Essential Lifestyle Tips for Seniors

Why is a healthier lifestyle Important as we age?

Thankfully, in today’s world, people are living much longer than the generations before them. However, a longer lifespan isn’t just a given. Longer lifespan is connected to choosing to engage in a healthy lifestyle. Trying to maintain your health is important in all periods of your life, but a healthy lifestyle becomes especially important as we get older. According to, maintaining health for longer will allow you to age at home longer, independently, without the need for a long term care community. The good news? It’s never too late to start engaging in healthier habits.

What are the most common changes with age?

No matter the age, engaging in unhealthy habits has a negative impact on our happiness, physical health, and overall well-being. A bad diet and lack of exercise contributes to many chronic conditions including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, poor mental health, and more. If these conditions are left untreated at a young age they will only intensify and worsen as we age. Of course, there are life changes that may make exercising more difficult in advanced years, but there are always ways to adapt healthy habits to any level of exercise ability.

The other changes that occur as we age are oftentimes internal. Many older people have to cope with the death of friends or loved ones, a loss of independences, waning physical ability, the loss of career-identity, and many more changes that are unique to each individual. Despite any changes a person might be going through, quality of life and healthier habits are always within reach. Even the smallest change can have wide reaching benefits.

Maintaining a Healthy Diet

For many seniors, maintaining a healthy diet is much easier said than done. For those who have diminished physical abilities, they often rely on prepackaged, pre-prepared food, which can be high in sodium, fats, and cholesterol. For some, prepackaged food is just easier to prepare and people become accustomed to the convenience. Also, a slowing metabolism and change in taste can affect a person’s appetite, decreasing their proclivity towards consuming healthy foods.

Despite the inconvenience, if you have the ability to prepare your own food from fresh ingredients, you should try to aim for freshly prepared meals. Fresh meals are more likely to be high in fiber, fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and protein. Packaged meals often do not have a balanced ingredient list. Fresh prepared foods will give you more energy and help reduce the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.

Staying Active Physically

When we’re younger, the primary motivation to work out is for the aesthetics of weight loss or muscle gain. But as we get older, physical exercise has many more uses. Physical activity improves balance, bone density, stops muscle atrophy, helps stabilize moods, and even improves cognitive health in regard to dementia and Alzheimer’s. Also, exercise is extremely good at preventing illnesses, pain, chronic physical conditions, and many diseases.

Preventing Falls

Regular exercise will also improve reflexes and balance if dizziness or vertigo is a problem. Yoga, which can be done from home, may help you improve your leg strength and balance. Ask your doctor what physical activity would be best for you, as some types of exercise may not be feasible and might even be dangerous. Swimming is another activity that is easy on the joints while improving leg strength.

Beyond exercises, your doctor may suggest vitamins or other dietary supplements such as calcium or vitamin D to help strengthen bones. This way, if a fall does take place, you will hopefully avoid bone fractures and most dangerously, a broken hip. Make sure to wear shoes that are not only comfortable, but easy to walk in as well. Shoes should be the proper size for your feet and should include non-slip tread on the bottom. Loose shoes, high heels, and shoes with little or no grip can cause you to fall when you are out walking. Shoes that are lace up with treaded soles are recommended to avoid falling.

Staying Active Mentally

Along with physical exercise, older people should also aim to keep their minds active. This helps stave off boredom, loneliness, and certain forms of dementia. Some ways to keep the mind sharp include puzzles, reading new books, learning a musical instrument, or even learning a foreign language. It’s never too late to learn something new, every day should be a school day!

The Importance of Sleep

Sleep affects our physical health as well as mental health. Every day it feels like new studies come out about the connection between sleep and Alzheimer’s. Lack of sleep over a lifetime has been found to be a direct contributor to Alzheimer’s disease. Not sleeping creates plaques in the brain called beta amyloids that coat the neuropathways and reduce brain function. Sleep essentially washes these plaques away. Over time, these plaques accumulate and scientists have found that for people who have Alzheimer’s, they also have a higher amount of beta amyloid plaques in their brains than those without Alzheimer’s.

Aim to Prevent Rather than Simply Hoping for a Cure

As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This is especially true as we get older. Preventing sickness is much easier than dealing with it after the fact. Also, along with prevention comes early detection. This is why it’s essential to see your doctor on a regular basis and follow any recommendations they give you. This includes yearly physicals, screenings for certain cancers, flu shots, and checking weight and blood pressure. Also, pay attention to your body and if you notice anything different, go to the doctor sooner rather than later. Don’t wait 6 months to see a doctor, schedule an appointment as soon as possible if you notice something is off.

Are Seniors More Likely to Get SAD?

Anyone can suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), but certain factors can make seniors more vulnerable to the mental health issue. Read ahead to find out why that is, and what affected seniors can do to cope with the condition during the coldest time of the year.

What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder:

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is also known as seasonal depression. Certain people find themselves experiencing depressive symptoms during specific times of the year — the most common time for this is during the autumn and the winter. People often dismiss the condition as a case of the “winter blues.”

These are just some of the symptoms that are associated with SAD:

  • Fatigue
  • Trouble focusing
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Sleep trouble
  • Change in appetite

Scientists haven’t determined the exact reasons why so many people experience this seasonal mood disorder. Some theorize that the lack of sunlight has a direct impact on the natural circadian rhythm for humans, which disrupts sleep cycles and creates mood shifts. Sunlight is also a primary source for Vitamin D, and a low level of vitamin D increases someone’s risk of developing depression. So, it’s possible that reduced exposure to natural sunlight could affect someone’s mood.

Another theory is that the short days and cold weather in the winter limits the types of activities that tend to bring people joy, like going for walks in nature or socializing with friends. It’s a lot of effort just to get out the door, and often too unpleasant to stand outside for longer than a few minutes. Having those routine activities taken away can dramatically affect someone’s mood.

Why Are Seniors Vulnerable?

There are a few reasons why seniors are more vulnerable to this mood disorder. The first is that the human body’s ability to absorb essential nutrients decreases with age — this includes Vitamin D. This is why seniors are more likely to develop Vitamin D deficiency.

Another reason why seniors are more vulnerable to this seasonal issue is that they are heavily impacted by the harsh weather. As you get older, your body becomes more sensitive to cold temperatures. You have more trouble seeing in the dark. Your mobility changes, making it difficult to trek over slick ice and through heavy snow. If you slip and fall on the ice, you could get seriously injured.

As you can see, the harsh winter weather isn’t very accommodating for seniors. So, they are more likely to stay indoors and hunker down until the conditions outside their front door become a lot milder. This is the safest decision, but it’s also the most isolating one. Seniors lose their daily routine, their time outdoors and social opportunities during the winter. It’s just like when seniors suffer from untreated hearing loss. According to Blue Angels Hearing, the ability to hear others is a fundamental human need, and when it goes unmet, it can lead to social isolation and depression.

What Can Seniors Do to Cope with SAD?

Get Exercise:

Exercise is an excellent way to address the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder:

  • It can help you sleep soundly at night.
  • It can help you feel rested and energized in the morning.
  • It can give you a boost of endorphins when you’re done working out.
  • It can motivate you to socialize.

If you normally go outside to exercise, try to find a routine that works for you indoors. So, if you liked going for long walks, use a treadmill and listen to music while you walk. If you liked going for bike rides, hop on a stationary bike. If you liked going to yoga classes or Tai Chi lessons in the park, sign up for online classes and follow along in your living room.

Get Social:

It’s hard to motivate yourself to socialize when you’re feeling down, but you should try your best to do it. Have a date night with your significant other. Call up a friend. Set up a video chat with your family.

If you live on your own, consider moving to a senior community. A senior care home is filled with plenty of people who would love to talk, share dinner and forge genuine friendships with you. And the right home will have a staff that carefully plans activities and events that encourages even the shyest resident to socialize. Take a look at what activities and events that a senior community like has planned for its residents over the past year. There’s always something exciting to do.

Get More Sunshine:

One of the easiest ways to get more Vitamin D is to soak up the sunshine outside. If it’s not too cold or snowy outside, you should go for a walk for at least fifteen minutes. Even standing out on a balcony for a few minutes could make you feel better.

There will be days when you can’t go for a leisurely stroll. That’s why you should consider a light therapy box — it emits a bright light that is designed to replace your daily dose of sunshine and resets your internal clock. Turn it on first thing in the morning. After half an hour, you might find that you’re energized and ready to take on the day.

Get More Vitamin D:

Sunshine isn’t the only way that you can increase your levels of Vitamin D. You can make some changes in your diet to get more of this useful vitamin. Foods that can help you are salmon, herring, sardines, tuna, eggs and mushrooms. There are also food products that are fortified with Vitamin D, including milks, cereals and oatmeal packets.

If that’s not enough, you might want to take a daily supplement to give you a boost. Talk to your doctor first.

It’s also important to get more calcium in your diet. Your body needs this mineral to properly absorb Vitamin D. Foods that contain high levels of calcium are milk, cheeses, yogurts, spinach, kale and almonds.

Get Some Sleep:

Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for your physical and mental health. If you’re finding that your seasonal affective disorder is ruining your sleep, you should try these tips:

  • Avoid caffeinated drinks in the evening.
  • Go to bed at the same time every night.
  • Keep your bedroom’s temperature cool.
  • Turn off phone and television screens at least one hour before bed.
  • Do something relaxing to unwind before going to bed, like reading a book, knitting or listening to music.

Every year, you find yourself dealing with SAD. This year, you don’t have to struggle with it so much. Follow these useful tips and you’ll find it much easier to manage a long, cold winter.

To learn if you might be depressed, take this depression assessment from Mind Diagnostics: