Being classified as elderly is often viewed as a final walk to the end of life. This is primarily due to the depictions of a life riddled with illness and doctor visits. Fortunately, this is a myth.
Growing old should be viewed for what it is — your golden years. It’s likely that you have a long career behind you, grown children taking care of themselves, and most if not all your debt cleared. The years ahead are to be enjoyed.
Here are seven dimensions of health and wellness that will help you stay active, independent, and lead a fulfilling life in your senior years.
1. Regular Follow-Ups With Your Healthcare Provider
Age increases the likelihood of developing certain health conditions. Your body is probably unable to keep up with the same lifestyle you followed in your 30s and 40s.
A large percentage of seniors have at least one comorbid condition, the most common ones being high blood pressure and diabetes.
To manage this and reduce the chances of developing new health conditions, check in regularly with your doctor. You should also faithfully follow any prescriptions to prevent the progression of current ailments.
Schedule regular screenings such as colonoscopies, mammograms, or digital X-rays to check bone density during your doctor visits.
2. Healthy Routine
To enjoy your senior years, it’s essential to invest time into your health. This means following a healthy diet and exercise regimen.
The digestive system will not be able to sustain large meals or a night of binge drinking anymore. Consider smaller meals with more veggies and protein. These are vital for enhancing bone health, which tends to decline with age.
Eating to fuel your body and to keep your energy up should be your aim.
In addition to your healthy diet, add an exercise regimen. As little as 30 minutes a day of moderately intense exercise is sufficient for seniors. It helps to manage chronic conditions and lowers the risk of developing new ones.
Adding in some strength training will improve bone health and reduce chances of a fracture showing up on your next X-ray.
Another benefit of exercise is the improvement of sleep cycles, which seniors often struggle with. Getting enough sleep is an essential part of a healthy routine. Sleep rejuvenates you and helps you recover from the wear and tear of each day.
3. Mental Health as a Priority
It can be easy for mental health among seniors to be neglected. Often, physical health conditions take precedence as we age. And some mental health conditions manifest with physical signs, such as fatigue and body aches, which can distract from mental causes.
Loneliness and isolation are particular concerns among the elderly. Additionally, seniors tend to lose friends and family members as they age, which can heighten this sense of loneliness.
To address any feelings of isolation you might be experiencing, consider reaching out to caretakers or other family members. Today’s technology has closed the geographical gap by providing numerous ways for you to stay in contact with family members who are far away.
There are also healthcare initiatives targeted at mental health among seniors that can help boost your physical health as well.
4. Strong Community Network
With family often far away or separated from us by illness and death, it’s essential that seniors maintain a strong sense of community. However, challenges such as dementia, physical health concerns, and limited mobility can make reaching out to form social ties difficult.
Wherever you are, building community ties is extremely beneficial for your health and wellness. If it’s possible to meet up with your neighbors in person, it will help form bonds that can often prove beneficial in times of need.
Social connection can also come in the form of participation in local activities, such as volunteer programs, which provide the dual benefit of purpose and networking.
These simple attempts to reach out can help curb loneliness and provide a sense of fulfillment.
5. Time Outdoors
Sitting in the house all day, whether due to physical constraints or a lack of motivation to go outdoors, can contribute to several mental and physical health concerns for the elderly.
Getting a daily dose of sunlight helps top up on vitamin D, which is an essential element to bone health. Additionally, natural sunlight has been proven to improve mood. Walking and moving around helps your joints to stay agile. The longer you keep them working, the better they’ll function.
Venturing out into the neighborhood is also a great way to form relationships and ensure that people check in on you and vice versa.
6. Healthy Finances
With retirement, financial dynamics change. After we retire, there is a limited inflow of cash and a shift to reliance on pensions. In addition to regular expenditures, the elderly are also likely to incur expenses from medical bills.
Unfortunately, the elderly are vulnerable to financial abuse. Family and close friends might also complicate the situation by diverting money to insurance policies or fraudulent schemes.
Financial independence not only helps protect against this, but it’s also empowering, especially as a senior.
Consider enlisting the assistance of a financial advisor who can help you better understand your finances. They will be able to highlight differences between investment options and tailor your portfolio to best suit your spending needs.
7. Purpose and Identity
With illness, limited physical mobility, and higher risk of death, it becomes relatively easy to succumb to the notion that growing older is the end of the line.
However, with retirement and the freedom that age brings, embracing the transition to a new phase of life is the ideal way to move forward.
Explore what you wish to achieve in the time that lies ahead, and consider counseling sessions or community groups that are in sync with your purpose.
Share stories of your life experiences and the dreams you want to accomplish. These will help you start a new chapter and unlock your full potential.
About the Author
Dr. Michelle Frank is a healthcare consultant working towards building safe online health communities for women. She works with startups building digital products enabling women to make informed decisions when it comes to their health. She resides in India, exploring different cities and opportunities as they arise. Feel free to join in for #MyHealthChat which she co-hosts every alternate Thursday on Twitter.