Healthy Aging: The Dimensions of Wellness for Seniors
Good health is critical to living a long, productive life. As we age, our health naturally begins to decline. There are many factors that influence our ability to age well. While some variations in seniors’ health are genetic or based on factors we’re unable to change (sex, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status, for example), many are due to behaviors over which we do have some control.
Dr. Bill Hettler, co-founder of the National Wellness Institute, developed the six dimensions of wellness to break down our health into specific categories and show how each works together to influence our overall health. In honor of Healthy Aging Month, we’re taking a closer look at how seniors can improve their health and how home care services can help them continue living well in every aspect of their lives.
Dimension 1: Physical Wellness
Physical wellbeing is the ability to understand your body and its relationship to nutrition and physical activity. Diet and exercise are two of the most important components of ensuring physical health. The nutrients we take in from eating well help to keep muscles, bones, organs, and other parts of the body strong throughout life.Not eating enough fruits and vegetables can lead to a greater risk of skeletal muscle decline as we age.
For older adults, exercises that focus on balance can help to prevent falls, which is a major cause for concern in seniors. In fact, falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions. Strength exercises work to build muscles, improve balance and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Regular stretching can increase flexibility and freedom of movement to make everyday activities such as navigating stairs and getting in and out of the bathtub or shower easier and safer.
How home care can support physical wellness
Home care providers can help aging seniors plan and make healthful meals, remember to take necessary mediations, and encourage exercise. They can also provide assistance for daily tasks that have become difficult to manage alone, such as fastening buttons and zippers. Improving physical wellness can have a positive impact on emotional health, as well.
Dimension 2: Emotional Wellness
Being aware of our emotions and able to express them in a healthy way are the first steps toward emotional wellness. People who are emotionally stable are more likely to have a positive outlook on life, manage their feelings and cope with stress in healthy ways. Still, the changes that occur later in life, such as the death of a loved one, retirement, or serious illness make depression more commonamong older adults. Depression and other emotional sickness can lead to physical ailments such as heart disease and memory loss.
How home care can support emotional wellness
Companionship and assistance with tasks that have become difficult can help improve emotional health. By alleviating some of the frustrations that come with the inability to complete daily tasks, seniors are less likely to feel stressed and more likely to feel a greater sense of wellbeing. When seniors are emotionally healthy, they tend to be more willing and able to participate in social activities.
Dimension 3: Social Wellness
Social wellbeing involves building personal relationships, creating a healthy living space and taking part in your community. Aging seniors who have limited socialization with family, friends or neighbors may be at an increased risk of developing depression.They are also more likely to remedy their loneliness through unhealthy means such as overeating, drinking more alcohol and not taking care of themselves.
Social activities are more than just enjoyable ways to pass time. In fact, several studies suggest they are an important component of our overall wellness. Leisure activities like reading, playing board games, playing musical instruments and dancing are linked to a lower riskof dementia. And older adults who participate in social activities (playing games, attending local events, or traveling, for example) or productive activities such as cooking or gardening may live longerthan those who do not. That said, it can be difficult for seniors who don’t live in a walkable community or who no longer drive, to participate in social activities.
How home care can support social wellness
As their social circles begin to shrink, it becomes more important than ever that aging seniors have access to family, friends, neighbors, and peers on a regular basis. Home care providers can offer transportation to and from grocery stores, doctors’ offices, community centers and public parks. Aging adults who participate in social activities are more likely to have an interest in pursuing hobbies or sharing their own skills with others.
Dimension 4: Intellectual/Occupational Wellness
Aging seniors can continue contributing both intellectually and occupationally to their communities by sharing their skills and gifts through work, volunteer or mentorship opportunities. In fact, older adults who participate in activities that are meaningful to them report feeling healthier and happier.
Memory and attention problems can limit aging Veterans from contributing to their communities and society as a whole. One in four Americans age 65 and older reports mild cognitive impairment, and one in 10 suffers from dementia. These percentages increase significantly in those over age 85.
How home care can support intellectual wellness
Curiosity and interest in expanding knowledge and staying up-to-date on current events and news are great ways to remain intellectually healthy. For some though, simple activities such as checking for and opening mail, and paying bills can become laborious and uninteresting. The ability to handle such tasks can signify whether an aging senior is able to remain in their own home or might need a safer environment. Home care providers can offer encouragement, provide transportation so that seniors can volunteer, and assist seniors with opening mail and paying bills on a regular basis.
Dimension 5: Environmental Wellness
Aging in place has gained much popularity in the past several years. The majority of seniors want to remain in their homes as they age – where they have memories, feel comfortable and safe, know their neighbors, and are most familiar with their surroundings. Our physical and social environments (homes, neighborhoods and communities) play a large part in our overall health. Environmental wellness is the ability to care for the space in which you live and keep your home in working order.
How home care can support environmental wellness
Homes with steep staircases, loose railings or uneven sidewalks can present fall risks for seniors with poor balance or mobility. Home care providers can help seniors navigate stairs, steps, and slippery surfaces in and around the home, allowing seniors to age in place safely and comfortably. The peace that comes with living in familiar surroundings is another component of our overall health.
Dimension 6: Spiritual Wellness
The ability to recognize the search for meaning and purpose and to develop an appreciation for life and the world around us are signs of spiritual wellbeing. Some people follow specific religious practices, while others lean toward a more general pursuit of harmony and self-awareness. Either way, spiritual health is a dimension of wellness that complements and impacts our physical and emotional wellbeing.
How home care can support spiritual wellness
Being active in a church or volunteering for a faith-based organization can give seniors a sense of purpose and community. With aging, though, staying connected can become more difficult. Home care providers can offer transportation to keep aging seniors active and social.
Together, the six dimensions of wellness create a strong foundation for living well, especially during the golden years. While home care services can support each area of health, pride can stop aging seniors—especially Veterans—from asking for help even when it’s needed. Home care can help ensure that our elderly loved ones are taken care of with the respect they deserve.
Our partner providers know that Veterans Care Coordination’s mission is to improve the quality of life for Veterans and their families. We partner with quality home care providers to help navigate the VA’s process of applying for pension funds and help to maximize VA 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.