Healthy living means something different to different people. For some people, like runners, for example, eating complex carbohydrates is an essential, healthy fuel, whereas it could be harmful to someone managing diabetes. The same can be said for health as we age. What might have been healthy in your 30s may not be healthy now that you’re in your 60s. And, what’s more, you might have some unexpected health-related needs that you never could have predicted a few years ago.
The health and well-being of our minds and bodies can sometimes keep us guessing — especially for seniors. But focusing on your special needs and wants is essential in getting the most out of your golden years. Here is a list of some healthy tips, tricks and resources specifically for folks 65 and older.
Stay Up to Date on Healthcare
The complex world of healthcare is constantly changing, and that’s a tough situation for many seniors. Once you retire, switching from your private health plan to Medicare may be confusing and challenging. What’s more, Medicare itself often changes, and even small changes can be a big deal. Don’t get caught off guard by a change that could limit your access to providers or prescriptions. Staying proactive about Medicare means tapping into resources that can guide you through the enrollment process, the differences between Parts A, B, C and D, which plans your state offers and signing up for supplemental plans to help cover gaps in medical needs, like dental, vision and prescription drugs.
Senior Isolation is Real — and Dangerous
Limited social activity can negatively impact a senior’s mental and physical health. Loneliness in people over the age of 65 increases the likelihood of death by more than 26 percent. When seniors are isolated, they aren’t as stimulated or as verbal, which is why they face a 64 percent increase in the risk of dementia. But there are substantial mental health risks, as well. Seniors who live alone or have little social interaction are at a higher risk for depression, anxiety and even addiction. Even if you live alone, you can still get out and be social. Take a class at your local senior center or community college. Do more than just go to church; join a committee or a Bible study group. Spend your time volunteering in your community to defeat not just loneliness, but to also bring a sense of purpose and meaning into your life.
Exercise is a Must
Staying active is fundamental to a healthy, happy life, and that includes a life after retirement. Exercise gives you a sense of routine, something to plan and prepare for. But even more it gives you goals to work toward. Regular exercise helps prevent bone loss, diabetes, chronic disease, risk of injury and heart disease. And while we know the physical benefits, because they are easy to see, there are some not-so-easy-to-see benefits, as well. Exercise helps your mental health by giving you a surge of confidence, while also providing healthy ways to cope with stress and manage anxiety. By boosting endorphins and serotonin, even moderate exercise can help seniors enhance their mental health.
Depression isn’t a “Normal” Part of Aging
Despite what you may think, the frequent “blues” that can occur with age aren’t just some kind of side effect you have to deal with. As the body experiences changes with age, so can mood, but if seniors are experiencing prolonged sadness, they should talk to their healthcare provider. This isn’t something you have to live with, nor is it something you have to deal with alone. Many seniors face sadness due to loss, bereavement, illness, family moving away or changing physical conditions. And that is normal — the idea isn’t that you shouldn’t feel any sadness, but just a healthy amount. When it starts to linger or intensify instead of fading, your first stop should be your primary care physician. You can also talk to anyone that you trust and have a loving relationship with, like a friend, family member, pastor or former coworker.
You've worked hard to get where you are, and the right lifestyle can help you make the most of this new chapter. Try to make the best life choices you can and live fully in the present moment. Appreciating where you are can relieve pressure, both mentally and physically, so you can enjoy living your life.
About the Author: Karen created ElderWellness.net to keep seniors staying mentally, physically and spiritually well.