We live in troubled times.
When the coronavirus appeared in the United States after wreaking havoc around the world, it found a country with many socioeconomic structural weaknesses to expose—dysfunctional political parties, an economy based on incessant consumerism, no universal healthcare program, and a long history of police brutality.
In the ensuing chaos, America’s elderly received scant media attention, other than healthcare warnings that they were the most vulnerable population during the pandemic.
How the Stay-at-Home Policy Affected Seniors
Everyone, young and old, found it challenging to ensure that they maintained physical fitness and mental well-being when their state issued the stay-at-home order.
The policy to contain the spread of the virus strongly impacted seniors because it restricted their usual health care practices, such as going for long walks around their neighborhoods and parks or visiting their local senior centers. The policy not only affected independent living seniors but also seniors living in assisted living facilities. Senior living operators struggled to find senior care solutions for their residents to optimize their physical and mental health.
If you are a senior, or your responsibilities require you to advise seniors on healthy living practices, follow a nutritious meal plan, develop a regular exercise routine, and cultivate restorative sleep.
1. Follow a Nutritious Meal plan
Meal planning ensures that seniors enjoy meals with variety and taste. Planning is also important because it saves time and money.
Since nutrition is a complex subject, it’s advisable that seniors get advice from a nutritionist based on a blood test to diagnose any macro- or micro-deficiencies.
Some guidelines for healthy eating include drinking plenty of purified drinking water; reducing consumption of salt, sugar, and fat; and following recommended portion servings.
However, as people get older, they may need to adjust their diet even more.
Daniel J. DeNoon, writing for WebMD, suggests that adults over 70 years of age should get [a new food pyramid] that stresses nutrient-rich foods high in fiber.
- The diet should include whole grains. Seniors should not get their grains from one source, but eat a variety of grains.
- Instead of dairy, elderly adults should eat low fat or nonfat dairy foods.
- Oils used for cooking should be low in saturated fats, and seniors should not consume trans fats.
- Any meats consumed should also be low in saturated fats.
- Develop a Regular Exercise Routine
Seniors should do at least 2.5 hours of moderate exercise a week.
Although moderate endurance-enhancing exercises like walking, cycling, or swimming are beneficial, weekly exercise routines should also include exercises that improve balance, flexibility, and strength-building exercises.
- Cultivate Restorative Sleep
Seniors who enjoy a good night’s sleep improve their concentration. Sleep also helps with memory formation, cell damage repair, and strengthening the immune system. Insufficient sleep can cause a variety of health issues, including confused thinking, weight gain, and a weakened immune system. Sleep deprivation also increases the risk of accidents and life-threatening illnesses like diabetes and cancer.
Here are four habits to help you relax deeply enough to fall asleep at night:
- Have a warm bath.
- Turn off all electronic devices–such as cell phones, tablets, and television–an hour before bed.
- Make the room conducive for sleep. For instance, it should be dark and quiet. The temperature should be comfortable.
- Don’t consume any stimulating foods before bedtime, such as foods high in caffeine. It’s also not advisable to drink any alcoholic beverages close to bedtime.
In summary, three ways that seniors can improve their mental and physical health is to follow a nutritious meal plan designed for seniors, pursue a moderate exercise plan, and make sure that they get a good night’s sleep every night.