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05Jan

Ways Seniors Can Prioritize Wellness in the New Year

As the calendar turns to a new year, it's a time of renewal for many of us as we contemplate what we want to do differently during our next trip around the sun — and for many of us, that means making New Year’s healthy resolutions.

 

For older adults, January offers a fresh and vital opportunity to reassess what is and isn’t working in our lives and make adjustments to our health and wellness resolutions. The golden years can be some of the most fulfilling and vibrant times of life, and prioritizing senior health and wellness is key to making the most of them. However, the golden years also come with the wisdom of setting realistic, meaningful goals.

 

If you’re looking for inspiration, this is your guide to enhancing your well-being in the New Year. Whether you're a senior yourself or caring for an older loved one, these tips are designed to be practical, achievable, and impactful. Dive in and discover how to make this year one of the healthiest and happiest yet!

Nutritious Eating

A balanced diet is foundational for all human health, but it’s especially crucial to seniors’ health. Here are some key things to aim for as you make your New Year’s healthy eating resolutions:

 

  • Fruits and vegetables. Aim for at least five servings daily, and stock up on those with a variety of deep colors, like spinach, carrots, oranges, and cantaloupe.
  • Whole grains and lean proteins. You definitely don’t have to give up your beloved carbs, ever. Instead, focus on those made from whole grains while minimizing over-processed products and those with refined or bleached flour. When you eat meat, opt for lean meats like chicken or turkey. Try to eat fish like tuna and salmon twice a week.
  • Calcium and vitamin D. Two daily servings of low-fat dairy can help you get plenty of both and maintain bone strength, which becomes increasingly important as we age.
  • Healthy fats. Use olive or canola oils instead of butter wherever possible. Prepare or buy low-sodium foods; if you’re cooking, lean heavier on herbs and spices to flavor your food​​.
  • Consult with a healthcare provider. Ask your doctor about your general nutritional needs​​, including whether and what kinds of vitamins and supplements you should be taking.

Physical Activity

We all know that regular exercise offers numerous benefits. As we get older, however, it’s important to be strategic: minimize your risk of injury while maximizing opportunities to build strength, balance, endurance, and flexibility. Choosing a variety of low-impact activities can help you target different parts of the body and fitness goals. Of course, exercising works best if it’s enjoyable and offers multiple benefits (like exercising in a group for added social perks). Consider any of the following:

 

  • Tai chi
  • Water aerobics
  • Walking
  • Gardening
  • Yoga
  • Step exercises
  • Resistance band workouts
  • Ballroom dancing
  • Golf
  • Croquet and other lawn games

Regular Health Check-ups

Don’t wait until you feel unwell to see your doctor. Start by getting (and staying) on your care provider’s schedule for annual wellness visits. These are essential for:

 

  • Screenings and immunizations. Discuss necessary health screenings and vaccinations with your healthcare provider.
  • Medication review. Regularly review all medications with your healthcare provider​​ to make sure they’re working properly and that you understand all contraindications (supplements, medications, foods, etc. that you should avoid with certain prescriptions).
  • Monitoring vital signs and bloodwork. Your doctor needs to have regular “data points” for your vital signs (heart rate, blood pressure, lung function, etc.) and bloodwork results in order to know what’s normal for you and what could be pointing to a problem. Since these are different for everyone, it’s essential to add new data regularly to establish a “baseline” for analysis.
  • Helping you make any needed changes. Annual visits are your opportunity to tell your doctor if something doesn’t seem right, isn’t getting better, or is getting worse. Your observations create a valuable record of experiences that your care provider can use to make medical, mental health, and lifestyle recommendations for you. 

Mental Health and Social Engagement

Because seniors are at a greater risk for isolation, loneliness, and cognitive decline than other age groups, paying attention to your mental health is, well, a no-brainer. Keeping your mind active, engaged, and social will not only improve your quality of life, but allow you to live independently (and happily!) for longer. Aim to incorporate the following into your daily and weekly routines:

 

  • Brain workouts. Explore games, puzzles, and mysteries that force you to think. With the advent of digital tools and toys like apps, console games, and computer games, technology is your friend — but there’s nothing wrong with a good book or traditional crossword puzzle, either.
  • Social interactions. Join your friends, family, or neighbors for regular activities you enjoy doing together. Consider volunteering or joining a community club or group of some kind as well, or taking classes. Technology is your friend here, too, as video calls let you socialize without even having to leave your home.
  • Emotional wellness check-ins. Consider keeping a journal as an outlet for your musings and feelings about things; it can be an incredibly useful tool for identifying patterns in your moods and concerns. Talk to friends and family about things that are bothering you. If you experience symptoms of depression or anxiety, talk to your care provider​​. They may be able to refer you to a specialist, prescribe you helpful medication, or make recommendations for lifestyle changes.

Stress Management

Reducing stress is essential for overall wellness. That’s because elevated or chronic stress isn’t just harmful to your mental health: it can also lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes, and more. Nip stress in the bud in these ways:

 

  • Healthy eating. Choose nutritious snacks over unhealthy options. The nutrients can help you counteract the negative effects of cortisol and regulate your mood.
  • Activity and exercise. Incorporating regular physical activity into your routine is not only good for your body, but releases feel-good hormones like dopamine and improves sleep quality. It also gives you an excellent outlet for venting your feelings and “tiring out” a racing brain.
  • Relaxation and mindfulness techniques. Practices like yoga, deep breathing, and meditation can help to reduce stress and allow you to feel more centered and in control.
  • Humor. Incorporate laughter into your daily life for its therapeutic benefits. Consider watching comedy sketches or movies, poking fun at yourself or a situation, or sharing funny memes or stories with friends and family.
  • Getting organized. Organizing your calendar, vehicle, computer, photos, documents, or living space can relieve stress and help you feel in control.

Sleep Hygiene

Sleep hygiene is a key aspect of senior health, and it involves multiple factors:

 

  • Going to bed at the same time every night
  • Avoiding artificial light sources (from clocks, phones, TVs, and tablets) in your bedroom at night
  • Changing bedclothes once a week and washing your pillows or removable pillow jackets regularly
  • Using “white noise” machines, fans, recordings, or apps
  • Avoiding overstimulating TV shows, books, or games right before bedtime

Alcohol and Smoking

Limiting or avoiding these substances can greatly enhance your physical and mental wellness:

 

  • Moderate drinking. If you choose to drink alcohol, stick to recommended limits to prevent dehydration, falls, accidents, health issues, and medication interactions.
  • Quit smoking. It’s virtually never too late to get the immediate and long-term health benefits of smoking cessation. Seek out help with this process, including partnering with someone who will help to keep you accountable.

Fall Prevention

Taking steps to prevent falls in and outside your home is incredibly important for senior safety:

 

  • Exercise. Improving your fitness levels, especially flexibility and balance, will help you to avoid slips and trips, improve your ability to catch yourself if you do start to fall, and reduce your risk of injury.
  • Home safety measures. Remove trip hazards like unsecured rugs and carpet corners, protruding finishing nails in floors and baseboards, and loose threshold strips. Install grab bars in your bathtub or shower and use non-slip rubber mats in bathrooms. Remove small tables and other objects from main walkways, and place night lights in strategic locations for visibility if you have to get up during the night.

 

In short, prioritizing wellness as a senior involves a holistic approach. But there’s no need to get overwhelmed: you can take small steps in all of these categories, which have the added benefit of keeping you busy during your retirement years. So get started on making a plan to incorporate healthier habits into your lifestyle, and raise a toast to a healthier and more fulfilling year ahead. Happy New Year!

Start the New Year Off Right With Chapel Pointe

Chapel Pointe is a faith-based continuing care retirement community. We commit each day to serving and enhancing the quality of life for people aged 62+ in Central Pennsylvania, offering amenities and services to boost our residents’ physical, mental, and spiritual health. We’re honored that our greater community sees the servant-heart of our nonprofit organization and consistently selects Chapel Pointe as “The Best of Cumberland County.”

 

Nestled in eight beautifully landscaped acres in Carlisle, PA, our welcoming campus is filled with interesting places to explore and amenities that make life easy, enjoyable, and wellness-centered.

 

Contact us to learn more about our community wellness offerings, and subscribe to our blog to get more tips for living your best life!

 

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