September is healthy aging month. It’s a great time to take stock, evaluate your habits, and find out whether you can make changes to your lifestyle to ensure that you age both gracefully and healthfully. Read on for some important tips to improve your mind, body, and spirit – no matter what year is on your birth certificate!
Learn what to expect
You wouldn’t go into a job interview unprepared. The same can be said about aging. It’s a good idea to learn what is part of the normal process of getting older and what may be cause for concern. Common physical signs of aging include:
- Changes in muscle mass
- Worsening vision
- Hearing loss
- Changes in cardiovascular health
- Joint changes, ranging from mild stiffness to severe arthritis
- Decrease in overall energy and mobility
You can find more helpful information on the common signs and symptoms of aging here.
Exercise matters, but so does your shape
You’ve likely heard that exercise is one of the best ways to combat the negative effects of aging. After all, it provides an array of benefits including:
- Reduced risk of developing some diseases and disabilities that often occur with aging, such as poor balance and posture
- Improvement in chronic conditions such as arthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease
- Endurance exercises, which are exercises that increase your breathing and heart rate, help to increase stamina and improve both lung health and the function of the circulatory system and heart.
Regular exercise is important, but did you know that it also matters where on your body you store the most fat? Body-fat distribution, which means the circumference of your waist and waist-to-hip ratio, can be a serious problem for seniors. Here’s what you should know about your body shape:
- Individuals who are “pear” shaped (those who tend to store body fat in areas such as the hips and thighs, are generally healthier than individuals who are “apple” shaped (those who tend to store more fat around the waist).
- Storing more fat around the waist can increase the risk for heart disease and certain types of cancer.
- As we age, body fat tends to shift from the hips and thighs to the abdominal area of the body.
- While you can’t target fat in a specific area of the body (by doing lots of sit ups, for example), reducing the amount of body fat overall can have a dramatic effect on your health.
Be wary of anti-aging treatments
It may be tempting to pick up that anti-wrinkle serum or a new supplement that promises to turn back the clock, but it’s best to be cautious. Anti-aging therapies often don’t live up to their claims. At best, you might gain some small benefit, but at worst, you could do serious damage to your body. There are no magic bullets when it comes to aging, so it’s best to research what you’re buying, and know how to spot suspicious products. If you’re unsure, discuss the product with a family member or trusted caregiver. He or she can help you determine whether it will help or possibly harm you.
Loneliness can be harmful, but there’s hope
Loneliness is often a problem for seniors who may not be as mobile and independent as they once were. Spending long hours at home alone can take a toll on both mental and physical health, but the good news is that there are many opportunities for seniors to socialize – often without needing to leave the comfort of home! From companionship provided by a trusted caregiver to virtual family visits, options abound. Here are some additional ideas to try.
- Home assistant devices such as Google Home or Amazon Echo are easy to use once set up. This technology can provide options to reduce loneliness such as asking the device for information on a topic of interest or playing a favorite type of music.
- Gratitude and meditation apps can help boost mental health and reduce loneliness. Listening to a soothing voice helps boost mood and creates a feeling of connectedness.
- Hobbies can help seniors connect with others. Whether you join a crochet group or join an online book club, the chance to connect with others, even through a screen, can help reduce feelings of loneliness.
- Consider a home health care agency. Caregivers are not only for seniors with substantial needs. Loneliness can be reduced by regular companionship and spending time with a caregiver.
Remember that seniors often need specialized care
If you or your senior loved one needs ongoing care, this can often be provided at home. In fact, choosing the right home care services can help seniors maintain independence and even improve their quality of life.
For example, in-home senior care can provide seniors with a variety of types of assistance, including medication management, transportation, assistance with meals, light housekeeping, respite care, and companionship services.
To help you or your loved one sort through all the choices available for home healthcare, it’s important to ask questions. Here are some of the most important things you will want to ask about:
- agency qualifications, including how long they have been in business and whether they have a good reputation in the community
- quality of care, including certified staff and 24/7 oversight
- costs and specific services provided
Keep in mind that the more information you have, the easier it will be to choose the best agency or caregiver.