Healthy Habits: Three Ways to Help Seniors
Guest post by June Duncan
Anyone who has ever tried to get a senior loved one to move to healthy habits will agree that they are often set in their ways. The thing is, however, that’s not strictly true. It is always possible to build and develop healthy habits for seniors, and it is also always beneficial, no matter how old you are. It can be hard to convince an older adult of this, but there are ways to make the transition to healthy habits easier.
Introduce Exercise as Socializing
According to the AARP, over a third of senior citizens are lonely. There are few opportunities for socialization in senior life. Even when there is a chance, seniors might feel awkward about joining certain groups. If you have been struggling to get a senior loved one to get more active and exercise, why not try to reframe the activity as a social one? There are loads of exercise classes specifically designed for seniors, such as the ones in the SilverSneakers fitness program. These are a great place to meet people and they can be a gentler transition into socializing since everyone is there for the same reason.
SilverSneakers is included in several Medicare Advantage plans, so they might already have free access to senior-friendly exercise classes. Alternatively, you could get them on board by offering to exercise with them. Yoga is a great workout for this, since it is fully adaptable to every person’s individual abilities. Try some basic yoga poses that are beneficial at all ages to get you started.
Help Them Cook
There are many reasons why seniors develop bad food habits as they age, but a significant one is the lack of motivation to cook healthy meals when you live by yourself. You can help a senior loved one by coming around to their house and spending an afternoon cooking with them. Make big-batch healthy meals that they can freeze for convenience, so they can eat well even when you’re not around to fix food for them.
Some seniors simply never learned to cook healthy meals for themselves — this happens often to older men. Here again, you can cook with them to teach them the ropes of healthy cooking. Then, prompt them further by giving them a cookbook — try out these cookbooks every man should own, as determined by some folks at GQ.
Have Mental Health Check-Ins
It’s easy to forget that people from older generations grew up in a different time, when you wouldn’t even hear the words “mental health,” “anxiety,” or “depression.” This can make it difficult for them to recognize their own mental health problems and to be comfortable voicing them. Another problem is that doctors simply tend to check seniors’ mental health less often.
You should know the warning signs for senior depression, which include sustained sadness, high-risk behaviors, and heavy use of alcohol or prescription medication. This will enable you to quickly identify if something is wrong. If you suspect that your loved one’s mental health is at risk, have an open conversation with them and let them know that there are therapies, medications, and lifestyle interventions that can help. Learn about the best things to say to someone with depression, and remember to be patient and supportive.
It’s easy to get frustrated when a senior loved one doesn’t seem to want to make the effort to get healthier. After all, you are trying to get them to live a happier and longer life, and their resistance can cause you to respond angrily. However, as highlighted in this article, it is important to practice empathy and ask yourself why they might be resisting.
Sometimes it might just be stubbornness, but often you will find it’s something deeper: They are scared, or lonely, or unmotivated to make changes. It’s not enough for you to suggest healthier habits — you need to support them and tackle the issues behind their reluctance.
Riverstone provides spaces for connection
Riverstone provides spaces for connection — for well seniors and for those experiencing memory loss. From exercise to hot meals, from literature groups to painting, from Memory Center to Support Groups and spaces for benefits assistance — seniors do not have to be alone.
We also provide mental health screenings, and alcohol, drug abuse screenings.