The 4 Main Elements of a Healthy Aging Routine
Being healthier isn’t just about eating more vegetables (although that’s part of it) or exercising.
There are four main areas of life you want to focus on in order to improve your overall health as you age:
1. Emotional health.
Nearly two million seniors in the United States suffer from depression and when your emotional health suffers, it negatively influences all other aspects of your health. Research has linked depression and social isolation to digestive problems, heart failure and weakened immune systems.
As you age, it becomes more challenging to stay social and maintain activities that give life meaning, but doing so is a necessary part of a healthy aging routine.
“Remaining socially active is extremely important for seniors. Getting out into the community when they can, and educating the youth and keeping in touch with family and friends is vital,” says Jay Mimes of Elysium.
People tend to think of exercise as a good way to get physically stronger or lose weight — important benefits, but it brings a number of additional benefits that are especially important for seniors:
- It boosts immunity. Getting the flu is bad for anyone, but it can be deadly for seniors. A regular exercise habit increases your chances of avoiding common illnesses.
- It’s good for mental health. Aging often brings the loss of focus and memory, but exercise helps strengthen the brain and may even help prevent dementia.
- It helps prevent muscle loss. Muscle loss is a common and serious issue that affects many seniors. Exercise is one of the best ways to ward it off.
The most important thing, according to Mimes, is “choosing a physical activity that [you] genuinely find interesting. This will make exercising seem more fun and enjoyable and less of a chore.”
3. Hair and skin care.
This is a part of health you may not think about as much, but it still has an effect on your quality of life. Healthier hair and skin can help you look better and feel better about yourself. But more importantly, they can help you avoid issues like skin infections.
Good hair and skin care is pretty straightforward, says Mimes. “Moisturize daily and try not to overwash [your] face to prevent dryness and the removal of essential lipids.”
He also recommends avoiding direct sunlight and using sunscreen daily. “These low-cost solutions can avoid skin breakdown and have a positive impact on quality of life,” he adds. For your hair, the most important thing is to drink lots of water and shampoo and condition it regularly.
Eating right is another imperative part of improving your health and it’s another area of life where seniors face unique challenges. Mimes explains, “As you age your appetite tends to decrease and it becomes a bit more challenging to maintain a healthy diet.”
Millions of seniors deal with malnutrition, which weakens the immune system and can lead to an increased risk of falls and injuries. But you don’t just need to make sure you eat enough, you need to make sure you’re eating the right foods when you do eat.
One way to make healthy eating into a routine you’ll want to stick with, is treating it as a social activity. This is easy for seniors that live in a senior living community where residents regularly eat together. For seniors that still live at home, inviting family, friends and loved ones to join for regular meals could help.
Healthy Aging Routines Aren’t One-Size-Fits-All
A good healthy aging routine should address each of those four elements, but the right routine will look different for each senior.
In figuring out the right healthy aging routine for you, consider:
- Any disabilities or health concerns you have. Aging often brings some health issues with it. You must consider your physical limitations when developing a healthy aging routine. If you know you have a disability or weakness that creates unique challenges, consult with medical professionals to find solutions for healthier habits that are within your reach.
- Your available resources. If your financial resources are limited, then some aspects of a healthy aging routine could seem out of reach. Skin care products are often costly and figuring out transportation to social events could be a challenge. Look for solutions within your price range. Low-cost moisturizers and sunscreen can be good enough to keep your skin healthy and your own neighborhood may hold events you can tap into that don’t require traveling far.
- Your likes. You won’t ever stick with a routine if it feels like a chore to complete each day. You have to consider your personal likes and preferences. You’ll be much more likely to actually do a workout you enjoy. Eating healthier works much better if you can figure out the dishes and recipes that meet your dietary needs and taste good to you. The social activities you choose to bolster your emotional health should be fun.
- Your living arrangements. If you live in a senior living community, your healthy aging routine will look different than if you live alone or with family members. You’ll have to figure out how to navigate the unique benefits and challenges of your particular living situation in determining the best healthy routine for you.
- Your unique needs. Your routine has to take into account what your body needs to be healthy — and it’s not the same for everybody. When it comes to exercise and nutrition, that means talking to your doctor first to learn what’s safe for you. You may need to avoid certain foods due to allergies or skip some workouts that could cause injury.
Being healthier doesn’t have to be something that feels like work and if you can figure out the right routine for you, it won’t.
How to Keep Up With Your Daily Healthy Aging Routine
Your whole life, you’ve known you should develop healthy habits. The hard part isn’t knowing, it’s doing.
Here’s how you can keep up with your daily healthy aging routine:
1. Consider finding a partner or support group.
Holding ourselves accountable for better habits is hard, but when we know someone else expects us to stick with something we committed to, that’s often a strong incentive. You’ll be more likely to take that daily walk if there’s someone who will be waiting for you each time and if you know someone else will be disappointed if you fail to follow through on your good intentions, you’ll be that much more likely to succeed.
2. Keep your routine realistic.
This is where a lot of health resolutions fail. If you make your goals too ambitious, you’ll likely fall short and give up. Mimes explains, “It is crucial that seniors create a routine that is comfortable for them. To create a healthy routine, a senior must implement small changes in their lives bit by bit so that these can become their new normal.” When figuring out what your routine will look like, think about what you’ll actually do — not just what you think you should do.
3. Try to do each part of the routine at a specific time.
For many people, consistency will make a routine easier to stick with. Social activities are easier to commit to if they meet at the same time every week, for instance. Figure out a daily and weekly schedule for where your new healthy aging routines will fit into your day.