Being Elderly and Active: The Dos and Don'ts

Elderly men playing chess

How to live an active lifestyle is common knowledge. We've all been told growing up that it's important to eat fruits and vegetables, exercise, and get plenty of fresh air. But as you get older, your body begins to slow down and you're not able to do things the way you used to. So how do you continue to live an active, healthy lifestyle as you age? Here are a few tips that we recommend to take care of your body and mind in your later years:

Eat right

This is great advice at any age. Eating a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins have been shown to increase longevity. But as you get older, it gets more difficult to eat some of the foods you enjoy. Here are some things to do:

  • Drink plenty of water — As you get older, you're likely to get dehydrated more quickly. Drinking plenty of water helps you think more clearly, ward off fatigue, and avoid heatstroke.
  • Fiber — This includes vegetables, whole grains, fruits, and legumes. Digestion, which has the tendency to slow down with age, is aided by getting enough fiber in the diet.
  • Blueberries — Blueberries are not only delicious, they're also full of antioxidants and vitamins C and E. All berries are good, in general, but blueberries are top-tier.
  • Salmon — Notorious for being heart-healthy, salmon is also an excellent source of protein. It's high in omega-3 fatty acids that help prevent heart disease and stroke. Two servings per week are recommended.
  • Yogurt — The calcium from yogurt helps fortify bones that become weak and brittle as you grow older. Make sure you focus on getting vitamin D yogurt.
  • Nuts — These are great all around because they contain unsaturated fats, fiber, protein, and are considered very heart-healthy. Try to consume five servings of nuts per week.
  • Red wine — In moderation, red wine is actually healthy for your heart. One to two drinks per day is ideal. However, if you're not used to drinking alcohol, it's encouraged to abstain.

The list of things to avoid includes sports drinks, soda, potato chips, soy sauce, and even bacon! Check out the full list of things to steer clear of here.

Get physical exercise

Your bones and muscles lose density as you get older. Luckily, with proper diet, you can increase their strength over time. Here are some recommended exercises that will help maintain your strength, balance, endurance, and flexibility.

  • Brisk walking or jogging — A recent study has shown that people who walk regularly have increased energy and generally have a better mood. There are also other health benefits from walking regularly, such as increased strength and stamina.
  • Dancing — The physical benefits of dancing include strengthened heart and lungs, weight management, physical confidence, improved balance, and improved muscle tone.
  • Lifting weights — Want to increase bone density and improve activities of daily living (ADLs)? Add weight lifting to your workout routine.
  • Tai Chi — According to Harvard Health Publications, tai chi helps maintain strength, flexibility, and balance. It's considered a low-intensity exercise, so it feels very gentle on the body.
  • Yoga — This improves flexibility, builds muscle strength, perfects your posture, protects your spine, and provides a variety of other health benefits.

While engaging in physical exercise in the home, make sure to look into exercise safety tips for seniors to ensure you aren't putting yourself at risk. It's also important to have an emergency device in case you experience a fall. Top-rated medical alert devices can be found here.

Get mental exercise

It may come as a surprise to some, but physical exercise is actually connected with cognitive function. If you want to improve your brain power, eat well and exercise. Puzzle games are also a great help to strengthen your mind. Here are some specific ideas:

  • Ping-pong
  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • Building model airplanes or trains
  • Taking music lessons

Also, take time to meditate and relax. Taking time out of your day to rest and be calm will balance out the rigorous energy you've spent building model airplanes or practicing viola. This includes getting plenty of sleep. Sleep gives your brain an opportunity to reset and save information that you've processed throughout the day. Being rested also helps you think of creative solutions to problems, according to researchers at Harvard Medical School.

Practice good hygiene

When it comes to hygiene, stick with the things that you've been told throughout your life. As you get older, it might be easy to fudge on the basics because things like climbing in and out of the tub are suddenly more difficult and dangerous. For these situations, it's best to install handholds in the bathroom to prevent falls and stay safe during bathing. Here are other recommended hygiene steps.

  • Brush and floss your teeth twice daily. See your dentist every six months.
  • Bathe at least once every few days, especially if you're physically active. Depending on how old you are, how mobile you are, and how dry your skin gets, you'll want to bathe closer to that three-day mark.
  • When you bathe, make sure to wash the folds under your wrinkles. This is the perfect place for bacteria to grow.

It can be easy to fall out of habit as you get older because it's easy to focus on the routine instead of the outcome. Remember that regular bathing and oral care an important part of personal care.

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