjoy—swimming, tai chi, yoga, or chair aerobics all fall into this category. If you have trouble with your hips or knees, some forms of exercise may be painful, so try water-based exercise such as water aerobics or swimming instead.
Combining aerobic activity with strength training is best, and even better if you add in some activities to work on your balance as well. Research has proven that keeping active will slow the aging process and increase life expectancy. Aging itself is not the cause of most major problems until we are in our nineties!
How much time should you spend exercising? Seniors should be as active as they are physically able to be. For those over 65, shoot for at least 150 minutes a week of moderately intense aerobic activity, or at least 75 minutes a week of high-intensity aerobic activity.
In all, maintaining healthy habits for both mind and body are easy to do at any age. Just pay attention to your brain, your attitude, and your body to enjoy a healthy life!