Keeping your older family members fit and fulfilled requires specific diet and exercise protocols as well as loving, educated, and patient hands-on assistance. Whether you're caring for someone alone or you employ help, combining habits and activities is essential for optimal, healthy longevity.
Most of all, building trust between the senior and their caretaker
is one of the most important keys to creating a loving, enjoyable, encouraging environment that could make this chapter in their life a happy time.
Keep ‘Em Moving
It’s no surprise that for seniors, movement is essential. Succumbing to the trials and tribulations age can wreak on the body makes for downhill results. Cognitive, emotional, and structural health are almost guaranteed to improve when exercise is implemented on a daily basis.
A three-year study conducted by researchers at Southern Connecticut State University and Yale School of Medicine on exercise and senior health concluded that seniors who participated in “a moderate physical activity program were more likely to stay mobile in later years, compared to those who did not. Their overall health also improved.” (News 8
Exercise physiologist Dr. Robert Axtell, co-principal investigator, comments on the simplicity of the results of maintaining movement, simply stating, “Exercise is a form of medicine.”
Create a Program
Pick a time of day that's most optimal for your senior when it comes to energy and alertness. Dedicate a walk, swim, light weightlifting, bicycling, or any other activity that's enjoyable and doable. When assisting, offer positive affirmations and balance guidance.
Caregivers should make sure that they encourage physical activity but do not push beyond the senior’s limits. This entails a keen eye as some seniors, especially military veterans, will attempt to go further than they are capable of going, opening up the possibility for injury. Patience is essential when working on maintaining physical activity for a senior, so great empathy is optimal.
Always check with your doctor to determine if your choice of physical activity for your senior is acceptable.
Stay on Point
One of the most common causes of physical decline for an elderly person is falling. Caregivers should be astutely aware of how quickly this can happen. One glance away when a senior is attempting mobility could result in serious repercussions.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states
that “Twenty to thirty percent of people who fall suffer moderate to severe injuries such as lacerations, hip fractures, and head traumas. These injuries can make it hard to get around or live independently, and increase the risk of early death.”
Here are some tips on how to prevent falls and enable a senior to remain fit and independent as long as possible:
- Exercise Daily. As previously mentioned, exercise is essential. Focusing on leg strength is recommended for maintaining strong balance.
- Review Medications. Check with the senior and their doctor to determine if medication side effects may be impeding quality of life. These can include dizziness, fatigue, and depression.
- Consider Eye Health. Struggling with vision can discourage physical activity. Have your loved one's eyes checked at least once a year and ask their eye doctor if single distance vision lenses are an option. These can help when doing activities outdoors.
- Shore Up Their Living Space. To keep seniors healthy, active, and fit, it's important to make their living space easy to get around. Wall bars, toilet risers, and shower slip-resistant add-ons can all help maintain a safe environment.
For a senior, eating a proper diet is more important than ever. No longer will their bodies bounce back from daily activities without proper nutrition.
Dr. Amy L. Anderson of the University of Maryland Department of Nutrition and Food Science led a research study, Dietary Patterns and Survival of Older Adults
, of 2,500 adults ranging from ages 70 to 79. The study concluded that “A dietary pattern consistent with current guidelines to consume relatively high amounts of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, poultry, fish, and low-fat dairy products may be associated with superior nutritional status, quality of life and survival in older adults.”
Make sure that whoever assists your senior is versed by a doctor on your senior's medical history before making dietary changes. Food for seniors can become a challenge because they often say they're not hungry. A caretaker should be willing to help them along with their choices to keep the trust level high and the senior’s joy of food varied.
These are some of the ways to keep your older family members stay fit and fulfilled. It's important to understand how the world looks through their eyes so that caring for them can be less frustrating. This is a time when fear, vulnerability, and the complete unknown are more prevalent than ever. Stay affectionate and positive to create a safe, sympathetic world around them.
Born in Flagstaff, AZ, Felicity Dryer was raised to always make her health a priority. Throughout her life, she has focused on encouraging others to reach for and achieve their personal goals. She now lives in sunny Los Angeles, where she works as a freelance health writer, continuing to help those seeking encouragement to keep moving forward to achieve their goals. In her free time, Felicity enjoys hosting game nights with her friends and spending warm days on the beaches of California.