Top Ten Healthy Habits to Help Seniors Age in Place

Written by James Fleming

If you’ve never really prioritized health before, you may think it’s too late now that you’ve retired or are about to retire. In reality, though, it’s never too late and in fact, your health matters more now than ever before.

The sooner you start implementing healthy habits, the longer you are likely live and the greater your quality of life will be. Even if you’re currently struggling with pain or an illness, these ten habits can help reduce your symptoms and allow you to continue aging in place.

1. Take a Daily Multivitamin
Micronutrient deficiencies are common among senior citizens, and the deficiencies seem to get worse as age increases. A daily multivitamin is a great tool that you can use to avoid the health risks that come from these deficiencies.

A daily multivitamin contributes to one’s overall health and is especially beneficial for days when you under eat or simply don’t eat as healthfully as you’d like.

2. Get an Annual Physical
If you’re relying on Medicare, you’re entitled to a free physical during the first twelve months. After that, you receive a free annual wellness visit.

Be sure to take advantage of these free visits to make sure you’re staying on top of your health. If you are suffering from any illness, you’ll be able to catch it earlier. Your doctor will also be able to let you know if you are at risk of developing any specific diseases.

3. Prioritize Prevention
Preventative care visits — such as health screenings and vaccinations — are almost always covered by Medicare as well. Take advantage of these screenings and vaccines to ensure you’re keeping illness at bay and catching any issues that might be present early on.

4. Let Go of What You Can’t Control
Research shows that the people who live the longest are typically those who do not dwell on the difficulties they may be facing. Being able to manage stress and let go of the things that are out of your control is good for your physical and mental well-being. Mindfulness practices like meditation, yoga, and tai chi are great for helping you improve your ability to stop internalizing things you can’t change.

5. Visit the Dentist Twice a Year
As you age, your risk of cavities increases. Mouth infections have also been linked to a variety of chronic and serious conditions, including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. To prevent these and maintain good oral health, regular dentist visits (every six months) are a good idea.

6. Keep Your Mental Health in Check
Mental health is another essential component of a high quality of life. Many seniors struggle with depression and anxiety. Work on maintaining a positive attitude and try to find friends or family members with whom you can share your worries or problems. Keeping these things bottled up will only make your depression or anxiety worse.

7. Exercise Regularly
Regular exercise will also help keep depression and anxiety at bay. It’s also just good for overall health. Seniors who exercise regularly are less likely to experience falls, and, if you struggle with arthritis or chronic pain, you may also find that it helps alleviate your symptoms.

8. Eat a Healthy Diet
Taking a multivitamin is important, but remember that it’s a supplement — it shouldn’t replace your consumption of fruits, vegetables, and high-quality animal products. To maintain your health and age in place, a healthy and balanced diet is essential. Be sure to also drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration.

9. Get Plenty of Sleep
Many seniors struggle with insomnia or poor quality sleep. Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool to promote better rest. You can also use natural sleep aids to help you get plenty of shut-eye (prescription sleep aids should be a last resort, as they can cause dizziness and increase your risk of falls).

10. Stay Connected
Finally, make sure you’re spending time with people you love on a regular basis. Friends, children, grandchildren — they all can help you feel connected and make it easier for you to maintain a positive attitude. This, in turn, will lengthen your lifespan and improve your quality of life.

5 Steps to Maintain Independence as you Age

We slave away on the job for the better part of our lives to provide ourselves and our families with a good life. Most of us accept the reality that nothing worthwhile comes easily, but we would also like to believe that if we give it our all we will be successful to some degree. When it comes to independence in retirement, we hope those same rules apply. If we save today for a fulfilling retirement in the future, do what we can to maintain our health both mentally and physically along the way, and optimistically face each new day, we can hope to enjoy new found freedom as retirees.

However, as with much of life, things seldom go the way we believe they should. Bumps and detours along the way must be dealt with, challenges confront us from all sides, and retirement is just not as easy as it should be. But there are things we can do to support our efforts. Here are some ways to maintain our independence as we age:

Fall prevention. Older bones are weaker, and the consequences of a fall for people over 65 can be devastating. Falls result in fractures more often among senior citizens. For one of the most common injuries, hip fractures, the lives of many of those injured will change dramatically if they become unable to return home or live independently after the fall. To help avoid falls, be aware of physical aspects of your surroundings. Watch for wet or slippery surfaces, turn on the lights so you can see where you are going, and support yourself with railings where available. Realize that some medications could make falls more likely, and take that into consideration. Balance becomes challenging as we age, so it’s a good idea to try to stay fit through exercise, stretching, and activities such as yoga that focus on balance and building core strength. And remember to take your time getting where you are going.

Value your good health. Few senior citizens take their health for granted. Most people assume that dealing with aches and pains and struggling with what used to be easy is par for the course. But you don’t have to meekly accept your fate. See a physician on a regular basis and be honest about what ails or concerns you. Sometimes what you fear can be quickly addressed with a change in medication or slight behavioral modification. Don’t just grin and bear it. Look for help. And remember to do basic things to assist your efforts to maintain good health including regular exercise, a good diet, avoiding excesses, and staying positive.

Set up your home so furniture and layout are not hazardous. Little things can have a big impact as we age. An extra step when entering a doorway, a slippery shower, or cabinets too high to safely access can be dangerous. If you find yourself struggling, determine what you can do to improve the situation. If you have too many steps to get up to your bedroom, consider moving the bedroom downstairs. Motion activated lighting can help to shed light where and when it is needed. I am all for energy conservation, but a powerful bright light bulb goes a long way toward preventing injuries. Leave your high shelves empty of anything you may use on a regular basis. And door handles are easier to negotiate than standard knobs, especially if your hands are full. A little fine tuning can go a long way in making your home safer.

Beware of senior scams. Creative criminals threaten everyone and seniors in particular. If something sounds too good to be true, don’t believe it. Do extensive research on anything that involves money, safety, or sharing private information. Become familiar with some of the typical scams targeting seniors from “friends and family” calling for money to bogus lottery winnings to high-pressure telemarketers. Check online on Google or Yelp to see how others have fared. If you receive an email that appears to be from someone you know that is missing a message or subject line and contains some unknown link, don’t click on it. It’s better to miss a cute picture than to introduce malware into your computer. A little skepticism can go a long way in dealing with potential scammers.

Be honest with yourself and others. If you need help, get it. It’s very important to maintain your independence, but do not ignore the realities. If you cannot safely make it on your own, reach out to family and friends for assistance. Independence may become more difficult as we age, but we still have the freedom to choose our own path. You’ll be able to stay in your current home and neighborhood longer if you build a support network of people who can help when it’s necessary.

From my US News & World blog. Dave Bernard is the author of “I Want To Retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be“. Although not yet retired, he focuses on identifying and understanding the essential components of a fulfilling and meaningful retirement. He shares his discoveries and insights on his blog Retirement-Only The Beginning.

Home Improvement Projects Help Elderly Age in Place

Post by Diane Kuehl

More and more retirees and elderly are choosing an aging-in-place route. What does this mean? At its core, aging in place is the ability to live in your home independently, regardless of age, with safety and comfort.

The key here is safety. We all want to feel safe in our homes, and the same is certainly true for the elderly. Here are a few friendly home improvement projects to help you or your elderly friend or family member live, and love, an independent lifestyle.

LIGHTING

With age comes weakened eyesight. It’s natural. To combat this inevitability, there are a few different steps that can be taken around the home.

– Check out the house’s natural lighting. Are the windows blocked by drapes or window covering? Repositioning these allows more natural light into the house, which puts much less strain on the eyes. Note: Keeping the drapes or blinds on windows is definitely encouraged due to the excessive glare that can be caused without them. Glare can make it difficult for the elderly to differentiate between objects in the home.

– Also keep in mind that window blinds can be motorized to help keep the homeowner in control of their lightning situation without the hassle of tugging and pulling painful strings.

– Install extra wall lights or ceiling lights if there is extra space on the walls. This may require a few of those old paintings or wall art to come down, but in the end, it will be well worth it in the name of safety and comfort.

– Install sensor lights outside. These will turn on when the homeowner steps outside, providing extra visibility at night.

DOOR/CABINET HANDLES

As people age, dexterity begins to fade, especially in the hands. This makes opening doors, turning on faucets, etc., increasingly difficult. But, replacing knobs that require a turning motion with levers that don’t require as much dexterity can make those tasks (turning on water, opening a door, etc.) much easier.

RAILS/RAMPS

Adding rails or grab bars throughout the house will provide the homeowner with additional mobility as they get older. Handrails are crucial in the bathroom (specifically, the shower or bath). Handrails can also be added or replaced on the stairs for additional support.

Adding ramps to a house may not be the easiest of tasks, nor the most budget-friendly task, but it will ensure that the homeowner will have no trouble getting in, out and around their home with ease. These should be at least three-and-half feet wide to best accommodate wheelchairs or walkers. Typically, at least one is added to the entrance of a house, if needed.

MISCELLANEOUS

– Add anti-scald devices to faucets to prevent serious burn injuries. This is also great for young children.

– Install mats or rugs throughout the home, while making sure to secure the loose edges and install non-slip backing on any non-permanent floor treatment.

– Be sure that sharp edges (on counters, tables, etc.) are rounded off or secured with “baby-proofing” material. Falls are the leading cause for senior-related injuries, so taking the time to make sure they won’t fall and hit something that could make their injuries even more life-threatening is imperative.

When planning home repairs or improvements for after retirement, it is important to think ahead. What will help when my mobility, vision and hearing start to decline? is a pertinent question for anyone thinking of upgrading their home for the elderly. Also know that many home improvements for the elderly are eligible to be paid for by the government in the form of grants.

Diane Kuehl is a freelance writer and DiY/home improvement enthusiast. Her own experience with her elderly grandfather has led her to advocate for senior citizen care.