Older people make up a significant percentage of the American population, and this is set to rise. Although global aging is a positive consequence of economic, social, and medical innovations over disease, it also poses unique challenges and opportunities for the social and healthcare systems.
A case in point is achieving healthy aging. According to a National Council of Aging report, nearly 95% of Americans 65 and older suffer from serious chronic conditions such as heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes. Similarly, according to the recent census, the older population reached 55.8 million or 16.8% of total US citizens in 2020.
While changes in hearing, vision, and memory are inevitable, there are several ways older individuals can make their post-retirement years a little less challenging with the tips outlined below.
It may not seem like it, but exercise is the best defense and repair strategy to conquer anxiety and multiple drivers of aging. A recent study reveals life-long exercise can keep people healthier for longer, stave off cognitive decline, reduce depression, stress, and anxiety, and delay the onset of multiple chronic diseases. Physical activity improves immune function, which is essential for seniors as their systems are often compromised.
Roughly half of the physical decline connected with aging is because of a lack of physical activity. Individuals over 50 can experience reduced muscle mass, strength, physical endurance, and bone strength without regular exercise. As they enter their 40s, adults can lose 3-5% of muscle mass each subsequent decade, ultimately impacting their mobility and independence.
Through regular physical exercise, you can stay healthy and live more independently. It is worth noting that, like everything else, exercising as an older adult should be more strategic. This means building a balanced exercise plan based on the four building blocks of fitness.
Balance exercises maintain stability and standing, whether you are stationary or moving around. It improves your posture, balance, and walking quality and reduces the risk of falling.
Cardiovascular exercise trains significant muscle groups in rhythmic motions over a period of time. These workouts include dancing, tennis, rowing, cycling, hiking, swimming, stair climbing, and walking. These exercises reduce fatigue and shortness of breath while improving endurance for daily tasks such as cleaning, running errands, and walking.
Power and strength training
Strength training builds muscle with constant motion using machines, elastic bands, free weights, and other external resistance. Unlike the previous building blocks of fitness, power training is done quicker to increase reaction times. This allows you to improve speed while crossing the street, react if you start losing your balance, and prevent loss of bone mass.
Flexibility exercises challenge the ability of your joints to move freely through a complete range of motion. This can be completed through stretches that involve movement to keep your joints and muscles supple and less prone to injury. This is particularly essential since it helps your body stay limber and increases your range of movement for ordinary physical activities.
No matter the block you choose to start with, you must start gradually before incorporating high-intensity workouts to give your body time to adjust to a new exercise routine. Start with short workout sessions over a few weeks before building to roughly 30 minutes of physical activity on most days. Regardless, clocking in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity weekly or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity exercise is recommended in fighting aging.
Eating healthy is one of the lifestyle interventions older adults can do to boost energy levels, increase illness resistance, and improve mental sharpness. As you age, your body and life change. As a result, what you need to stay healthy also changes. So, older adults must understand what constitutes good nutrition, considering that roughly one in four American seniors have poor nutrition.
It is, however, worth noting that healthy eating does not mean dieting. Instead, it’s about enjoying tasty, fresh, and wholesome ingredients, including lean protein, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy. Switching to whole grains is also recommended since they are a good source of fiber, essential for a healthy diet, and reduce the risk of high cholesterol and heart disease.
You must also be smart about carbohydrates. Although senses of taste and smell diminish with age, older people maintain the ability to identify sweet tastes the longest. This results in them consuming more refined sugar.
Dissimilar to complex carbs filled with fiber, simple or refined carbs can lead to a high blood sugar spike followed by a rapid crash, leaving you prone to overeating and feeling hungry. Understanding these changes and adjustments to your body will help you take control of your dietary and nutritional requirements, which, in turn, allows for healthy aging.
Before eating healthy, you must create a comprehensive diet emphasizing the abovementioned ingredients and limiting saturated and trans fats, added sugars, and sodium. By planning your meals, you can see how much you are eating and eliminate the inclination to eat whatever you can get the fastest when you are hungry and your blood sugar drops.
Unhealthy foods are often chosen because of convenience. By planning meals, eating healthy can become more convenient. When you can make eating healthy more convenient, you can give your body the proper nutrients to maintain a healthy weight and stay active.
Get Enough Sleep
Aging is linked to various health concerns. Poor sleep can impact several of these issues, reducing people’s quality of life as they age. According to the PRB’s Today’s Research on
Aging study, poor sleep is a sign of ill health and a trigger for processes linked to disease and biological aging. The study adds that seniors who do not sleep well are more likely to suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness, memory problems, attention issues, depression, and experience more nighttime falls.
What makes this even worse is insomnia is a pressing problem among older Americans. A recent study reveals over 50% of people over 60 experience sleep issues. The same study adds that many of them give up trying and eventually settle for a short night of less-than-ideal sleep. As you age, your body generates lower levels of growth hormones.
This means you will likely experience a decrease in slow-wave or deep sleep. When this occurs, you produce less melatonin, meaning you’ll often experience more fragmented sleep.
Although sleep requirements differ from person to person, most healthy adults require seven to nine hours of sleep. This way, you can detoxify your brain to improve memory and brain function. Among the ways you can encourage positive changes and minimize disrupted sleep include the following.
Stick to A Regular Bedtime
Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule can help older adults get better quality rest. This is because it helps sustain your body’s circadian rhythm. Doing so allows you to achieve better emotional well-being, boost mood, reduce the risk of diseases, increase performance, and improve immune function.
Avoid Afternoon Naps
Short naps do not generally impact nighttime sleep quality for most people. However, for older adults prone to insomnia, napping might worsen these problems. Therefore, avoiding long or frequent naps that interfere with nighttime sleep is essential in avoiding disruptions to your ability to fall asleep at night.
Let Your Body Calm Down Close to Bedtime
Avoiding stimulating activities late at night, such as eating, lively debates, and watching TV, can improve your sleep. You can also read or try progressive muscle relaxation to let your mind and body slow down close to bedtime.
Aging gracefully is not about trying to look like a 20-something. Instead, it’s about living your best life and having the mental and physical apacity to do it. Getting enough sleep allows you to reduce stress and depression, lower obesity, reduce inflammation, lower the risk of heart disease and stroke, and improve focus and concentration, which, in turn, regulates your overall health.
See a Geriatric Nurse Regularly
Visiting a geriatric nurse practitioner is essential in detecting health issues early or before they start. How often you see a geriatric nurse depends on your condition, family history, lifestyle, and age.
Like doctors, geriatric nurse practitioners are educated to treat and understand older people’s challenging and complex physical, mental, and social needs. Leading academic institutions such as Wilkes University, offering comprehensive online geriatric nurse practitioner programs which train their students to understand the aging process with courses related to the sociology of aging, common age-related disorders, and anatomy.
A geriatric nurse practitioner who regularly sees you can make a better diagnosis based on observed changes in your health and do the following:
Track Prescription Medications
Prescription drugs can cause adverse reactions and side effects such as stomach pain, constipation, diarrhea, confusion, and dizziness.
With most seniors taking pain, anti-hypertensive, and cardiovascular medications, it becomes more important than ever for them to see a geriatric nurse practitioner so any potential drug side effects can be evaluated. This allows geriatric nurse practitioners to prescribe a lower dosage or discontinue a medication to achieve positive health outcomes.
Monitor Glucose Levels
Diabetes, or elevated glucose levels, is typical for older American adults. According to the American Diabetes Association, roughly 29.2% or 15.9 million Americans age 65 and older suffer from diabetes.
Geriatric nurse practitioners can help monitor your glucose levels and ensure you do not develop diabetes-related complications such as heart attacks, strokes, renal disorders, vision impairment, stasis ulcers, and poor circulation. Moreover, regular meetings with nurses help seniors with diabetes comply with their medical protocol to maintain a healthy weight.
Frailty is a significant issue for the American senior population. As adults age, their bodies become frail and have difficulties moving freely. This increases their risk of complications and poorer outcomes when undergoing several medical procedures.
If that’s not bad enough, it also increases their likelihood of becoming ill when exposed to pneumonia or flu. By visiting a geriatric nurse practitioner regularly, you can prevent these complex medical issues and increase mobility and stability since these professionals can tailor a care plan for your needs.
Health issues that need routine monitoring increase as you get older. With aging presenting unique physical, social, emotional, and mental challenges, visiting geriatric nurse practitioners empowers you to prioritize treatments and form a positive self-perception of aging.
Take Care of Your Mental Health
Mental wellness is essential to your overall health and quality of life. It impacts how you think, feel, act, make choices, and relate to others. Part of healthy aging is managing social isolation, depression, stress, mood, and loneliness through self-care. As you age, trouble getting around and losing family and friends can make it challenging to maintain social connections.
This tends to make older adults socially isolated and feel lonely. A recent poll reveals more than one in three older adults reported feeling a lack of companionship.
In contrast, roughly a quarter of Americans aged 65 and older are regarded as socially isolated. What makes this worse is social isolation is linked to poor memory, cognitive decline, and higher mortality rates in older adults.
Therefore, you must stay connected with others to boost your mood and improve your overall well-being. This means staying in touch with family or friends in person or over the phone and scheduling time daily to connect with others. You can also look into organizations for seniors to see if they host any exciting events.
Social clubs allow seniors to meet new people who share common interests. They can also add structure to their week by offering a recurring event outside the home to anticipate. You can also seek volunteering opportunities to help the community and make new friends or sign up for senior center programs.
Either way, socialization allows you to prevent loneliness, alleviate isolation, and make your senior years more manageable.
Working Toward Achieving Healthy Aging
Getting older does not necessarily mean a poor quality of life or dealing with multiple diseases. By incorporating positive lifestyle interventions and habits, you can manage the changes brought on by aging and maximize their benefits while taking dynamic steps toward keeping in tip-top shape and reducing the likelihood of contracting potentially life-threatening diseases.