Healthy Lifestyle for Older Adults

Why is a healthy lifestyle important?

As you get older, a healthy lifestyle can help:

  • Keep your body fit and your mind sharp.
  • Protect you from injury.
  • Improve your ability to fight disease.
  • Keep long-term disease from getting worse.

Here are some ideas to help you have a healthy lifestyle.

Good health care

  • Have a physical exam every year.
  • If you have new symptoms that you are concerned about, call a nurse advice line if it is available through your health plan or your healthcare provider. Don’t wait until your next checkup.
  • Take medicines exactly as prescribed and keep your medicines in a safe place. Tell your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is causing problems, or if you don’t think you can afford your medicine.
  • Tell your healthcare provider about all the supplements and nonprescription medicines you take. They may affect the way your prescribed medicines work.
  • Keep up to date with recommended shots (immunizations):
    • A flu shot each year
    • Pneumococcal shot when recommended by your provider
    • Tetanus shot every 5 to 10 years
    • Shingles vaccine if you are over 60 years old
  • Take advantage of cancer screening or other health-screening programs in your community.

Healthy diet and weight control

  • Eat 3 or 4 small, low-fat, high-fiber meals a day. Include a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain foods.
  • Try to keep a healthy weight. If you eat more calories than your body uses for energy, it will be stored as fat and you will gain weight. If you are overweight, talk to your healthcare provider about how to lose weight.
  • Make sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet. Calcium and vitamin D, along with exercise, help prevent osteoporosis (bone thinning).
  • If you live alone, try eating at your senior center when you can. That way you get a healthy meal and have company while you eat.

Physical exercise

These types of exercise are helpful:

  • Stretching. Gentle stretching exercises help you keep or improve your flexibility and helps relieve stiffness in joints. Examples include low-speed bike riding or exercises like tai chi and yoga.
  • Strengthening. Exercise such as weight training helps strengthen muscles and tendons. Strong muscles and tendons help you move more easily and with less pain.
  • Aerobic. Exercise such as walking or bicycle riding at a moderate pace, improves your overall health, keeps your heart and lungs healthy, improves your mood, and helps control weight. Many senior centers have organized walking groups, sometimes in shopping malls before the stores open. Senior centers often have aerobic exercise classes, swimming, and dancing too.
  • Balance. Balance exercises can help to prevent falls. Balance exercises include backward walking, sideways walking, walking on your heels, and walking on your toes.

Talk with your healthcare provider before you start an exercise program. Your provider can advise you about the kinds of exercise that are right for you.

Healthy social life

Feeling lonely can be a problem when you are older. Your friends and family may have died or moved away. You may no longer have a job outside the home. You may not be used to living alone. Lonely people don’t always eat properly or get enough exercise. Poor nutrition and lack of exercise can result in a lack of energy and stamina and contribute to health problems that affect older adults.

Call your local senior center and find out if they offer activities, such as classes, games, sports, and field trips. Many senior centers offer a noon meal at little or no cost. Be sure to ask about transportation if you need it.

If you miss doing things for other people, ask your local hospital, library, church, or senior center about ways to volunteer.

Owning a pet can help prevent loneliness and provide companionship. Older adults who own a pet usually have better physical health.

Learn about technology. You can email your children and grandchildren, research topics of interest, try social networking sites, such as Facebook, or try free video calls using FaceTime or Skype. Learning how to use these technologies not only helps with loneliness, it can also help keep your mind sharp.

Healthy mind

Mental activity keeps your mind sharp and your memory strong. Ways to exercise your mind include:

  • Learn something new, like a foreign language or musical instrument.
  • Play word games or do crossword puzzles. If you cannot find people to play these games with you at home, you can play them with others on your computer through the Internet.
  • Join a games club–anything from card games to chess or checkers or lawn bowling.
  • Start a new hobby.
  • Take a class to learn a new skill or learn about a subject that interests you.
  • Volunteer or find other ways to stay involved with other people.
  • Read for enjoyment and to stay informed about what is going on in the world.

Personal safety

Take care of your personal safety as well.

  • Keep your home well lit, inside and out.
  • Get rid of throw rugs, which can cause falls. Keep carpets in good shape. Make sure your floors are not slippery.
  • Make sure that your smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detectors have good batteries and are working.
  • Install handrails by staircases and toilets and in bathtubs or showers.
  • Use nonskid strips in bathtubs or showers and on staircases.
  • Make sure you have a telephone by your bed for emergencies. Keep emergency telephone numbers written in clear, large letters by all telephones.
  • If you live alone and might fall easily, consider a personal emergency response system (PERS). This is a button that sends a help-me message by radio to a rescue service. It can be worn on your wrist, around your neck, or carried on a belt or in a pocket.
  • Review your driving – are you still a safe driver? If you can no longer see well, hear well, turn your neck, or react quickly, it may be time to stop driving. Always wear a seatbelt when driving or riding in a car.
  • If you smoke, try to quit. Talk to your healthcare provider about ways to quit smoking.
  • If you want to drink alcohol, ask your healthcare provider how much is safe for you to drink. You can have more problems keeping your balance as you get older. Alcohol can make it more likely that you will fall and be injured. Alcohol interacts with many medicines. Alcohol can also worsen medical problems such as heart disease, kidney disease, and stomach problems.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-05-29
Last reviewed: 2014-05-28
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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