Today’s adults are living longer, healthier lives due in part to better fitness and nutrition programs. With the number of Americans 65+ expected to make up 20% of the U.S. population by 2050, exercise and diet are more important than ever. These tips can help older adults enhance overall wellness into their later years.
Fight Afternoon Fatigue
Fatigue is a common problem among older adults, especially after lunch. Having a glass of water and a high-antioxidant food like a prune can revitalize the body and stimulate the mind.
Exercise From The Neck Up
Keeping the brain active and fit is imperative to the health of older adults. Not only does it stave off memory-loss illnesses like Alzheimer’s and dementia, but it also fosters executive function. Try word games and recall exercises. For example, find five red objects during a walk in the neighborhood and recall them when you’ve returned home.
Walking poles allow for more balanced mobility than walkers or canes. Walking with poles engages the muscles of the upper torso, which increases upper-body strength and cardiovascular endurance. Consult a physician before making the switch to poles.
Dine In Duos
Those who share meals with others eat less than those who eat alone. This is an easy weight-loss tactic and one that fosters social interaction and engagement. While this is easy for those aging in a community, older adults at home can plan to have meals with family or friends at least several times a week.
Routine limits brain stimulation. Introduce new foods or new ways of eating the same food. For example, replace canned peaches with freshly sliced ones. Also, try taking a different route to the grocery store or shopping center.
As people age, the fat pads on the bottom of their feet compress, creating fatigue and pain. Consider wearing supportive shoes or inserting foot pads for better stability and comfort or socks that have extra padding and a wicking agent to keep feet dry and comfortable.
Fats: Out With The Bad, In With The Good
Older adults with an increased genetic risk for dementia can reduce the risk by increasing the amount of Omega-3 fatty acids in their diet. These fatty acids, found in fish, nuts, olive oil and green leafy vegetables, can reduce brain inflammation, a possible cause of Alzheimer’s disease.
Decrease Salt And Increase Your Salsa
High blood pressure, which can lead to strokes and a significant decline in cognitive function, often increases with age. As adults get older, the sense of taste also fades, leading to a desire for more salt on food to enhance flavor. Decreasing salt intake by putting down the shaker – and increasing exercise habits by shaking to a salsa beat – will enhance cardio and cognitive health.
In addition to exercises that build strength and improve flexibility and cardiovascular endurance, make sure to add balance activities to the daily routine. Good balance requires maintaining a center of gravity over the base of support. Tai chi, yoga, walking on challenging surfaces and water exercises all enhance overall balance.
Dance Like There’s No Tomorrow
Older adults getting regular physical exercise are 60% less likely to get dementia. Exercise increases oxygen to the brain and releases a protein that strengthens cells and neurons. Dance involves all of the above plus the cerebral activity present in learning and memory.
Peggy Buchanan is the coordinator of vitality/wellness programming for Front Porch and serves as the director of fitness, aquatics and physical therapy at Front Porch’s Vista del Monte retirement community in Santa Barbara, Calif. Peggy has more than 30 years of experience in the health and fitness industry as an author, instructor/trainer and program developer. Her book Movin ‘n Groovin’ was awarded Amazon.com’s “Best Children’s Fitness Book” in 1998. She earned her master’s degree from California State University, Northridge in exercise physiology and has received numerous industry certifications and awards, including two honors from the world’s largest association for health and fitness professionals (IDEA).