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Senior Wellness Walk

What is Senior Wellness?

Senior wellness is living your life to the fullest regardless of your age in numbers. Although physical activity is an important aspect, according to the National Council on Aging (NCOA) there are actually six components to senior wellness:

  • Physical wellness
  • Social wellness
  • Emotional wellness
  • Intellectual Wellness
  • Spiritual wellness
  • Vocational wellness

 

Physical wellness is first on the list because moving is the most vital aspect of your overall wellness. Indeed, the biggest threat to seniors is lack of activity; a full 73 percent of seniors aged 65 to 74 stated they have no regular exercise and 81 percent of those over 75 years old report the same.

In the same survey, the other main threats to senior health all tie directly to a lack of physical activity:

  • 61 percent reported an unhealthy weight
  • 33 percent reported falling each year
  • 15 to 20 percent had clinically significant depression

 

As a senior that means you should put daily activity on the top of your list and weave the other wellness components into your life on a regular basis. Your activity doesn't have to be strenuous but it should focus on four key areas: balance, flexibility, strength training, and low impact aerobics (endurance). For example, if you exercise in a class or group environment you can socialize while you work out, and the two together boosts your emotional wellness and stimulates your intellect.

 

Benefits of Wellness

The biggest benefit of wellness is the difference you'll feel in your quality of life. The old adage "use it or lose it" is true, and the more you move the better you'll feel. Here are some of the improvements you'll enjoy once you make physical activity a part of your daily routine:

  • Improvements in levels of exercise
  • Less fatigue
  • Better general health
  • Better balance

 

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In other words once you start to feel better you'll feel like doing more and the benefits will start to snowball: you'll feel less depressed, be more inclined to socialize, be more cognizant, and enjoy life more. When you exercise your brain releases endorphins, which are mood-boosting chemicals. Endorphins not only combat depression, they also improve the blood flow to the brain. Improved blood flow boosts your cognitive functioning and improves your mental capacity, which gives you the motivation to exercise more and continue to build your strength and endurance.

Because you'll feel better both physically and mentally when you exercise regularly it won't take long before you start seeing other benefits. The primary benefit will be weight loss, which is crucial to managing and improving most chronic conditions. Because your balance will improve and you'll have more energy you'll be able to go more places, do more things, and socialize more often.

Staying active as asenior

Staying Active as a Senior

Staying active doesn't mean you have to run a marathon. As a senior you should concentrate on the four key areas of activity that are proven to be the most beneficial, and if you have limitations you can customize each activity to meet your individual needs. Although you should try to do some of each daily, there are some types of exercise that fit into more than once category. For example, a strength activity may also improve balance and an endurance exercise may also build strength. Here are the four key areas of activity you should work on:

Balance: balance exercises are crucial to seniors because better balance means you're less likely to suffer a fall. Here are some examples of balance exercises:

  • Tai Chi
  • Heel-to-toe walking
  • Standing on one foot

 

Flexibility: flexibility exercises do just that—they stretch your muscles and help you stay limber. The more flexible you are the more you'll be able to do everyday activities as well as other exercises. Here are some examples of flexibility exercises:

  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Shoulder stretches
  • Upper arm stretches
  • Calf stretches

 

Strength training: strength exercises improve your muscles, which makes you more able to do your daily activities. Strength training builds lean muscles and boosts your metabolism, which in turn burns calories and help you lose weight. It also tones and tightens your muscles, builds bone density, and helps you sleep better. Also so known as resistance training, strength training examples are:

  • Using a resistance band to stretch
  • Using your body weight
  • Lifting weights
  • Squatting

 

Endurance training: endurance exercises increase your heart rate and breathing which in turn keeps your circulation, heart, and lungs healthy. Also called aerobics, here are examples of endurance training:

 

Each type of exercise is different and has different benefits. Your goal should be:

  • Aim for 2.5 hours week of moderate aerobic activities. Start slowly in ten minute increments and build up to 30 minutes per day.
  • Do strengthening activities two days a week.
  • Do balance activities at least three days a week.

 

It's important to note that everyone is different and some may have limitations. If you're chair-bound you can use resistance bands and chair yoga to strengthen your legs as well as your upper body. Ask your primary care physician or physical therapist for exercise suggestions that cover each of the four key activity areas.

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Seniors socializingSocialization Benefits for Seniors

Socializing is another vital aspect of senior wellness because it improves your overall quality of life. Being socially isolated is one of the leading causes of senior depression because loneliness can lead to despair. Socializing does the opposite: it makes you feel needed and appreciated and gives you a positive outlook on life

Socialization also improves the nutritional intake of seniors, and socializing seniors tend to be more physically active because seniors who are isolated tend to skip more meals and have less motivation to do physical activities.

Having an active social life is also key to a healthy brain: a study by Berkeley University found socialization may have a direct relation to lowering the risk of Alzheimer's and dementia.

Seniors should make an effort to socialize regularly. While some type of physical activity such as a yoga class or group walk is ideal there are many other options available to fit your lifestyle:

  • Going to a senior center for programs
  • Joining a gym
  • Visiting family or friends
  • Volunteering at local events or organizations
  • Joining a neighborhood center or church group
  • Joining or starting a group that enjoys similar interests, such as walking, knitting, or golfing

 

Eating Well

As you get older your tastes may change as well as your appetite. You nutritional needs and calorie intake changes too, but eating well is important to your overall wellness. The National Resource Center on Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Aging states one in four older Americans has poor nutritional habits, which can weaken your bones, muscles, and immune system and leave you vulnerable to disease.

Seniors eating well

As you get older, your nutritional needs, appetite, and food habits can change in several ways. Here are some things that can affect your diet:

  • Calorie requirements: If you're not doing as much physically as you used to you may be consuming more calories than your body can burn. This can lead to weight gain as well as muscle loss, which in turn lowers your energy level and continues the cycle.
  • Appetite: loss of appetite is common as you age as is loss of taste and smell. Smoking also diminishes appetite and if you're a smoking senior you already know the perils you face with the habit.
  • Medical Conditions: medical conditions can restrict the types of foods you eat, and many prescription drugs have loss of appetite as a side effect. If you have a chronic condition such as hypertension or diabetes it's vital that you stick within the guidelines your doctor has outlined.
  • Oral Health: your teeth and gums are often overlooked as a cause for poor diet. If you have cavities or gum disease you should have it treated promptly, and if your dentures don't fit comfortably your dentist can change the fit within a day or two.
  • Home Life: if you live alone you're more likely to skip meals or snack instead of preparing a nutritious meal. Likewise, if you've recently lost a loved one or moved to a new home you may be depressed with little appetite.

You should strive to eat a wide variety of foods that are high in protein and fiber as well as vitamins and other nutrients. At the same time, limit your intake of foods that are high in saturated oils, trans fats, salt, and processed sugars such as fructose. If you have specific health conditions you should follow the diet your primary care provider gives you, and remember that the more you exercise the more nutrition you'll need.

To meet your nutritional needs, eat foods that are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Limit foods that are high in processed sugars, saturated and trans fats, and salt. You may also have to adjust your diet to manage chronic health conditions.

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Senior Vitamins

Whether or not you should take vitamin supplements is something you should discuss with your primary care provider or a nutritionist. While many seniors take a multivitamin daily, you may also benefit from extra supplements of specific vitamins and minerals. Here are some common supplements for senior wellness:

  • Calcium
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin B12
  • Folate
  • B6
  • Vitamin C
  • Magnesium
  • Probiotics
  • Coenzyme Q10
  • Melatonin
  • Fish oil

 

The important thing to remember about vitamins and supplements is to make sure you need them. Some vitamins are toxic if you take too much and others are water soluble, meaning if you take more than you need your body just flushes the extra out. Some vitamins and mineral can be depleted by certain specific prescription drugs and others can react to specific prescriptions. Your doctor can do a blood work panel to see if you're low in certain vitamins and will tell you how much you need to take if you are.

 

Other Senior Wellness Tips

Make your home fall-proof. Remove loose rugs, keep the clutter off the floor, and use nightlights.

Skip the sun. Use sunscreen and hat to lower your risk of skin cancer.

Get regular checkups, including dental, vision, and hearing.

Keep stress to a minimum.

Stay up to date on health screenings such as immunizations.

Declutter your home for less stress and mess

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"I hope you know how
much Dad appreciates
the excellent care
he receives from you!"
—Peggy Jamerson, Resident Family Member

Questions?