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The later decades of your life can be among the most rewarding. You have more free time to devote to hobbies and people that make you happiest. You may be blessed with the joys of becoming a grandparent. You have more wisdom, patience, and confidence than you did when you were younger. And you have the perspective to know not to take any of it for granted.

It’s important to keep your body and mind healthy to enjoy these years to their fullest. The key to healthy aging is maintaining a healthy lifestyle. There are five essential science-backed elements to living a healthy lifestyle at any that any age, which continue to serve as a strong foundation for health and daily well-being as we age.

The 5 essential elements of healthy aging are:

  • Diet
    Many Americans consume far more sodium, sugar, and fat than they should, but following a healthy diet can become even more challenging as we age. Make sure your diet is largely composed of whole foods, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and good sources of protein. If cooking for yourself becomes an obstacle, take advantage of your senior living community’s dining room. The menus are created according to nutritional guidelines and will help you maintain a balanced diet.

 

  • Exercise
    Regular exercise is one of the most important elements of physical and mental well-being at any age. And contrary to popular assumption, it only becomes more important as we get older. Maintaining your physical fitness will help you retain independence, prevent injury, and can provide relief from chronic illnesses such as arthritis and diabetes.If you don’t already have a fitness regimen, read our tips for how to start an exercise routine after age 60.

 

  • Relationships
    Loneliness is among the biggest dangers to your health — especially later in life. Social isolation increases risk for depression, anxiety, dementia, and even early mortality. Maintaining an active social life can certainly become more challenging as we age, but that just means it’s even more important to make this area of your life a priority. Set up weekly calls or visits with family members, go on walks or get meals with friends, and find ways to get involved in your community.

 

  • Mental Stimulation
    Some people assume that cognitive decline is a natural byproduct of aging, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Practicing good habits for your cognitive health can prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia, improve memory, and minimize those pesky “senior moments.” The good news is that following the other four essential habits of healthy aging will naturally support brain health. In addition, find ways to keep your brain active every day. Try new things, learn a new skill, read books, play games, and engage in meaningful activities like volunteering.

 

  • Sleep
    Yes, sleep is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle! Sleep is restorative; while you’re catching Z’s, your body repairs any cellular damage that occurred during the day and reboots your immune system. A good night’s sleep also supports memory, mood, and concentration. Older adults who don’t get enough sleep are more susceptible to depression, memory loss, nighttime falls, and infection.Insomnia becomes more common as we age. To make sure you’re getting good quality sleep, build a healthy sleep routine and stick to it. Go to bed at the same time every day, keep your bedroom as dark as possible, and avoid caffeine and alcohol in the evening.

 

If you’re struggling with any of these five elements of healthy aging, ask for help. Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have about your health, reach out to the staff in your community, or confide in a trusted friend or family member. The most important thing to remember about aging is that none of us should do it alone. Take advantage of the support systems around you and ask for help when you need it.

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Life changes associated with aging can lead seniors to experience social isolation and loss of purpose. The two are often closely connected. Retirement, losing a spouse, adult children moving away, and lack of independent transportation all contribute to a shrinking social sphere, making it more difficult to interact regularly with other people.

It’s not without consequences. Socially-isolated seniors tend to have higher healthcare expenses and a shorter lifespan compared to those who are more socially connected. They have an increased risk for chronic disease, including high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, cognitive decline, and Alzheimer’s. And they are more prone to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

On the flipside, seniors who remain socially connected tend to live longer, report better mood, and have better health outcomes when they are admitted to the hospital. Having purpose likewise helps seniors maintain cognitive function and other markers of wellbeing, such as good sleep and lower risk of disease.

It’s clear: engaging in meaningful, productive activities with other people is beneficial for your physical and mental health. One way to maintain these connections in old age, especially if family lives out of state, is to get involved with your local community.

Here are five ways seniors can get involved in the community:

  1. Sign up for an exercise class — Fitness classes kill two birds with one stone. You get the physical benefits of exercise with the emotional benefits of social interaction. Choose a fitness class that suits your activity level. Talk to the wellness coordinator at your senior living community if you need help finding the right fit.
  2. Attend church services — Staying active in a religious community can be immensely beneficial for body, mind, and spirit. Not only that, but Sunday services ensure that you have at least one scheduled social outing every week. If you’re currently a member of a church, keep attending if possible. If transportation options or mobility challenges prevent you from keeping up with your usual congregation, attend services in your senior living community.
  3. Volunteer — There’s no better way to find purpose and feel useful than through volunteering. Volunteering allows you to be active, to interact with people of all ages, and to make positive contributions to your community. Consider volunteering at local schools, hospitals, or the library.
  4. Join a hobby group — Shared interests are a great way to bond at any age. Connect with the activity coordinator in your community to learn about groups that might align with your hobbies. Most senior living communities will have book clubs, bridge clubs, and bible studies where you’ll find like-minded residents to socialize with.
  5. Take a class — Many studies have shown that a commitment to lifelong learning supports cognitive wellness and may help ward off the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Keep in mind that learning doesn’t have to mean textbooks and classrooms. You could take a cooking class, learn to play a new musical instrument, or take a creative writing course—perhaps writing some personal non-fiction to pass your memories down to your children.

Aim to schedule at least two or three recurring weekly activities—like church on Sunday mornings and a book club that meets on Wednesday afternoons—so that you always have a social event to look forward to. Each week, fill in your calendar with more spontaneous outings, like coffees or lunches with friends. It doesn’t matter what activities you decide to get involved with. The important thing is making it a regular part of your life.

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Seniors often find it harder to tolerate hot temperatures or long hours in the sun. That’s because our body’s ability to regulate temperature declines as we age, making us more prone to dehydration and heat stroke. Following sun safety tips will help prevent the ill-effects of sun exposure. But when you’re planning to spend time outside with an older adult during the summer, you should also look for outdoor activities that limit direct exposure to the sun.

Try these ideas for outdoor summer activities that are enjoyable and safe for everyone:

Fishing – The best hours for fishing are first thing in the morning—conveniently also the coolest time of the day, before the sun is high in the sky. Set up a couple chairs on the dock and spend the early morning hours casting lines and sharing conversation. Fishing is also a summer activity that can be shared across generations, with seniors, their children, and their grandkids alike.

Gardening – Not only is gardening a low-impact way to move your body and spend time outside, it also has countless benefits for your body, mind, and soul. Gardening a few times per week reduces risk for numerous health conditions, reduces stress and elevates mood, improves balance, and supports a good night’s sleep.

Farmer’s Market – Filled with fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers, farmer’s markets are an ideal summer outing for seniors. Many markets set up stalls with tents and awnings, which help to limit sun exposure. Head out in the morning before temperatures reach their peak, and spend a couple hours walking around and browsing for the ripest finds.

Golfing – While some seniors remain active well into their 80s, most would benefit from taking a more low-impact approach to exercise. Playing a round of golf in the evening is a great way to engage in mild physical activity without pushing the limits. Because the game moves at a slower pace, it’s also a good opportunity for socializing.

Attend Community Events – Whether it’s the local fireworks show on the Fourth of July, movies outdoors in the park, or a family barbecue, attending community events is a great way for seniors to spend time outside while retaining close social ties. Feeling engaged in a community is essential for mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing for seniors.

It doesn’t matter if it’s family, friends, or a senior living community (or ideally, all three!), it’s important to stay connected. That’s why it’s so beneficial for seniors to get out of the house and not spend the whole summer cooped up inside avoiding the heat. Talk to your loved one about which outdoor summer activities they want to do and make plans for when you’ll get together to do them.

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Cultural stereotypes tend to paint aging in a negative light. “Senior moments” of forgetfulness, fumbling with new technology, and mishearing things are all familiar hallmarks of aging—at least as it’s portrayed in the media. Not only are such stereotypes patently untrue (according to data from Pew Research Center, 46% of seniors over 65 own a smartphone!), they also ignore the many benefits that come as a byproduct of collecting decades.

Recognizing the happy side-effects of growing older can help you embrace and lean into the aging process rather than fighting it. If you struggle with accepting “your number,” the following benefits of aging might help you shift your perspective.

Upsides of Aging That Make Growing Older a Privilege

Wisdom and Perspective

One of the few positive aging stereotypes is the elderly person who doesn’t suffer fools or foolishness—and isn’t quiet about it. By the time you reach a certain age, you’ve experienced enough and witnessed enough to know the difference between what matters and what doesn’t. That perspective frees you up to stop sweating the small stuff and instead devote your energy to the things that are most important to you.

Free Time

For decades, your life is full of work schedules, school schedules, after-school schedules, and social events. By the time you retire, your kids are out of the house and (hopefully) taking care of themselves. So when you remove work obligations, suddenly the only demands on your time are… whatever you want! This abundance of free time can be overwhelming at first, but it’s an amazing privilege. Use your newfound free time to go back to school, start an exercise routine (you’re never too old!), or pick up a new hobby.

Grandchildren

With grandchildren comes all the fun of parenting without the any of the downsides. You probably don’t miss disciplining your kids or arguing about bath time, but you might trade anything for one more chance to snuggle your now fully-grown children in your lap while reading them a bedtime story. Being a grandparent lets you revisit the joys of having kids—and the fun doesn’t stop when your grandkids start growing up.

To Live Longer, Embrace the Aging Process

Maintaining a positive outlook on aging isn’t just fluff. It can actually help you live longer. In a 2001 study, researchers from Yale and Harvard followed 660 participants between ages 50 and 80 for over 22 years to observe how self-perceptions of aging correlated with longevity. The participants who had a more positive attitude about the aging process lived, on average, 7.5 years longer. So figure out what “senior moments” make your life better and celebrate them every day.

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We’ve braved months of cold winds, icy roads, and even a spring snowstorm or two, but summer is finally just around the corner. As you start trading your sweaters for short sleeves, take a few minutes to brush up on some of the risks that come with warmer weather—and how to stay safe and healthy this summer.

Heat-Related Summer Health Risks for Seniors

We sometimes get as hot in the summer as it gets cold in the winter, and that means heat-related health issues can be a real danger—especially for seniors. While extreme heat can be dangerous at any age, your risk for heat-related illness increases as you get older. Dehydration and hyperthermia are the top health risks seniors face in the summertime.

Dehydration – Feelings of thirst tend to decrease as we age, which means seniors are more likely to become dehydrated. Some medications may also make you more susceptible to dehydration by acting as a diuretic or making you sweat less. Talk with your doctor about side effects of your daily medications that may put you at risk.

Watch out for signs of dehydration:

  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Headaches
  • Low blood pressure
  • Constipation
  • Low urine output
  • Confusion
  • Rapid heart rate

Hyperthermia – Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are both forms of hyperthermia, a condition in which the body’s internal temperature is dangerously elevated. Our body’s natural heat regulating mechanisms don’t work as well when we get older, which increases the risk for hyperthermia.

Symptoms to watch for:

  • Excessive sweating or lack of sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Muscle cramps
  • Weakness
  • Rapid pulse
  • Headache
  • Rapid and shallow breathing

Heat exhaustion can develop quickly, and if not treated can turn into life-threatening heat stroke. If you or someone else is experiencing symptoms, get to a cool place, start hydrating, and contact your nursing staff immediately.

Tips for Staying Safe in the Sun

Just because sun exposure comes with some risks doesn’t mean you should spend your summer indoors. Exposure to sunlight is critical to mental and physical wellbeing. Follow these tips to get your daily dose of sunshine the safe way:

  • Stay Hydrated – Drink more water than you think you need. If you feel thirsty, that’s a sign you’re already becoming dehydrated.
  • Take a Siesta – The sun is at its peak during midday. Head inside for a rest during these hours to avoid the most intense rays.
  • Crank the A/C – Extreme heat can follow you indoors if you don’t set your air conditioner accordingly. Set your A/C at a comfortable 72-75 degrees F and use fans to distribute the cool air.
  • Dress Cool – Choose light-colored clothing in breathable fabrics such as cotton or linen to help regulate body temperature. Throw on a hat before you go outside.
  • Avoid Strenuous Activity – Your body has to work much harder to regulate its temperature when it’s hot outside, which means hyperthermia can come on quickly. Consider trying one of these low-impact summer activities.

Summer is a great opportunity to spend time outside with grandkids, replenish your vitamin D, and enjoy the beauty of Mother Nature. We hope you keep these safety tips in mind while you get the most out of this sunny season.

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Did you know? April is Stress Awareness Month.

The feeling of stress can oftentimes derail our lives. If we get too stressed, we have a hard time concentrating on other things in life, many times the important parts of our lives like, overall happiness and joy.

Especially as a senior, life can seem stressful. Whether you may be stressed about an upcoming move to a senior living community or other factors that can cause stress, it’s important to take the time for yourself to rest and relax.

Here are five ways for seniors to de-stress:

1. Start a new hobby:

While this may seem a bit odd, activities that keep you busy but also encourage socialization can greatly reduce stress. Whether you want to start a book club in your community, pick up a new card game or grab a friend and start a garden (indoor or out!), you’ll quickly realize focusing your thoughts elsewhere is just a simple way to reduce your stress. 

2. Exercise:

Improving your overall physical health is one of the best ways to improve your mental health. Exercise has been proven to reduce stress and improve your mood.

You don’t have to pound the pavement to enjoy the benefits of exercise. Especially during the summertime when heatstroke and dehydration are greater concerns, low-impact activities can be a great option for seniors looking to get in their daily steps or 30 minutes of cardio. Here you can find four low-impact activities you can enjoy outside.

3. Learn to meditate:

Meditation is a great way to focus on being present and pay attention to your breathing. It’s one of the simplest ways to reduce stress.

To start meditating, pay attention to your thoughts and feelings, relax your body. It might seem easy enough, but meditation—based on traditional Buddhist practices—requires you to be completely alone with your thoughts, and can actually take some time to “train your brain” to stop wandering. Get A Beginner’s Guide to Mindfulness Meditation here.

Now that you have three ways you can start to de-stress, which will you choose? They all are great for finding ways to remove the stress from your life and begin to enjoy it!

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