Ask any senior about what is most important to him as he grows older and the likely answer will be some variation of health and happiness. A healthy senior lives a long life and is able to do everything he wants— from living independently to traveling abroad. A happy senior enjoys every moment of that long and healthy life.
Many people fear aging, afraid that ill health, depression and loneliness will make getting older a chore. Most worry that they will become a burden to their families, or suffer from chronic pain. Fortunately, anyone can improve the quality of senior life by adopting the three good habits of happy and healthy seniors.
Habit #1: Exercise Every Day
If you have trouble finding time or motivation, try scheduling your workout early in the morning, before other obligations become a distraction (many find exercising after breakfast and before bathing makes them feel more energized and ready to face the day), or designating your workout as a “special appointment” in your daily planner and schedule all other activities around your exercise routine. Whatever you do, do your best to make exercise a priority.
To stay healthy, you need at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day. Any form of exercise will do– even a simple walk after meals, climbing a flight of stairs instead of riding the elevator, or lifting a barbell while watching television.
Should you opt for a gym membership, remember to start out each new exercise program slow to build up strength and endurance. Each exercise routine should begin with a warm-up and end with a cool-down to avoid injuries.
Habit #2: Eat Well
Good nutrition keeps the mind and body working well over the long haul. Vitamin-rich foods boost the immune system, fight illness-causing toxins, and reduce the risk for heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes, cancer, bone loss, and other debilitating conditions that reduce overall health and quality of life.
The daily healthy diet for an average older adult looks something like this:
· 2 cups of fruit (a serving size not the pre-packaged plastic containers)
· 2 cups of vegetables
· 6-7 ounces of whole grains
· 68-100 grams of high quality proteins (switch up red meat with other options like fish or beans)
· 1.2 grams (or 1200 milligrams) of calcium
Nutritious food provides more energy and is usually lower in calories, so seniors who eat a healthy diet always look and feel great. Protein, for example, improves mood, enhances immunity, reduces muscle loss, and boosts resistance to anxiety, stress, and depression.
Nutrition is important for happiness and cognitive function too.
Eating a wide variety of green leafy vegetables, brightly colored fruit, fish and nuts– especially those packed with omega-3 fatty acid– improves focus and decreases the risk for dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Drinking antioxidant-rich green tea regularly may also enhance memory and mental alertness as a person ages. Fond memories and a sharp mind are essential for happiness at any age.
Habit #3: Engage with Others
Humans are social creatures at all ages; we thrive on regular communication with friends, family, and neighbors. But those connections can become especially important as we get older.
As a person grows older, normal changes in the brain can make it more difficult for to learn new information or remember things. In a senior with dementia, the cognitive impairment may be severe enough that it is prohibitive of a long and happy life. Isolation is a miserable lifestyle and it can actually worsen intellectual impairment.
While some types of dementia are associated with age, depression is not a normal part of aging. Often occurring alongside other serious illnesses, such as Parkinson’s, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease, depression significantly decreases the quality and quantity of happiness and health in senior life.
When seniors take an active role in their community, everyone benefits from their companionship, wit and wisdom. There is definitely a connection between companionship and a long, enjoyable life.
Seniors have the power to give themselves what they really want as they grow older– health and happiness that translate into a long and independent life.