Aging isn't what it once was. Seniors are living longer than ever due to medical advancements, illuminating research about fitness and an overall shift in approach to living your best life. Even if you haven't lived the healthiest life until this point, it's never too late to put yourself first and focus on longevity and physical and mental health. Here are a few tips for how seniors can live a healthy life:
1. Stay active
You may not be able to run a 10K anymore, but that doesn't mean you should give up on fitness. Begin by talking with your doctor about what's safe for you and how you can improve your health by taking into consideration any issues with blood pressure, asthma or joint problems. Once you've been cleared by your physician, start slowly by taking a walk around the block. Increase your walking pace or distance over time, or build up your time walking a few minutes at a time.
You should also consider improving muscle strength, which can help prevent falls. If you're up for it, get some small free weights and use them in your home while on the couch. Do leg raises with light ankle weights or try some bicep curls with one- or three-pound weights. It may not sound like much, but you'll be building muscle tone and will feel stronger in just a few weeks.
2. Make dietary changes
Diet is key to maintaining health in a variety of ways. A vitamin-rich regimen can help with weight control, improving cardiovascular health and energy levels. If you're not ready to give up sugar just yet, start by adding to your diet instead of taking things away.
There are more ways than ever to incorporate leafy greens into your diet, for example. Look up recipes for using Swiss chard, kale or spinach, or add a piece of fruit to have alongside your morning cereal each day.
If you're struggling to get excited about fruits and vegetables, try to eat seasonally in an effort to mix things up and pique your interest. In the fall, prepare squash and eat fresh apples. In the spring and summer, buy some berries or watermelon and mix up a fruit salad.
3. Be social
Human interaction has been shown to improve overall wellness in seniors, particularly in regard to mental health. It's easy to let the days slip by alone at home, and while alone time can be refreshing, you should still prioritize get-togethers with family and friends. In addition to scheduling regular lunches with family members, look for senior groups in your area or ask staff at your assisted living community if they know of any book clubs or ongoing card games you could join.
Check in with your local library to see if they have any cultural events coming up, or sign up to volunteer with an organization you're interested in. You can also participate in community events and planning – keep any eye out for any boards you can join or take part in coordinating for upcoming holiday celebrations or festivals your town may be planning.
4. Stay current with immunizations
You should also get a flu shot each year.
Hopefully you're seeing a doctor regularly to handle any medical conditions you may have, but you should think in terms of prevention as well as treatment if you're looking to maintain overall wellness. Talk to your doctor and ask them to review your medical records to see if you're behind on any immunizations. You should also get a flu shot each year. Many clinics and drugstores now offer flu vaccines, so you can quickly walk in and get your shot without interrupting your day.
You should also stay up to date with other health screenings including mammograms, prostate cancer examinations, blood panel testing to check for any cholesterol troubles, or any other such issues. Take your prescriptions seriously, too. A doctor's prescription isn't a suggestion – take your medications as prescribed and make your physician aware of any side effects you may have.
5. Try new things
Just because you've been doing something the same way for 20 years doesn't mean you need to continue that way for the next 20. These are your golden years, after all, so why not make the effort to try new things? Getting out of your comfort zone and taking part in new life experiences can improve your mood and mental health and give you the opportunity to engage with others.
When was the last time you took a vacation? How about a vacation anywhere besides where you and your family go each year? Look into cruises with senior groups that can take you through the Caribbean, or the Pacific Northwest, to see some beautiful scenery.
If you're not in a place where you can afford vacations right now, look for local groups and activities that you can take part in. Try senior dance classes, language seminars, a photography class or anything that sparks your interest. Or undertake a long-term project such as researching your genealogy and writing down your family's story to pass along to your relatives.
There are countless ways to enjoy life as a senior and to live healthily – it's time to get going.