We all know how precarious health can be at an older age. And yet, we tend to hang onto old habits which were never healthy but are even more risky as the senior years roll in. Our health is, of course, not entirely in our hands, but we can reduce the likelihood of disease by paying attention to these factors in senior health:
Physical activity is one of the best ways to reduce risk of diseases including heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers. It is also a mood booster and chases away depression and other mental health issues. Seniors tend to slow down as they age and some of them become totally inactive. But it doesn’t have to be that way. A daily walk, even if it’s around the block and takes much longer than it used to, has many benefits. It’s always easier to exercise with company, so a walk with a friend, family member or caregiver should be part of a senior’s daily routine.
The food we eat has a huge influence on our overall health. Seniors may lose interest in food due to dulling of the taste buds and lack of interest. Or they may forget to eat foods which are rich in nutrients and instead prefer empty calories in the form of candy and other desserts. Obesity raises the risk for a whole slew of diseases. Seniors should be served well-balanced meals and encouraged to enjoy healthier snacks. It’s also crucial that they adhere to any dietary instructions given by their physicians. Family meals with nutritious food choices will tempt even the most reluctant eaters.
#3 Smoking and Substance Abuse
When we’re young, we don’t think much about the consequences of ingesting tobacco and drugs. But if experimenting with these lead to lifelong addictions, it will ultimately affect health and may cause premature death. Some seniors actually develop substance abuse problems in their later years, by self-medicating and mixing medications with alcohol. Quitting smoking or ending substance abuse is not easy and may require professional help.
#4 HIV and AIDS
We don’t generally associate senior citizens with HIV, but about 15% of AIDS cases in the US are in adults over the age of 50. Sexually active seniors are less likely to use condoms and have weaker immune systems, making them more susceptible to HIV. The symptoms of the disease are similar to the slowing down of old age, so the disease may be undiagnosed in its early stages. Stereotypes about seniors have kept this issue unrecognized, and very little research has been done about prevention and treatment for the older population.
#5 Mental Health
Depression and dementia are common diseases which affect the mental health of seniors. Mental health generally affects physical health as well and can contribute to a quick deterioration. Social activity can help stave off depression and intellectual exercises can assist in keeping the mind sharp. Support from family, friends and community is a major factor in mental health.
Wishing all our clients and their families good health!