With life expectancy exceeding 80 years, today’s seniors can expect to live decades after retirement. If you want to make the most out of these years, it’s necessary to prioritize your physical and mental health. Even if you are in good shape now, it is never too early to prevent issues down the road or to lessen the impact, when problems pop up. From keeping tabs on your health insurance to eating a quality meal in your senior years, it is up to you to take control of your health and well-being.
Are You Covered?
When you hit 65, you become eligible for Medicare (if you are a citizen of the United States of America). This valuable federally-funded health insurance can go a long way toward helping you keep track of your overall health. But basic coverage is just that – basic, and it may not cover everything you need as time ticks on by.
If you don’t want to be on the hook for expensive co-pays or deductibles, consider changing to a Medicare Advantage plan. These are provided by private insurance companies and offer everything the original Medicare does and much more. In addition to an annual wellness visit and health screenings, your supplemental Medicare plan can help you pay for dental and vision expenses. Depending on which plan you choose, you may not be out-of-pocket that much more than your basic Medicare premium. MedicareAdvantage.com is an excellent free resource to help you find a plan in your state.
Keep in mind, however, that not all doctors accept Medicare, and you may have a better chance of keeping your own doctor by supplementing with private coverage. If you don’t already have a geriatric specialist, the Institute on Aging offers tips and advice on how to choose the right doctor and explains that a good doctor will share information freely with you and let you know that they truly care about your health.
When you were younger, you likely envisioned your senior years as a time to kick back, relax, and rest. While there’s nothing wrong with partaking of a little R&R, sitting still is one of the worst things you can do for your health. Read more on the dangers of sitting for a long time on our blog post.
Regardless of your age or mobility level, exercise is essential, and you can engage in brain-and-body-boosting activities in several surprising ways. Something as simple as walking through your local mall or museum, spending time in the garden, or playing with the grand-kids is a great way to burn calories while strengthening your muscles. Another exceptional option is golf. Unlike other ball-involving sports, such as football and baseball, golf can be enjoyed at your own pace but also comes with the benefit of time spent outdoors. If you’ve never played before, don’t just rush out and buy the first set of clubs you see; check out The Golf Warehouse for what to consider before making the investment.
Several other gentle exercises like yoga and Tai Chi are wonderful to keep you active and manage stress levels. We have a blog on simple ways to do yoga – while sitting in a chair! Check out your local Senior Citizen Recreation Center for discounted (sometimes even free) classes. Get together with a friend and play tennis or go for a walk; not only will you both feel good getting the physical activity you also support and encourage each other to make it a regular habit.
Safety at Home
One of the main benefits of exercise is that it can stave off the mobility issues that often accompany aging. Issues such as osteoarthritis and age-related bone density declination can lead to decreased mobility. This puts you at a greater risk of experiencing a falling accident and can suck the joy out of the day. Preventing falls involves much more than keeping your body strong, however, and you may need to make a few small changes at home.
According to an article from EverydayHealth.com, falls are the most prevalent cause of injury among seniors. Fortunately, there are many ways you can lessen your chances of falling at home. Start by clearing up clutter and removing tripping hazards, such as loose carpet, electrical and electronic cords and low-lying furniture. Handrails or safety grab bars in the bathroom and non-slip flooring in areas prone to moisture, are essential. Avoid wearing long, loose clothing when cooking over the stove. Leave a light on in the bathroom at night. If you’ve considered downsizing to a smaller home, look for a single-story dwelling, and install voice-activated calling on your smart home hub.
If you are afraid of falling, or a previous fall experience is preventing you from pursuing an active lifestyle, The National Council on Aging has a wonderful FREE falls prevention program that you can register for.
Diet and Nutrition
As a senior, you have many of the same needs you had in your 20s, 30s, and 40s. Proper nutrition is one of these. While you may not need the exact combination of protein, vitamins, and minerals as you did when you were more active, you still must prioritize healthy eating. If you don’t like to cook daily, consider preparing a few make-ahead meals each week. Not only will eating a balanced diet stave off hunger, but it will also give your body what it needs, to help defend against illnesses and infections. And though the nutritional landscape can get confusing, there is one major thing that all experts agree on: eat plenty of colorful vegetables, fresh fruits, whole grains, good fats (think olive oil, avocados etc.) and limited quantities of pasture-raised meat and dairy. Restrict eating fast foods, drinking sodas and foods with preservatives and sugar. A few simple dietary tweaks can make a world of difference in how you feel.
Eating right doesn’t have to be complicated. You can look up several easy-to-make, tasty and nutritious recipes on our Healthy Indian website.
Mental Health Matters
From loneliness to cognitive decline, seniors are at a high risk of suffering with mental health issues. But this does not have to be accepted as a normal part of aging. Keep your brain stimulated by staying connected with your friends and family, volunteering, and picking up a hobby that requires concentration, such as working puzzles, solving Sudoku or playing an instrument. Some healthcare professionals suggest getting a pet or spending time at a local shelter if you can’t have an animal of your own. A challenged brain is a healthy brain. Check out your local Senior Center for classes ranging for crafts to basic computer skill classes. Keep your mind active by taking a class at your local community college; many are free or offered at a very low cost. Try a literature class or study another language, and look for online classes if you can’t leave home.
Through making healthy lifestyle choices, such as eating a healthy diet and staying mentally and physically active, you may be able to slow the progression of dementia, including its most aggressive form, Alzheimer’s disease.
Safe sex is vital throughout your reproductive years, but also as you age. And as we are living longer and longer, attitudes about sex have become more open, and seniors are dating and getting intimate more often than ever. But you are still vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases, and perhaps even more so than when you were younger. Before engaging in any type of intimacy with a new partner, open up a discussion about your sexual histories; don’t be afraid to recommend that you each get tested first. Use a condom and maintain an open line of communication with your healthcare provider if you are sexually active.
You never know what joys await around the proverbial corner. Make sure you are ready to fully participate and enjoy all the benefits that come with aging. Whether it’s hitting the links, playing with the grand-kids, or having intimate time underneath the sheets, your best years may still be waiting.
If you liked this article, do read our book review of Meera Shashidhara’s Living To Be A Hundred.
Author Bio: Jason Lewis is a personal trainer and has specialized in senior care after his mom needed some medical attention and therapy in 2002.