What does it take to live a long, healthy, and fulfilling life? For more and more Americans, this question is something they must contend with directly as they cross the threshold into older adulthood and senior living. In fact, Maryville University reveals that nurses and medical professionals are gearing up for an increase in the country’s senior population, which was around 50 million men and women in 2016. This statistic had grown from 35 million in 2000, and will continue to rise to 78 million — equivalent to 1 in 5 Americans — by 2030.
Along with this increase in numbers is the rise of chronic illnesses in the country, with nearly half of the population expected to have at least one by 2025. This makes it doubly important for aging Americans to take better care of their health, as many diseases like osteoporosis, arthritis, heart disease, dementia, and diabetes can be fended off with positive lifestyle changes. Thankfully, there are many ways older adults and seniors can begin their journey towards a healthier lifestyle. After all, getting older doesn’t necessarily mean having to slow down, and these habits, though small on their own, can go a long way when practiced together:
Eat whole foods
Although you could’ve gotten away with eating junk food and skipping vegetables in your youth, your digestive system is no longer what it once was, and will now require high-fiber fruits, vegetables, and whole grains as much as possible.
Although some people might view whole foods as a luxury while on fixed income, the National Institute on Aging explains that healthy eating is definitely possible. Be sure to ask about discounts, use coupons, and buy in bulk whenever possible. Focus on cost-effective fruits and vegetables that pack a lot of nutrients with a low price tag, such as bananas, apples, sweet potatoes, leafy vegetables, and carrots. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water as well, as this can help you feel energized and avoid dehydration.
Move your feet
Exercise is as important as ever for seniors, and can provide a wealth of benefits. Long walks, swimming, biking, dancing, and gardening are great activities you can incorporate into your daily life. Just 30 minutes of physical activity everyday can help improve energy levels, memory retention, and happiness levels, while also reducing the risks of falling and a whole host of diseases.
Of course, it’s important to communicate well with your doctor and make sure these activities are compatible with your overall health. Dr. David Bell previously advised easing into whatever exercise you try out, and to be mindful of any pain or discomfort.
Keep your mind active
Aside from your body, it’s also important to exercise your mind with crossword puzzles, books, and other hobbies that can challenge you and make you engage with the world around you. Make it a point to learn new things everyday, and to use all your senses as much as possible. Doing so can help keep your brain healthy and ward off dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Set yourself up for a good sleep
Sleeping can sometimes be difficult for older adults, with 44% experiencing one or more symptoms of insomnia, reports the National Sleep Foundation. Aside from speaking to your doctor about it, make sure to practice good sleep hygiene by following a regular sleep schedule, avoiding afternoon naps, and developing a relaxing bedtime routine. Light body and brain exercises can help here, too. Do your best to avoid television or cellphone screens before sleep, and keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature as much as possible.
Last but not least, be sure to stay in touch with family and grandchildren. These can help you stay active, boost your mood, and strengthen family bonds. Remember that the warmth and care of your loved ones are most definitely your best medicine.