Like just about every age group, seniors should understand that giving their bodies the right nutrients and maintaining a healthy weight can help them stay active and independent, according to the National Council on Aging in Alexandria, Virginia.
Elderly individuals who follow such course would spend less time and money at the doctor and, that’s especially true if a chronic condition like diabetes or heart disease is present.
The definition of healthy eating does change a little as an individual gets older.
For example, as people age, their metabolism slows down, so there’s a need for fewer calories and for the body to have certain nutrients, experts said.
“To maintain optimal health, seniors should aim to get at least 150 minutes of moderate activity each week and should strength train at least twice a week, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” said Dr. Jasmine Marcus, a doctor of physical therapy.
“This can be done alone, with a trainer or physical therapist, or in group classes. Additionally, seniors should work on improving and maintaining their balance to prevent falls. This can include activities such as standing on one foot and standing on uneven surfaces,” Marcus said.
Officials at the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) in northwest D.C. recommend that as adults age they strive to walk at least three times a week for 30 minutes per day, eat a balanced diet of healthy fats, lean meats and fresh fruit and veggies and sleep for about seven to eight hours every night for optimal health.
“We also recommend that older adults maintain their social networks,” said Julia Alexis, vice president at AARP.
A recent study in conjunction with the Stanford Longevity Center demonstrates that keeping up with one’s social network can help reduce incidence of chronic disease and depression, Alexis said.
“On AARP.org, we provide a number of resources that make staying health easier including fitness videos from Wellness Ambassador Denise Austin and the Staying Sharp digital platform that provides healthy living tips that may help maintain brain health,” she said.
Neema Patel, a certified Dementia Practitioner and Memory Care Director, said it’s also important to be aware of changes in food preferences.
“The type of quality and quantity of food dramatically affect seniors,” Patel said.
“Consult your doctor or a nutritionist to help you incorporate a healthy and nutritious diet and incorporate an active lifestyle by engaging with your support group for motivation and support,” said Patel, noting also that studies have indicated that daily activity boosts sleep patterns, increases mental stimulation, and encourages social interaction.
Kim Kane, author of the book, “Sparkle On… Women Aging in Gratitude,” said she interviewed more than 200 women between 50 and 93 years old. It helped her gain more information about the aging process.
“One of the questions I asked was, ‘What are things you do to engage in staying healthy?’ The responses I received were everything from gentle exercise, such as meditation and yoga, all the way to continuing to run marathons and prepping for that year long,” Kane said.
“Most women reported that if they made the effort to walk daily and couple that with doing quiet things each day, their moods stayed consistent and manageable. In addition, many women reported their mental health is directly related to their physical health. If they were able to move and stay active in some way, it allowed their minds to stay fresh and out of the fog that sometimes sets in at the end of the day,” she said.
Another area women commented on during Kane’s study was the importance of having friendships and companionship.
Talking about girl friendships and the importance of having them always took center stage in terms of what is important to having a sense of well-being, Kane said.
“Companionship, whether with a spouse or a partner also was listed as important, including having a healthy sexual relationship. Some women reported the intimacy shared with their significant others came in a variety of ways and the appreciation grew stronger when both were doing things together as well as with others,” she said.
The key components that seemed to stand out for creating better health was humor, being grateful for the small things, finding clarity on what is important, staying active, not personalizing everything that happens, remaining in contact with important people; including family, and feeling relevant by contributing to society in some way, Kane continued.
“Having these things seemed not only to help with staying healthy, but also helped with coping when faced with adversities,” she said.