I have seen quite a few over 65’s, lately, who are frustrated with what is happening to their bodies – suddenly, knees and hips don’t always work the way we want them to. Medicare also kicks in, now, and we have to choose a supplemental plan, which, I admit, was quite confusing for me; what a bureaucratic nightmare that can be!
My friend Jason Lewis is a personal trainer, who, after becoming the primary caretaker for his mom, decided to work more with seniors and help us all negotiate this mess. Jason has also developed exercise programs specific to our needs. I asked him for his best tips for us and here is his guest article! More about Jason can be found on his site: strongwell.org
There are plenty of wonderful perks that come with being a senior, from wisdom and unshakable confidence to loads of free time to do whatever you want. However, seniors also have to face the unfortunate reality of declining health. Whether you’re plagued by debilitating pain, frustrating memory loss, or chronic illness, here are some simple ways you can steer your physical and mental health in the right direction.
Take Full Advantage of Your Medicare Coverage
First of all, take some time to learn how Medicare can assist you as you take actions to improve your health. Medicare can help you cover the costs of many preventive health services to keep illnesses from creeping up on you and getting out of hand. For example, the basic Medicare program covers annual wellness exams, flu shots, and diagnostic tests.
You may want to supplement this basic coverage with a Medicare Advantage plan to help you pay for prescription drugs, vision, and dental expenses. Many Medicare Advantage plans even cover health and wellness programs, which can be useful for people battling chronic conditions. Check out MedicareAdvantage.com to learn more about the options available in your state.
I’ll admit, the information on these sites can be confusing. In some states, like Massachusetts, many senior centers have a “SHINE” counselor on site who is trained to help you navigate this confusing world of Medicare and Medicare Advantage and steer you in the direction that is most beneficial for YOU.
Focus Your Diet on Nutrient-Dense Foods
A loss of appetite and changing nutritional requirements make it difficult for seniors to get the vitamins and minerals they need to support their mental and physical health. If you’re eating less than you used to, focus on high-calorie, nutrient-dense foods. Try to get a healthy balance of protein, calcium, fiber, potassium, magnesium, iron, and vitamins C, D, and B12 in your diet.
Make it a Habit to Drink More Water
According to DailyCaring, dehydration is a common cause of hospitalization for seniors and can worsen many health conditions. Try to drink plenty of water every day by keeping a water bottle nearby at all times. You can also add water to your diet with soup, coffee, tea, smoothies, fruits, and vegetables — there are countless options to choose from.
Commit to a Daily Walk
Research has shown that seniors who walk daily are less likely to suffer mobility problems. Walking can help seniors improve balance and strength, ease joint pain, reduce high blood pressure, avoid heart problems, and manage the symptoms of diabetes. Plus, getting outside in the fresh air can give you a general sense of well-being and encourage you to socialize.
It can be difficult to pick up a new exercise routine, especially if you suffer from pain, so start with short walks and work your way up. Eventually, aim to walk for 30 minutes every day.
Practice Specific Exercises for Your Health Condition
Besides walking, there are several other exercises you can do to manage declining health. Seniors with Parkinson’s disease can benefit from exercises that change direction, pace, or activity at random. Parkinson’s patients should also focus on exercises that improve balance and encourage the arms and legs to move simultaneously. Some great options include yoga, Tai Chi, and dancing.
According to Everyday Health, seniors with osteoporosis should engage in specific workouts that build up bone and muscle strength to prevent inflammation and injury. Weightlifting, resistance bands, and bodyweight workouts are recommended for people with osteoporosis. Just be sure to talk with your doctor before starting an exercise program so you can avoid injury.
Learn Something New Every Day
You are never too old to learn a new skill. In fact, learning something new can improve your memory and cognitive abilities by strengthening connections in the brain. This is why learning may be particularly beneficial to people facing dementia in their senior years. Pick up a hobby that is mentally challenging to give your brain a daily dose of exercise. Learning another language, playing instruments, quilting, photography, and puzzle solving are just a couple of good options to help you get started.
Taking steps to support your health and prevent age-related decline will help you enjoy your senior years with greater independence and happiness. Even if you’re facing health problems, there are several resources available to help you enjoy your freedom, and engage in all the activities you love. Take control of your health however you can — every little action helps. As my friend Kathi Casey says, “Be the CEO of your own healthcare”!
Kathi has included a video with information on how to get up and down from the floor safely. It’s easier than you think!