We are all aware of the importance of exercise, physical and mental, to help us maintain as active a retirement as possible. The same goes for diet and how it can impact a healthy senior lifestyle. And keeping socially engaged is not only good for our psyche but fun as well. All of these contribute to the litany of things we can do to fight the aging battle. But let’s not overlook a most basic self-help effort that is one hundred percent in your control and can bring happy, healthy days to your senior life. I am talking about basic good hygiene, aka washing your hands.
Like mom always said, wash your hands
Frequent hand washing is one of the most important ways to prevent the spread of germs, flu, colds and viruses. It sounds pretty easy but there is a right way to do it according to the CDC:
- Wet your hands with clean running water and apply soap. Use warm water if it is available.
- Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub all surfaces.
- Continue rubbing hands for 15-20 seconds.
- Rinse hands well under running water.
- Dry your hands using a paper towel or air dryer. If possible, use your paper towel to turn off the faucet.
Another important pointer – avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs often spread when you touch something contaminated and then touch your eyes, nose or mouth before washing your hands. Germs can live for hours on surfaces, waiting for a victim to share their love. Just say no!
Watch out for these germ breeding grounds:
1) Stores and malls – shopping carts; handles on doors; food that has been handled by multiple people in search of that just-so-ripe specimen; drinking fountains; elevator buttons; escalator handrails. Some stores now provide alcohol hand wipes at their entrances that allow you to wipe shopping carts and baskets before you shop and then wipe your hands after you are done. It is a good idea to take advantage of these and sometimes – like at Whole Foods – you get the added benefit of a nice lavender-scented experience.
2) Movie theaters – seats and armrests are a germs best friend.
3) Shaking hands
4) Public transport – buses, trains, taxis, and the stations as you are waiting for your ride.
5) Children and grandchildren – when it comes to germs, kids bring home from school and friends everything under the sun. Never let your cleanliness stand in the way of a hug but wash your hands when you get a chance.
6) Church – pews and aisles; greeting others
7) Kitchens – counters, cutting boards (remember to wash your cutting boards, dishes, utensils and counter tops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before you prepare the next food), refrigerator doors. And when you wash your hands, dry them on a paper towel rather than a cloth towel so germs end up in the garbage and nowhere else.
8) Public places and events – museums, concerts, plays, the opera.
9) Door knobs
10) Obvious times when you want to wash your hands like taking out the garbage, tending to someone who is sick, blowing your nose, etc. A little common sense goes a long way.
An ounce of prevention
There is a LOT of places where germs can flourish and patiently wait for a chance to infect to you. You do not have to be paranoid but just aware of high-risk spots and a little more meticulous with washing your hands. There is nothing worse than having scheduled a wonderful trip to a balmy tropical island and two days before lift-off you catch a blasted cold. And as we get older, our recovery takes longer so we get to experience each illness a little longer. Better to be safe than sorry. Mom was right again – remember to wash your hands.
Don’t forget to pick up a free copy of my Navigating the Retirement Jungle, available upon request by mailing to firstname.lastname@example.org.