The start of a new year is a great time to take a look at our lifestyle and health. No matter what age or stage of life, we could all use some improvement and new habits that can have a great positive impact on our quality of life. If you are caring for an older client or a senior family member there is a lot you can do to guide them to healthier behaviors.
Here are 10 healthy New Year’s resolutions from True Care Home Care that you can try today, specially for seniors and their unique needs.
1. Good Sleep for Good Health
A good night’s sleep is the basis of good health, regardless of age. Older adults should aim for seven to nine hours of sleep per night. This amount of rest helps to maintain a healthy immune system and improves memory and concentration.
- Avoid watching TV and using a cell phone and/or computer before bed
- Don’t drink caffeinated or alcoholic beverages in the evening
- Keep the bedroom cool, comfortable, and quiet
- Stick to a schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, and avoid long naps
- Stay active during the day
- Schedule a check-up with a physician to see if any medications or medical conditions are affecting sleep
Eric J. Olson, M.D. writing for the Mayo Clinic says “a lack of sleep can affect your immune system.” He said research shows that “people who don't get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold virus. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick.”
Dr. Olson explained that long-term lack of sleep also increases the risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease. However, for adults, sleeping more than nine to 10 hours a night may result in a poor quality of sleep, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep.
2. Eat Well & Stay Hydrated
A healthy diet is one of the simplest health goals for seniors and the easiest to start doing today. Focus on consuming high-fiber fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, along with nuts and low-fat dairy and leaner cuts of meat. Limit the consumption of fatty meat, sugar, butter, salt, and pre-packaged foods. Following these guidelines can help protect against cancer, heart disease, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s, as well as common illnesses caused by viruses and bacteria.
Healthy foods are great, but don’t forget to stay hydrated. Keep a container of water nearby and take frequent sips throughout the day. Make sure to refill often!
3. Stay Social
The importance of social interaction for older adults cannot be overstated. Loneliness is known as a “silent killer” of older adults. Encourage them to stay connected with family members and reach out to friends – or even help them to make new ones!
4. Engage Their Brain
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “use it or lose it.” Experts suggest seniors keep their wits sharp with mind-bending puzzles like crossword and sudoku. There are also plenty of activities like reading, writing and trying a new hobby that can help ward off a decline in mental health, even if there has already been a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Staying physically active is one of the best health goals for seniors in the new year. Studies have shown that regular exercise has many benefits for seniors, including:
- Weight management
- Alleviation of depression
- Strong bones and muscles
- Better sleep
- Improved balance and fall prevention
- Decreased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol
Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. Low-impact activities like biking, walking, tai chi, water aerobics, and yoga are popular exercise options for many older adults.
6. Practice Prevention
It is easier to prevent illness than to treat it. That’s why a key new year’s resolution for seniors focuses on preventative health measures. Here a few ideas to get started:
- Schedule annual physical and screenings to detect and monitor chronic conditions and/or cancer.
- Get vaccinated against the flu and other common viruses.
- Connect with their doctor to discuss any health concerns when they occur; don’t put it off.
- Actively manage their medications. Consult with the pharmacist or physician if you believe they are experiencing side effects.
- Encourage frequent hand washing and sanitizing by placing sanitizers throughout the house and in tote bags when venturing outside.
7. Kick Bad Habits
One of the most popular new year’s resolutions for seniors involves quitting smoking and/or drinking. These habits have some serious health issues attached to them. Smoking is directly related to cancer, high blood pressure and can even worsen conditions like osteoporosis.
Drinking has plenty of long-term health risks, but it also increases the risk of a fall.
It’s never too late to quit smoking and/or reduce alcohol intake. There are many tobacco and alcohol addiction support programs available to help – talk to a doctor to get connected with one. It can also be helpful to loop in friends and family to create a support system.
8. Maintain A Positive Attitude
All the health goals for seniors aren’t just related to physical health, it’s been proven that optimists are more likely to reach – and surpass – the age of 85! Make an effort to help them manage stress, relax, and focus on spiritual growth, not the perceived limitations of aging.
Sometimes, when people retire, they may feel like they have lost their life’s purpose and can feel down or depressed. Some great ways for older adults to stay connected with their purpose include:
- Keeping a gratitude journal
- Joining, or becoming more involved with, a religious organization
- Networking with other positive people
- Setting reasonable expectations and accepting the things that cannot change
- Embracing aging
9. Evaluate the Home’s Safety
Is their home conducive to aging well? The way your house is set up can have a big impact on your health as you age! Risks to evaluate include the fall hazards, adequate lighting, and the need for assistive devices. In-home fall hazards include:
- Blocked walkways (think boxes, stacks of newspapers, electrical and phone cords)
- Cluttered high traffic areas (typically with extraneous furniture like coffee tables, plant stands, and magazine racks)
- Slippery, loose rugs
- Wrinkled carpets
- Food prep spills
As their eyes age, they will need stronger, brighter illumination throughout the house, even during the day. Keep the need for better visuals in mind when interior decorating; choose or recommend specially patterned carpets and high-watt lighting solutions. Also see if it is possible to install grab bars or ramps to make their home more wheelchair friendly. Many seniors don’t anticipate their future physical needs but as their caregiver you can help to make these suggestions or implement them yourself.
10. Plan Ahead
Even if your client or loved one is enjoying their retirement this does not mean they do not need to plan for their future, especially their future care needs. It can feel overwhelming, but there are many resources online for seniors and their families including our list of health services at True Care. Future care plans can include a home health aide, licensed nurse, hospice care or palliative care if there is the possibility of a terminal illness. True Care can also facilitate family-based care through CDPAP, Consumer Directed Personal Assistant Program, which allows seniors to appoint family members and close friends as their paid caregiver. Take the time to assess your options and decide on the best way forward.
Bonus tip: Reach Out to Old Friends, and Make New Ones
Studies show that socially active older adults have better cognition, lower risks of disability and depression, and overall better health. Social media makes it easy to find and reach out to old friends or make new ones.
To promote overall well-being, seniors must cultivate strong relationships. Socializing isn't just vital for emotional well-being — it's a key factor in mental and physical health, as well.
Setting goals for and with the senior you care for and being intentional can help you both reach key milestones for 2023. Do not focus on what could have been done in the past, but be committed to the changes that can make the future even brighter and more fulfilling. We wish you all the best and stand ready to help in any way we can.
Take the first step and complete our Intake form so we can reach out and discuss your immediate and future health needs.