Golden Years: How Seniors Can Live Their Best Life in 2020
The average life expectancy in the U.S. is 78 years. Seniors who live beyond this average age say they’re using these “bonus years” to spend time with family, see children and grandchildren grow up, and do the things they most enjoy, according to a United States of Aging Survey. Many of today’s seniors embrace the changes that come with age, feeling a greater sense of freedom and self-expression. Part of that freedom is the willingness to accept assistance where it’s needed, in the form of family, friends, community, and even home care services. Here are eight ways aging seniors can express this new-found freedom and live their best life this year.
No. 1 Stay in Touch
Family members move, friends pass on and neighborhoods change. While changes like these are a normal part of life, they can be hard on aging seniors who rely on their community for support and companionship. More than half of seniors (53%) indicate that being close to friends and family is important. Technology makes keeping in touch easy – regardless of distance. In fact, 84% of seniors nationally cited technology as important to their ability to connect with the world around them. Take advantage of the abundance of options for staying in touch with loved ones and keep cherished friendships strong. When you can’t be physically together, smart phones can bring friends and family members right to the palm of your hand. Face-to-face get-togethers are harder to come by as we age, but they don’t have to stop altogether. Home care services can offer transportation or help to secure public transport. Either way, maintaining connections is vital to our overall health as it can help lower the chance of depression, and even physical ailments such as heart disease and memory loss. An added benefit is that home care providers can offer companionship for seniors who are more likely to spend more time alone.
No. 2 Share the Wealth
Seniors have never been wiser than they are right now. That means they have years of experience and knowledge to pass along. Volunteering provides the opportunity to share knowledge and experience with others. Being relied upon gives seniors a greater sense of purpose, encourages social activity and increases well-being. The National Institute on Aging reports that participating in meaningful social activities can improve longevity and mental health, and can reduce the risk of dementia. Another study from Wharton College found that people who volunteer feel more useful, capable, and confident. Volunteering opens the door to companionship and new friendships made through shared experiences. Seniors can reach out to their local churches, schools and community organizations to find volunteer opportunities. Home care providers can not only aid in the search, but provide transportation so that seniors can volunteer where their skills and knowledge are most needed.
No. 3 Try Something New
A 2018 Harris Poll found that aging seniors most look forward to having the opportunity to reach new goals and pursue their passions in their golden years. Contrary to the popular belief that we can’t learn new tricks in old age, our brains have an incredible ability to learn and master many new skills, regardless of age. In recent studies of the brain’s anatomy, scientists found that the adult brain is far more fertile than expected, and more than capable of making the connections required for profound learning. The greatest barrier between older adults and their ability to learn a new skill is likely lack of confidence. Mentally engaging hobbies such as socializing, traveling, or knitting preserve brainpower and boost mental health. And physical hobbies like taking dance or yoga classes help to retain balance and mobility. Having a creative outlet is also great for managing stress and frustration. Having someone in your corner can be helpful when starting a new hobby. Home care providers can offer companionship and support to keep seniors engaged and feeling confident.
No. 4 Get Moving
With age comes a decline in mobility which can create fall risks that could lead to serious injuries. In fact, falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions in seniors. A Harvard study conducted on over 1600 older men and women showed that incorporating light workouts into our daily routine lowers the risk of a disability by up to 25%. It also helps to relieve chronic pain from conditions like arthritis, prevent diseases such as obesity and diabetes, lower blood pressure, and strengthen the immune system. And for seniors interested in learning a new skill, exercise releases a flood of neurotransmitters and hormones known to promote the growth of new brain cells and synapses. Home care providers can motivate seniors and encourage daily walks and stretching exercises. They can also offer support and added safety for seniors who aren’t confident with their current mobility levels.
No. 5 Fuel Up
We know that eating right is important for our overall health, but for seniors this can be easier said than done. Elderly people who live alone may not take the time to prepare and eat healthy, balanced meals. A healthy diet is critical, though, especially to those suffering from chronic symptoms such as high blood pressure or heart disease. Preparing nutritious meals that include plenty of fruits and vegetables can help seniors get the vitamins they need to stay healthy and fight off infections. Talk to your healthcare provider about the right mix of vitamins and nutrients for your unique needs. Home care services can include meal preparation for those who aren’t able to cook or might need assistance creating and sticking to a balanced diet.
No. 6 Power Down
As adults age, the body’s internal clock begins adjusting to earlier bedtimes and wakeup times. Health issues, certain medications, sleep apnea, frequent urination, and arthritis are all common issues that can rob seniors of a restful night’s sleep. Sleep deprivation can cause other issues such as mood swings, difficulty concentrating, and a lack of energy. It’s also been linked to serious health conditions including depression, cardiovascular disease, and obesity. Creating a bedtime routine that promotes sleep can help. Avoiding digital devices, caffeine and heavy meals within an hour of bedtime, and making our bedrooms dark, quiet, and cool are all effective steps toward better sleep. Being well rested helps seniors wake up refreshed and ready to take on the day.
No. 7 Pay Attention
A natural decline in dexterity and balance are normal parts of aging, but there are some symptoms that require a closer look. Tremors, slowness of movements or limb rigidity can be signs of a debilitating disease, such as Parkinson’s. Being forgetful on occasion is a normal sign of aging. But frequently forgetting to eat or to take medication, failing to bathe, or getting lost in familiar places could be signs of Alzheimer’s or dementia. In the elderly, health status can change quickly. Coming down with the flu or taking a fall isn’t as easy to shake off as we get older and can lead to serious concerns. The risk of stroke nearly doubles every 10 years after age 55, according to the American Stroke Association. Paying attention to your body and knowing when to seek medical advice or help is important to living a healthy life well into the golden years.
No. 8 Take Advantage of Benefits
Beyond free gym memberships and discounts at restaurants and retail shops, there are many benefits available to help seniors live their best lives. Navigating stairs, preparing meals, remembering to take medications… these are just a few of the daily tasks that can become more difficult with age. Home care can ensure seniors remain safe and comfortable in their own homes as they age. Wartime Veterans and their surviving spouses may be eligible for the Pension with Aid and Attendance benefit, which can ease the financial burden of paying for home care. This can be especially helpful to the more than 30% of Veterancare recipients who have no health insurance or regular source of health care.
Let’s help make 2020 a year for seniors to embrace all the changes that come with age, from more free time to spend with loved ones to taking up a new hobby, volunteering time for causes they feel strongly about and saying ‘yes’ to programs and benefits that can help them live their best life.
Veterans Care Coordination’s mission is to improve the quality of life for Veterans and their families. This month we’re focused on helping seniors live their best life in the coming year. We partner with quality home care providers to help navigate the VA’s process of applying for pension funds and get care started as quickly as possible. For more information click here or call 855-380-4400.
If you’re a home care provider interested in partnering with VCC in our mission, click here.