Making Your Senior Years Golden: How Older Canadians Can Stay Healthy
The aging process presents certain challenges to one’s physical and emotional well-being and often forces seniors to make lifestyle changes, but it doesn’t have to mean decay and decline.
Leading an active life and maintaining good personal habits can make the difference between living independently as you age and struggling with illness and limited mobility. Flexibility, activity, restful sleep, nutrition and social engagement are the building blocks of a vibrant and happy transition into your golden years.
A sedentary lifestyle isn’t healthy no matter what age you are. Regular exercise keeps your body in good shape and your mind sharp, and helps stave off conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, depression and arthritis. Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore – do something you genuinely enjoy and you’re much more likely to exercise on a consistent basis. There’s no need to join a gym to remain active. Go for a walk in the park, join a water aerobics class, work in the garden or volunteer with a local community or charitable organization. Anything that gets you up and moving is decidedly to your benefit.
Exercise your brain
Inactivity is a major threat to your mental acuity and can contribute to Alzheimer’s disease, a fact of life for about one in every eight older Americans. Mental stimulation is key to preventing a precipitous cognitive decline, and it can be surprisingly easy to do. For example, those crossword puzzles you’ve always enjoyed will keep your mind working and creating new neural pathways, as will playing music, learning to speak a new language, or just making time to read a book. slowing cognitive
Choose nutritious foods
There’s a tremendous body of research showing that foods high in sodium, sugar and unhealthy fat can hasten the onset of a host of health issues as one grows older. Obesity and diabetes are major health problems in the United States and can be dangerous during your senior years. Avoid making easy, unhealthy food choices by getting plenty of vegetables and fruit as well as whole grain foods and lean meats. Your physician or a nutrition consultant can help you set up a balanced and nutritional diet that can add years to your life.
Did you know that technology can help you maintain a healthy diet? There are smartphone apps designed to keep you on track with healthy choices at the grocery and the dinner table. You can also find apps that allow you to have groceries delivered to your front door or put you in touch with meal delivery services, which emphasize dishes made with healthy ingredients.
Reach out to others
Regular social contact keeps you feeling connected and in touch with social and emotional support networks. Having dinner or just meeting for coffee on a regular basis with friends and family can keep you feeling vital and part of a loving personal network. It’s especially important for older adults, for whom isolation and inactivity can be lethal. The National Academy of Sciences reports that isolation is a major risk factor for mortality among seniors.
There’s no reason your senior years can’t be an active and joyous time in which you try new things and continue to grow intellectually. Challenge yourself to try something that’s always been of interest, but which you never seemed to have time for – now’s the time.
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