Staying active and healthy is important at all stages of life, but it can become more difficult to do so as we age and our bodies start to change. Older adults have different nutritional, exercise, and general health needs than younger people. However, practicing a few simple habits every day can keep you happy, healthy, and active long into those "golden" years.
Dietary fiber is an integral part of healthy eating at any age but is an absolute necessity for older adults. Fiber promotes healthy bowel function and can reduce the risk of conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
According to the Institute of Medicine, males over 50 should eat at least 30 grams of fiber a day, while females should consume 21 grams. Excellent sources of dietary fiber include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, as well as nuts and seeds. As you get older, if chewing is a concern, try softer options like beans or blending fruits into smoothies.
As humans age, the same level of dehydration that once triggered the thirst response may not activate at all, leading to many adults not drinking enough fluids. This becomes especially true after age 80 but is a severe risk for anyone over 65. Plus, an increase in fiber intake can cause dehydration if a person is not drinking enough.
Drink throughout the day, even when not thirsty. Aim for at least 48 ounces of fluids a day — physically active individuals may need to drink even more. If this does not sound attainable, try to supplement fluid intake with foods like soups, watermelon, and cucumber, which contain lots of water.
A 60-year-old simply does not have the same nutritional requirements as a 20-year-old, but many people do not significantly adjust their diets over the years. Because of this, seniors often develop nutritional deficiencies. Rather than trying to work in a ton of new foods or veggies, supplements and multivitamins can deliver the right nutrients.
Speak with a doctor to find the perfect supplement.
Over the years, other responsibilities can easily draw us away from the things that we enjoy. However, it is important to set some boundaries and find some personal time, especially as an older adult.
After retiring, many people feel like they lack purpose. Having a hobby keeps the brain fresh and combats mental health issues like depression. Hobbies can also keep the body active or involve other members of a community, which dramatically boosts physical and mental well-being.
It is all too easy to lose contact with friends and family as we age. Sometimes this is due to a lack of mobility or simply not seeing a coworker every day once you or they retire. Researchers have found that valuable friendships led to better functioning, especially among older adults. Staying social and speaking with friends daily — even over the phone or online — fights loneliness, depression, cognitive decline, and chronic illnesses.
In addition to staying close with friends, seniors should also make efforts to meet new people. A study of over 2,000 Californian women found that older women who maintain large social networks dramatically reduced their risk of dementia while also delaying or preventing cognitive decline.
Daily exercise classes, religious gatherings, and hobby groups like book clubs are great places to find new hobbies and make new friends.
Older adults should get in the habit of watching their health numbers, like heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose.
Monitoring these numbers not only keeps us knowledgeable about their overall health but also allows for the early discovery of any new issues. People who are unsure of what numbers to watch or how to do so should speak with a health professional.
Staying active is not enough to stay strong and mobile as an older adult. Daily stretching is a necessity to preserve muscle strength and flexibility, which prevents injury and promotes a wider range of motion. Not stretching enough increases joint and muscle pain and can make activities like walking far more difficult.
While stretching may seem ineffectual or hard at first if it's new to you, it has a cumulative effect. Continue to stretch regularly and watch as the muscles become far stronger and more flexible over the coming weeks and months.
Falling into a monotonous routine is extremely easy as a senior. While a structured and organized life provides a sense of stability for many people, doing the same thing every day can lead to depression and cognitive decline. Finding new things to do helps keep the brain active and can lead to more social interactions and movement.
For many older adults, forgetfulness is a constant concern. Writing things down is a simple way to avoid missing both important functions and small, easy-to-forget tasks. However, this goes beyond jotting down small reminders. Keeping a journal about day-to-day activities, dreams, and daily feelings can boost the brain’s ability to remember things in general, not just the things that get written down.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.