Strong, supportive muscles and joints are important throughout life. This is as true in the senior years as at any other age. Taking steps to maintain healthy and supportive muscles and joints makes it easier to walk, bathe, get dressed and perform every other activity of daily living. This is the key to remaining independent and aging in place.
Maintaining strong muscles and joints involves staying active and exercising. Daily exercise does more than just make it easier and safer to accomplish activities of daily living too; it promotes blood flow to the entire body including the brain, enhances mood and may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and many forms of dementia.
Supporting activity for long term health requires a little effort. Here are a few easy things seniors and their caregivers can do to keep the body healthy and ready to participate in regular exercise.
Diet and Nutrition
Food is what fuels the body, and maintaining a healthy diet ensures that a senior’s nutritional needs are met. As a person ages, nutritional needs do change, but the basics of choosing whole foods over processed foods and looking for balance in the diet always remain the same. When shopping and preparing meals, make an effort to select whole foods from the following food groups:
- Fruits – 1 ½ to 2 ½ cups
- Vegetables – 2 to 3 ½ cups
- Grains- 5 to 10 ounces
- Protein – 5 to 7 ounces of lean beef, chicken, pork or fish or ¼ cup of tofu or legumes. Eggs are also an excellent source of protein.
- Dairy – 3 cups of fat-free or low-fat milk or 1 cup of yogurt or 1 ½ to 2 ounces of cheese
- Healthy Oils – 5 to 8 teaspoons or consume foods like avocado, olives and nuts
Since many seniors have a difficult time consuming large meals, consider offering healthy foods throughout the day as smaller meals and snacks. Having foods prepared and ready for consumption is also beneficial. Seniors or their family members might prepare meals on the weekend for freezing and easy re-heating, or a professional caregiver can assist by offering freshly prepared meals on a daily basis or a few days a week.
Muscles must stay hydrated to continue to grow and avoid breaking down. Water also assists in the digestion process and helps to move valuable nutrients throughout the body. If a person moves toward dehydration, the risk of UTIs and other health concerns sometimes increases, and they are often prone to feeling sluggish, lacking energy and losing the momentum to get or stay active.
As the body ages, water content within the body decreases. This often results in reduced thirst, making it difficult for many seniors to maintain an adequate intake of water. Seniors also sometimes suffer from incontinence and will avoid drinking water in an effort to reduce their trips to the bathroom.
Maintaining adequate water intake in the senior years remains important. To accomplish this, encourage loved ones to keep water with them. Remind them to take small sips throughout the day. Sometimes, using a straw or enhancing water with fruit such as orange, lemon or lime helps. Grabbing for water instead of tea, coffee or soft drinks is also a good idea. Seniors can consider this when choosing beverages to go with meals.
Sometimes, staying active is as simple as getting up and moving. Even when a senior does not feel like getting out of bed, encourage them to do something for at least a half hour every day. A short walk, yoga, swimming, dancing, lifting light weights, chair exercises or even simple stretches are great options. If health limitations already prevent daily movement, consider speaking with a medical professional, consulting with a physical therapist or hiring a professional caregiver to provide proper support and assistance during activity.
Taking an overall wellness approach to help a senior stay active is beneficial in many ways. It supports longevity by enhancing mental and physical health and is a great way to encourage independence. Salus Homecare San Diego encourages all family and professional caregivers to take this approach. Working together, we can keep seniors active, improve lives and support the often stated goal of aging in place.
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