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As seniors age, it can seem as though their lives are no longer their own. Mobility may be restricted, and they may depend on others to get around — even for simple everyday needs like bathing and cooking. That can be a frustrating situation for someone who’s used to being independent and making their own decisions.
You may not realize that the ability to improve your circumstances is largely dependent on being proactive about your physical and mental health. Improved health in mind and body makes you feel better, more optimistic, and better able to cope with problems. You also regain at least a measure of the control you previously enjoyed by attaining more robust overall health.
Exercise is crucial for both physical and mental health. Your cardiovascular and circulatory systems are strengthened by it, as is your mental outlook. Exercise activates feel-good endorphins in the brain that leave you wanting more exercise, creating a healthy, self-perpetuating cycle. If you can, make a point of going for a walk once a day or doing some basic exercises to build strength as well as muscle and joint flexibility. Also, if you have a Medicare Advantage plan through a company like Humana, you’ll have access to the Silver Sneakers program. With this, you can access many fitness facilities in your area.
If, like many seniors, you prefer working out with friends, join a nearby community center. Water aerobics and yoga are both excellent ways to achieve good physical and mental health for people with joint pain or other ailments. The right equipment, like an extra-thick yoga mat, can also help lessen the impact and minimize discomfort. Seniors whose mobility is limited often flourish by doing chair exercises.
Digestive and gut health are still misunderstood, but they are very important aspects of your overall well-being. Medical science has shown that there is a close connection between gut health and mental health. Gut health affects your mood, which means what you eat and how well you digest it are very important. If digestive health is a problem, include fermented foods and take a daily probiotic, which can lead to a healthier, happier condition.
Being part of a social group gives you the reassuring feeling of belonging. That’s a valuable advantage for someone who wants to remain active alongside others of the same mindset. Make time for coffee with friends once a week after doing a few laps together at the local mall, most of which are very friendly toward seniors.
If you don’t have such opportunities, consider joining a local senior center that offers a variety of classes, which engage both the mind and body (i.e. exercise programs, crafts, hobbies, etc.) in order to stay busy and keep your mind engaged. Maintain regular contact with friends through social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram. Consider taking turns hosting a weekly dinner, start a book club, or join a yoga class together.
While supplements seem to abound these days, not all of them are appropriate for seniors, particularly anyone who takes daily medication. However, there are some additions worth considering to help boost joint and bone health, digestive health and overall immunity. For example, some people swear by glucosamine chondroitin for joint health, while other people take extra Vitamin D to contribute to stronger bones. CBD oil is making inroads these days for many of the senior health benefits it offers, which include everything from relieving inflammation and anxiety to helping boost appetite. Before adding any supplements to your diet, make sure to talk to your doctor first to avoid any contraindications. When you do start looking for supplements, research brands and look for reputable companies before making a choice.
If you never had a chance to complete a college degree program or to attend college, now’s your chance. Consider enrolling in a class at your area community college or online at a virtual university of your choosing, many of which cater to the particular needs of senior citizens (there are also many opportunities for free online courses). This is an opportunity to pursue a subject in which you’ve always had an interest, either in person or in the comfort of your own home.
If you’re not into academic learning, there are plenty of individualized ways to keep your mind active. If you’re concerned about the state of your memory, try making a list of items (perhaps a list of recipe ingredients), and try recalling it an hour or so later. Repeat this exercise every day to work that portion of your brain that governs memory. You can also bolster cognitive functioning by doing math in your head (figure percentages, add lists of figures, etc.). Or, learn a foreign language, which boosts brain power and is said to help stave off cognitive decline
Good health and a happy outlook are not limited by your age. As an older adult, you can take control of your physical and mental health by taking regular and resolute action. Sometimes, all you need is the desire to make a change.
Written by: Jason Lewis, www.strongwell.org
Jason Lewis is a personal trainer who enjoys sharing his fitness knowledge. He started on senior wellness when he had to provide a training program for his elderly mom.
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