RESOLVE TO AGE GRACEFULLY
There's no better time than the start of a new year to chart a course for a healthier lifestyle. People are living longer than ever, and the goals accomplished right now can have a dramatic impact on your lifespan and quality of life. Whether you're inspired by other active and healthy seniors or simply want to make improvements to your daily routine, by setting and reaching a few new goals this year, it's possible to age gracefully in a strong body.
Obesity is considered one of America's most pressing health epidemics, and like the country as a whole, senior obesity rates are on the rise. A full 28 percent of seniors have a body mass index of 30.0 or above. It's especially important for older Americans to consult with their doctors about their weight, because obesity is a known accelerator of hypertension, diabetes, cancer, and many other chronic ailments that disproportionately affect the old.
Eating right can mean something different for everyone, but according to the Department of Agriculture's ChooseMyPlate, all seniors need to focus on upping their intake of potassium, calcium, vitamin B12, dietary fiber, and minerals.
ChooseMyPlatetouts the importance of physical activity for seniors which, just as with diet, is different for everybody. What's universal, however, is that physical activity is crucial to staying strong and remaining independent as we age. For most adults of any age, this means 150 minutes (2 1/2 hours) of exercise every week.
SCHEDULE A WELLNESS VISIT
One good thing to come out of the many changes to health care laws that have taken place over the last few years is the inclusion of an Annual Wellness Visit (AWV) as part of Medicare. The AWV is different from regular physicals and offers a comprehensive, personalized, and age-specific examination and consultation. Medicare Part B covers 100 percent of the costs for qualifying enrollees.
According to the National Institute on Aging, the body processes alcohol differently in older adults. Excessive drinking can be especially dangerous for seniors because it dramatically increases the likelihood of accidents and injuries. Too much alcohol can also accelerate and even cause several chronic illnesses, including cancer, liver disease and immune disorders.
GUARD AGAINST FALLS
One in four seniors falls every year, with a fall killing a senior every 19 minutes and sending one to the emergency room every 11 seconds. The good news is that many bad falls are entirely preventable. The Falls Free Initiative and the Falls Free Action Plan explain how to make sure that you or a senior in your care does everything possible to avoid a potentially fatal tumble.
PLAY BRAIN GAMES
Sleep patterns change as we age, but the common perception that seniors need less sleep is simply not true. According to the National Sleep Foundation, it often becomes harder for seniors to fall asleep or stay asleep. Try exercising in the afternoon, avoiding stimulants three to four hours before bed, going to bed and waking up the same time every night and morning, and avoiding alcohol in the evening to get more shut-eye.
GET A PET
Although it might seem counterintuitive, there's overwhelming evidencethat owning a pet can help seniors age gracefully. Holding, petting, and otherwise interacting with any kind of pet can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and generate a sense of calm. A pet can boost social interaction, give seniors a sense of purpose, provide companionship and, in the case of animals like dogs that need to be walked, provide an in-home exercise partner.
SPEAK UP ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS
Aging can be stressful and depressing, but the clinical condition known as depression is not a normal part of aging and is more than just feeling sad or blue. Visit the National Institute on Aging to learn about the signs of depression, which go far beyond just sadness. Many seniors came of age in a time when stoicism was valued, but if you're experiencing any symptoms of depression, the worst thing you can do is keep them to yourself.
The single most important change any smoker can make is toquit smoking, but quitting is especially critical for seniors. Quit now no matter your age. Even those who wait to quit until their 60s have a 23 percent lower risk of death than those who never break the habit.