Healthy Aging: Strategies for You and Your Family
Written by Ashley Stevens on Tue Sep 06 2022.
Aging is a fact of life, no matter how much society shuns away from it. Aging is living. Aging is being able to take the next breath. Aging is having another day to care for your loved one with your whole heart.
As we all age, it is important that we promote healthy aging to help ourselves and our loved ones maintain optimal well-being! Things such as physical activity, social interactions, and mental stimulation are all important as they enrich our minds, bodies, and souls. In honor of Healthy Aging Month in September, below are a few ways you and your loved one can age healthfully together.
Throughout our aging life course, the risk of falls, pain, and fracture increase. Daily physical activity is a great way to help prevent these risks. Physical activity can improve strength, balance, and flexibility. While not everyone may be able to strength train or run miles on the treadmill, there are so many other creative ways to get moving that can be easily incorporated into your daily routine.
Walks are a great way to get the blood flowing and break a sweat.
Take a stroll around the neighborhood in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the heat.
If your loved one enjoys gardening, build a few hours of gardening into your schedule. Digging and shoveling can really get the heart pumping.
Dancing, swimming, and resistance band training are all low-impact methods to work out for any fitness level.
Most importantly, make sure you join in on the fun too! A few hours of physical activity per week is recommended for everyone, regardless of age.
As we get older, we begin to experience many unique changes. One thing that remains the same, is our need for social interaction and connection with others. Loneliness and social isolation can weaken the immune system and even impact the way our brain functions. Therefore, it is so essential that you and your loved one interact with others in a safe way. A few resources include:
Senior centers and peer support groups. These are a great way to get your loved one out and about, socializing with others.
Day respite programs are also a wonderful option to explore as they allow your loved one to engage with others in a small group setting
Memory cafés are a fabulous option for both you and your loved one you are caring for. They allow for social engagement and connection outside of the home
Eat the Rainbow
What we put into our bodies plays a major role in how we age and can contribute to our longevity. A nutritious and well-balanced food regimen can help prevent certain health conditions, fuel brain health, and provide us with the energy needed to conquer the day. In fact, a recent study showed that junk food can negatively affect our brain health.
“Eat the rainbow” is an easy way to be mindful of eating nutritious foods. The phrase is a reminder to add a variety of colorful fruits and veggies into your loved one’s meals. By doing so, you can make sure your loved one is getting the complete range of nutrients – like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants – the body needs to thrive. Check out the following resources around inclusive and intuitive eating + recipes:
Shop Drinks and Shakes:
As a caregiver, you’ve probably been told by family and friends to get rest and unwind whenever you can. At the cost of sounding like a broken record, prioritizing your rest and recovery is essential to your health and the well-being of your loved one. Caregiving is mentally and physically taxing, so it’s important to explore your respite options – whether it be via family and friends or respite service.
Rest, which includes getting a full eight hours of sleep and taking breaks throughout the day, allows you to take a step back to renew your energy and lower stress levels. Continued stress can negatively affect your health and studies have linked it to numerous conditions, including cancer, and lung disease.
Now, I cannot mention rest without mentioning the value of permission! Sometimes, it may be difficult to give ourselves the time, space, and permission to rest. As caregivers, you may even feel as though you have to keep moving and going or else everything will fall apart. However, you deserve rest! You do not have to earn rest. Not only is rest important for your health as a caregiver, but it also benefits your loved one, as you’re able to provide high-quality care and make the best decisions for them when you’re well rested. Give yourself the gift of rest, so that your loved one may also benefit.
Exercise Your Brain
Just like a muscle, the brain needs to be exercised to keep it sharp. Brain stimulation can help improve our memory and attention and is a healthy habit to adopt for our brain health – no matter your age. Have you tried some of these brain-healthy activities?
Playing crossword puzzles, number games, and sudoku
Playing card games
Learning a new hobby (i.e. a new language; or artistic expression like painting)
Reading a new book
These are all great ways to challenge the brain and improve processing and speed. Incorporate a weekly game night into your loved one’s routine as a fun way to stimulate the mind and bond as you both play. For more brain exercise information visit: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/categories/risk-reduction/brain-training
Aging in a healthy manner is as important for your loved one, as it is for you – no matter your age! There are many ways to incorporate physical activity, social interactions, and mental stimulation within our everyday lives. This will certainly have an impact on how we all age across the lifespan. Ultimately, it may even improve your outlook and perception of aging too!
Ashley Stevens is a gerontologist and master’s level social worker (MSW, LCSWA). Her graduate certification is focused on aging & dementia care. Ashley also holds a license in social work practice & therapeutic interventions. You can find the Dementia Advocate offering brain tips and caregiving solutions on her blog platform, http://www.thedementiaguru.com/ https://www.instagram.com/thedementiaguru, https://www.instagram.com/thedementiaguru To begin the journey to setting clear caregiving boundaries, you can download the Boundaries Workbook https://payhip.com/b/SjsQD