A few wrinkles and gray hairs don’t mean that your loved ones should give up on seeking out good nutrition, getting daily exercise or making positive lifestyle changes. Healthy habits are the key to maintaining a satisfying quality of life well into one’s golden years. Not only that, a healthy day-to-day routine helps seniors weather life’s challenges, enables them to handle the inevitable physical changes of aging – and even boosts energy.
What are the most critical habits your loved one should adopt for more energy and vitality? Read on for ten tips that will benefit not just the seniors in your life but your entire family.
1. Include Daily Physical Activity
In addition to being good for strength, agility, balance and mental health, exercise has a number of other benefits for our aging loved ones. “Regular moderate physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight, lower blood pressure and lessen the extent of arterial stiffening,” says the Mayo Clinic. You can start slow, with something as simple as walking, and look for an activity you really like in order to stay motivated.
2. Eat Healthy – and Enjoyably
Seniors’ bodies have changing needs, and addressing these nutritional needs can be critical to boosting energy and maintaining heart health. Getting plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fiber and lean protein – and limiting salt and fat – will ensure that your loved ones have the right fuel to keep them lively. If you’re worried about your loved ones’ appetite, making the food look good as well as taste good can help motivate them to eat more, suggests non-profit group HelpGuide.org.
3. Avoid Dehydration
Getting plenty of fluids is important for everyone, but particularly for seniors, who are at increased risk of dehydration. “Dehydration is common in seniors due to decreased feelings of thirst, medications and diseases that increase your fluid needs, and decrease in overall food and beverage intake,” says Heather Schwartz, a Registered Dietitian working at Stanford Hospital and Clinics. Dehydration can lead to fatigue and other negative physical effects, so be sure your loved ones get the recommended amount of fluids—around 2 liters per day.
4. Don’t Smoke
If your loved one does smoke, talk to a health provider about quitting – it can add years back onto a family member’s life. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, smoking is the top cause of preventable illness and death in this country. Quitting will reduce the risk of chronic disease, improve taste and smell, free up your breathing – and boost overall energy and health.
5. Practice Healthy Stress Management
The physical and mental changes of older age – not to mention life’s unforeseen challenges – can lead to stress, which takes a toll on the heart, the body and the soul. For all of us, taking steps to reduce stress and practice healthy coping strategies, such as acknowledging our emotions and seeking help when we need it, promotes resilience, energy and a positive perspective on life.
6. Get Plenty of Sleep
Sleep problems such as insomnia or frequent waking can be an issue as we age, leading to daytime sleepiness and loss of energy. Fostering good sleep habits can help ward off such problems. HelpGuide.org suggests going to bed when you feel tired; developing soothing bedtime rituals; making sure the bedroom is comfortable, quiet and dark; and avoiding too much bright light, TV or computer use for at least an hour before bed.
7. Stay Socially Connected
Staying connected with friends and family can help prevent depression, loneliness and stress, and can also keep your loved ones cheerful and vital. However, social contact can be more of a challenge as we age. Events as diverse as retirement, career changes, death, and moves out of the area can diminish our access to people we care about. Make sure your loved one reaches out to social contacts and family members, keeping those bonds active. You might even encourage them to meet new people through volunteering or other activities they enjoy.
8. Get the Right Vitamins and Nutrients
To promote bone, joint and muscle health, and thereby retain strength, energy and flexibility, the Mayo Clinic urges seniors to get the right amount of calcium and vitamin D. Getting plenty of protein and other key nutrients such as vitamin A, B, C, E, niacin, and folate is also important in avoiding deficiencies that can lead to fatigue and chronic illness.
9. Be Mentally Active
Keeping the mind sharp with mentally stimulating activities can help ward off memory loss and mild cognitive impairment – and boost creativity and mental energy, which can be just as important as physical energy. Whether it’s games, puzzles, or learning something new like a language or a musical instrument, maintaining the brain is both healthy and rewarding.
10. Nourish Your Spirit with Meaningful Activities
After retirement, our loved ones might find themselves with extra time on their hands: the perfect opportunity to find new adventures as well as enjoy existing hobbies and interests. “A key ingredient in the recipe for healthy aging over 50 is the continuing ability to find meaning and joy in life,” says HelpGuide.org. Activities like pursuing hobbies, taking classes, volunteering or traveling can do a lot to energize and motivate us, no matter what age we are.