Aging bodies are changing bodies.
Luckily, there are things you can do to support your health and wellbeing at any age. Here are some actionable tips you can start right this moment to support your health.
1. Stay Active
One of the easiest ways you can maintain your health is by staying active as you age.
You don’t have to suddenly transform into a 5K runner in your retirement years to experience the benefits of physical activity.
Even moderate daily exercise has tremendous benefits for your health.
Studies have shown that physical exercise significantly reduces the risk of mobility disabilities in seniors; reduces the prevalence of common chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease; improves mental health and overall quality of life; decreases cognitive decline and reduces mortality rates.
Get Started Today: Go for a walk.
The CDC recommends adults over 65 get 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate activity, such as brisk walking, per week. That’s just 20 minutes per day!
Take a 20-minute walk, or two- ten minute walks. If the weather makes outside walking a challenge, try walking inside a mall or around the halls of your senior living community or your home.
If you have mobility challenges or a disability, talk to your doctor about the best ways to incorporate more physical activity into your day.
2. Eat Healthy
Getting the right nutrition can become a challenge as you age.
Daily eating habits can change at the same time that aging bodies need more of certain nutrients to protect bone, brain, and heart health.
Seniors should be eating plenty of nutrient-dense foods, such as whole fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain foods while avoiding processed, sodium-laden foods.
Aging bodies often experience physiologic changes that decrease food intake - changes in hormones and neurotransmitters can alter your natural food drive. You may experience this as a reduction in appetite.
Sensory changes can inhibit the way you taste and smell food, leaving your meals tasting (and smelling) bland or uninteresting. Disabilities, illnesses, and depression can also affect eating habits, making it more difficult to shop for or prepare food.
The good news is, senior malnutrition can be reversed if addressed early. It’s never too late to start eating healthier meals.
Get Started Today: Add some fruits and vegetables to your meals.
Fruits and vegetables are whole foods full of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other health-benefiting nutrients. You’ll get even more benefits if you swap out processed food for fresh, whole foods. Rather than reaching for a box of crackers, grab an apple for a healthy snack.
Find more tips on eating healthy as you get older from the National Institute on Aging so you can choose the right foods to support your health as you age.
3. Get Enough Sleep
A good night’s sleep is important no matter what your age. Older adults need just as much sleep as they did when they were younger - 7 to 9 hours each night.
But for many seniors, medications, illnesses, or pain can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep at night. Insomnia is very common in older adults - it’s the most common sleep problem in adults aged 60 and older.
Not catching enough zzz’s can be a senior health hazard. Lack of sleep can lead to:
• Increased risk of falls
• Memory problems
Get Started Today: Set yourself up for a good night’s sleep tonight.
Follow a regular sleep schedule, going to bed and waking up at the same time every day - even on weekends. Avoid late afternoon or evening naps. Limit screen time before bed: the light from television, tablets, smartphones, and computers can impact your ability to go to sleep. Exercise every day, but give yourself at least 3 hours between your exercise session and bedtime.
For more senior sleep tips, see the National Institute of Health’s recommendations for a good night’s sleep.
4. Stay Connected
Isolation and loneliness is one of the biggest health concerns facing seniors.
Loneliness and isolation are associated with higher rates of depression, a weakened immune system, heart disease, dementia, and early death.
Some seniors are at bigger risk for isolation than others, especially those that:
• Live alone or can’t leave home
• Feel alone or disconnected from others
• Had a recent loss or major lifestyle change
• Have a lack of purpose
• Are caregivers
Get Started Today: make a purposeful connection.
Find an activity you enjoy or try something new. Stay in touch with family, friends, and neighbors in person, on the phone, or even online; video chat with your granddaughter or write a letter to a friend. Volunteering or even adopting a pet can also help you make a meaningful connection that can combat isolation.
Seniors who reside in senior living communities can often make connections easier than those living alone. When you’ve got an activities director who’s scheduling different events and activities every day, community dining and activity rooms, exercise programs, and even happy hours, it takes a lot of the work out of connecting with peers.
5. Engage Your Brain
Cognitive decline is a major health concern for seniors; 1 in 8 older adults in the U.S. has Alzheimer’s disease.
According to the Harvard Health Letter, there are steps you can take to ward off cognitive decline. Not surprisingly, many of those things have already made our list, including:
• Eating a healthy (Mediterranean) diet
• Getting enough sleep
But that’s not all. Researchers believe that engaging the brain by learning new things can also be protective against Alzheimer’s.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, studies indicate that maintaining strong social connections and keeping mentally active as we age might lower the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer's.
Get Started Today: try something new.
Pick up a book, take a class, learn a language.
Experts are not certain about the reason why keeping mentally active can protect against Alzheimer’s - it may be due to direct mechanisms through which social and mental stimulation strengthen connections between nerve cells in the brain - but they are sure that staying mentally active is something you can do to support cognitive health.
Supporting a healthy body and brain with a good diet, exercise, plenty of sleep, meaningful connections and mental stimulation are all ways you can maintain your health as you age. Aging bodies may be changing bodies, but that doesn’t mean you can’t age well.