This year, why not help your aging parent or loved one commit to a few resolutions of their own?
After all, getting older often brings major life changes like health problems, a dwindling social circle, the loss of social roles, and other challenges. But with a little planning, you can help Mom or Dad weather these changes and continue to feel great in 2020 and beyond!
Read on to discover our top 8 healthy aging resolutions for the new year...
Make better food choices
Many doctors say diet is the single most important factor for long-term health.
But as people age, it can be difficult to keep making healthy choices. Seniors often end up turning to convenience foods or frozen dinners. Quick and easy? Definitely. But they’re also full of extra sodium, sugars, and additives.
A good rule of thumb is that the more processed the food, the less healthy it is. So which foods help us age well?
Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Their colors come from different phytochemicals and antioxidants, and each has its own nutritional profile. “Eating the rainbow” is a great way to ensure you’re getting a variety of these disease-fighting compounds.
Fiber is important, and helps avoid problems like inflammation, constipation, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Get it from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes.
Choose healthy fats. Olive oil is a great choice, and fatty fish like salmon and sardines are high in omega-3 fatty acids. Nuts are also packed with healthy fats.
Don’t skimp on dairy. (Unless you’re lactose-intolerant, that is!) Generally, dairy is a great way to get bone-boosting calcium and vitamin D. Plain yogurt is a good choice, as it’s also chock-full of healthy bacteria to improve your gut.
If Mom or Dad is worried about leftovers, just remind them that most meals can be cooked and then the leftovers can be frozen in single-serve quantities for an easy alternative to commercial frozen dinners. Just reheat and eat!
And if you live nearby, why not invite them over for a healthy dinner several times a week?
Drink more water
Many seniors are chronically under-hydrated, and adults over 65 have the highest rates of dehydration-related hospital admissions. Dehydration, even when it doesn’t end in a hospital stay, can easily lead to constipation, headaches, UTIs, balance issues, and other problems.
But just how much water is enough?
Well, adults generally need over 2 liters of total fluid intake per day. If that sounds like a lot, don’t worry- it also includes non-water drinks and fluids in foods.
So if you have trouble getting Mom to down a glass of water but she savors a hot cup of Earl Grey, feel free to mix it up! Just make sure some of that daily fluid intake comes from plain water.
Exercise really is the gift that keeps on giving! Not only does it help seniors maintain a healthy weight, it can also ease symptoms of common ailments, prevent falls, and ward off heart disease, diabetes, and other illnesses. Plus, it can be a fun way to connect with others!
If Dad hasn't led an active lifestyle so far, don’t fret... it’s never too late. Encourage him to start with low-impact activities to get moving, and slowly work up to a routine that involves aerobic activity, strength training, and balance training.
If he’s an extrovert, perhaps he’d enjoy a hiking group, tennis, or biking with a partner. The social interaction can be a motivator and help him get up and out of the house when he’d rather stay in bed!
Train that brain
It’s also important to exercise the mind to prevent age-related mental decline and memory loss.
You’ve probably heard of the smartphone apps that claim to give your mind a workout. But if your loved one struggles with technology, old-fashioned favorites like reading, crosswords, and jigsaw puzzles are effective, too. And other activities like gardening, knitting, volunteering, or playing music can also be powerful weapons against age-related mental decline!
The real key is to prioritize lifelong learning of all kinds. Help Mom figure out what she might be interested in learning, or find an abandoned hobby she might like to take up again.
Don’t skip the screenings
Routine screenings help catch health issues when they’re still in the early stages and are more easily treatable. Sure, no one enjoys going for a colonoscopy. But if it can prevent more invasive, uncomfortable testing or treatments down the line, it’s well worth the inconvenience.
Here are some tests people over 65 might need:
Mammogram and pap smear
Thyroid function test
Skin cancer screening
Bone density scan
Encourage your loved one to talk with their doctor about which tests are right for them, and remember: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
Stress is bad news at any age. It’s linked to problems like depression, high blood pressure, a weakened immune system, and heart disease. Yikes...
Some people are blessed with a sunny, happy-go-lucky outlook, while others tend to worry and ruminate. No matter where your parent falls on the spectrum, there are concrete steps they can take now to start reaping the benefits of a low-stress lifestyle:
Try meditation: even a single 5-minute guided meditation each day can help lower stress levels.
Get quality sleep: good-quality, restorative sleep helps remove stress hormones from the brain.
Join a support group: if Mom or Dad is going through a loss or another challenging situation, support groups can help them find healthy ways to manage their feelings.
Get a pet: having a furry companion can improve seniors’ outlook and lower stress levels.
The research is clear: seniors who stay social have a better sense of well-being and enjoy better physical and mental outcomes.
Family is so important, and staying involved in children’s and grandchildren’s lives can be a great way to stay connected and feel needed. But social interactions with other seniors are equally important!
Perhaps Mom would enjoy joining a book club, playing bingo or bridge, or calling old friends she hasn’t spoken to in years. Maintaining good relationships will help her feel happier and more positive about this stage of her life.
Relive happy memories
Reminiscing can be therapeutic for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. But they’re not the only ones that can benefit! Taking a walk down memory lane can help seniors cope with getting older, reaffirm their identity, and feel more fulfilled.
And it doesn’t end there…
Reminiscing can also:
Reduce depression and anxiety
Enhance self esteem and sense of well-being
Improve quality of life
Create a renewed sense of meaning
And when our parents share their memories with us, they’re passing down priceless stories that become part of the family history and will live on for generations.
To spark those memories, try looking through old photo albums, rewatching favorite movies or shows, or listening to music from different periods of their life. And get ready...you’ll both be in for some laughs- and probably a few tears!
Looking for a simple way to help Mom or Dad reminisce?
Memories In Writing is committed to helping you capture and preserve your aging loved one’s special stories with a range of easy-to-use solutions. Check out how simple and enjoyable it can be.
And here’s to a healthy, happy 2020!