According to the Department of Health and Human Services, nearly 20 percent of the total population will be in the 65-and-over age bracket by 2030. That means Americans are living longer, and they’re living healthier as they age. It’s certainly a heartening trend, but older adults must be well-positioned to take advantage of a longer, more robust lifespan than their parents enjoyed. That means taking control of your physical and mental health (and using some technology) so you can enjoy a healthy and enjoyable quality of life – the kind you’ve earned through years of hard work.
One of the most important steps toward a healthy and active senior lifestyle is a safe, well-ordered home environment, a living space that makes it possible for you to be you without feeling restrained by fear for your physical well-being. That means arranging each room so pathways are clear and unimpeded by tripping hazards. Furniture should be arranged so you have clear passage from room to room. Cords, shoes, rugs and general clutter should be disposed of or kept in a safe storage space. And establishing an uncluttered home will alleviate stress and anxiety, leaving you better able to focus on reading, doing crosswords or jigsaw puzzles, journaling, meditating and other activities that help maintain mental acuity.
An organized home environment also makes it easier to engage in activities that’ll help you take control of the mental and physical aspects of your life. This includes exercising. You’ll have the space you need to enjoy cardio or strength-building exercises, or you can even incorporate an exercise like yoga and achieve the flexibility and enhanced range of motion it can confer. Yoga’s many poses improve spinal flexibility, giving you a strong core upon which to build. You can even use some yoga apps that are great for beginners like Daily Yoga and Down Dog.
To continue on an improved wellness path, try branching out into other pursuits that you enjoy, like walking and gardening, and give interesting new forms of physical engagement a try, such as Tai chi, a relaxing and meditative form of exercise that improves cardiovascular health, supports the immune system, and helps seniors improve concentration. Exercise that can be done as part of a social group is one of the best ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle, so look into group yoga, swimming or water aerobics classes that are perfect for friends to enjoy together – it’s a lot more fun when people you love being around are involved!
Some seniors find that using a fitness tracker is a great way to monitor their progress and health as they engage in new activities. A fitness tracker can measure the basics like distance traveled and steps taken, but some of the newer devices can measure more advanced metrics like your heart rate and sleep quality. Smartwatches and fitness trackers can also help keep you safe while you work out. For example, the Apple Watch Series 4 has fall detection and will give you high and low heart rate notifications. If you prefer a lower-priced option, the Fitbit Blaze watch has GPS, a large display, and a battery that lasts up to five days.
As you age and enter the Medicare system, it’s important to understand your insurance options and how to get the coverage that best meets your needs. You may be aware that there are gaps in Medicare, though you can find ways to plug the gaps with Medicare Advantage, which provides dental and vision insurance, in addition to membership access to fitness facilities across the country. Do some research about plans available to learn more about various types of coverage and whether you could benefit.
Few things engage your mind quite like learning about a subject you find really fascinating. Many seniors enjoy going back to school by enrolling in free online classes at local community colleges or online universities. Colleges in all 50 states offer such opportunities and many seniors are even able to earn degrees by taking advantage of free courses. Continuous learning keeps the brain active and healthy in many ways. In fact, your brain grows new cells and establishes new connections every time you learn something new. For older adults, learning strengthens memory and sharpens problem-solving abilities. In many cases, it even helps stave off the debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Studies have shown that older adults benefit significantly from regular social interaction. Spending time with friends is emotionally reinforcing and provides opportunities for physical activity (e.g., golf, walking) as do mentally stimulating games like bridge, bingo, Sudoku, chess and checkers. If you enjoy music, look into joining your church choir or a community-based musical group.
There’s really no secret to leading a healthy mental and physical life as an older adult. Staying active is the key, and that can be difficult for many seniors. The important thing is to find ways to start small and build gradually, with the help and advice of a healthcare provider. You should have every expectation of enjoying a rich and fulfilling life as you age – after all, 65 is just a number.