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By: Richard Wright
Your golden years can be the best ones of your life. Of course, the enjoyment you feel in retirement can be diminished if you’re dealing with health complications. But by being proactive and caring for yourself, you can prevent serious issues and get the most out of this wonderful time in your life.
Exercise and Physical Activity
The human body, young and old, needs exercise to operate at its fullest potential. When you exercise in your senior years, daily workouts help regulate mood and can even prevent the onset of dementia symptoms. Adding strength exercises reduces muscle mass loss due to aging, and supports healthy bones and joints. Balance exercises help seniors stay on their own two feet and prevent falls that can result in serious injury.
Doctors recommend older adults exercise 150 minutes per week — that’s 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days a week. However, just 10 minutes of moderate exercise has a therapeutic effect on seniors, so seniors who wish to break down workouts into three 10-minute workouts per day are certainly free to do so.
Older adults should vary their workouts and engage in different types of exercise:
- Endurance – walking, swimming, jogging, dancing, playing tennis
- Strength – lifting free weights, pulling resistance bands, using strength-training equipment
- Balance – back and side leg raises, toe stands, heel-to-toe walking, stork pose
- Flexibility – daily stretches including shoulder, upper arm, calf, and thigh
Just as important as exercising is balancing your physical activity with a full night of sleep. Regardless of your age, sleep is an essential tool in preventing conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes, but since seniors are even more prone to these illnesses, adequate rest is something all people in their golden years should strive for.
If you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep on a regular basis, consult your doctor to rule out a serious sleep disorder like insomnia. If your physician gives you the all clear, take a look around your bedroom to see if you can identify a culprit. If your mattress is a little worse for wear — especially if you have had it for seven years or longer — you owe it to your overall wellness to purchase a new one. Be sure to look for one that is both comfortable and supportive of your spine; a mattress that’s too soft or too stiff won’t keep your spine in alignment as you catch Zs, adding unnecessary pressure to your joints night after night.
Also use a critical eye to examine your sleep environment. Is there a streetlight shining through the windows? Hang some blackout shades. Are your walls paper thin and your neighbors noisy? Pop in some earplugs or invest in a white noise machine. Do you wake up in the middle of the night feeling overheated? Set your thermostat a bit lower — between 65 and 69 degrees is optimal for sleep.
Mental Stimulation for Seniors
Exercising the mind in your senior years is just as important as exercising the body. Mental stimulation challenges the brain so you stay sharp, fit, and witty for years to come. Certain exercises can help improve memory and reduce the symptoms of mild cognitive impairment that are common with aging. Seniors can exercise the mind through various means, including activities they already enjoy, such as playing music or reading. Additionally, brain games like crossword puzzles, Sudoku, strategy games, and more are great for cognitive improvement. Basically, anything that gets the mind working and challenges the person in some way can be considered mentally stimulating, so the options are limitless.
The Importance of Socialization for Seniors
As populations grow older and people become more isolated, senior loneliness has become a huge problem. Without enough socialization, older adults are more likely to develop both mental and physical health problems. Meanwhile, people with regular social interaction tend to have a higher level of life satisfaction at their time of death.
Seniors who want to be more social can look into local senior centers for support. These institutions often provide transportation and activities for older adults while facilitating socialization and community support. Adults can also check out their local church or house of worship for options. Senior citizens who are still active and mobile can look into spending some free time giving back to their community through volunteering, or even pick up a part-time job as a way to learn new things, meet new people, and make a little money on the side.