As those over 70 know, even if the mind is young, the body can have other ideas. Although things might change physically as we enter our senior years there are plenty of simple activities, we can build into our daily lives to protect our bodies and minds from the effects of aging, and focus on good health. Staying healthier longer means we can maintain our independence into older age, and keep enjoying life fully.
Walking to exercise the brain
For many older people, walking is the perfect exercise. It is safe, enjoyable, and brings many, many benefits to mental wellbeing. Not only does it give a sense of purposefulness and achievement, it can also bring a fresh perspective and outlook. It can be a chance to enjoy the outdoors with a partner, or simply reflect on nature on your own.
Whilst how fast you can walk may be a good measure of general health, speed should not be the target. Instead focus on the pleasure of walking and how you have earned a sit down when you get home, should you feel the need for a rest.
Have a medicine review
People often get put on a drug, and stay on it without question, even if symptoms change, or they take other medicines for other conditions. Seniors commonly take a few drugs for different complaints, without knowing if those drugs interact with each other, or even if they are still the most effective ones for the condition.
Request an appointment with your physician to specifically go through the medication and supplements you are taking to make sure these are the best ones for you currently. Ask about side-effects, best time of day to take them and whether the different drugs will interact with each other. Go through your list and make sure that each item is justified.
Prevent frailty and falls
Around one third of people over 75 fall each year, but a combination of strength and balance exercises can do wonders to reduce the risk.
For the weaker older person, even gentle exercise makes a huge difference: such as standing up during the commercial breaks, raising and lowering a heavy book for a minute a couple of times each evening, or carefully standing on one leg to practise balance. The trick is to start slowly, doing what you can manage safely, then building up over time, which will help increase muscle strength and stamina.
Many seniors have been proven to be fitter than they think, especially those who do not do formal exercise, but instead perhaps do other physical activities like cleaning their own home each week, doing the shopping or taking their dog for a daily walk.
Enjoy what you eat
Seniors wishing to eat healthily should have a balanced diet, packed with a range of fruit and vegetables, plenty of fibre, with some good quality meat and protein. However, experts also say that for those in their 80s and 90s it is most important to love what you eat, and look forward to meal times. Variety is the main message. If you are eating a wide range of foods you are more likely to be getting the different nutrients your body requires. Also, when someone enjoys their food, they tend to have a larger appetite and therefore get the energy they need from their diet.
Be risk-aware (not risk-averse)
Some would say that living life on the wild side is what makes life worth living. In youth a little exhilaration is seen as good for the soul. So why does that need to stop completely when we pass a certain milestone? It is important to get the balance right between what brings us joy and excitement, and what is an unwise or dangerous activity. If you’re unsure where to draw the line, get external advice. For example, if you’re not sure whether your driving is still safe, seek the advice of a driving instructor who is qualified to make the judgement.