Remember when 65 was the age you retire and go home to sit on the front porch and watch the world go by? That was then, but now 65 is just the beginning of a whole new existence for seniors who have maintained their health and stayed active. Growing older healthily isn’t a given – it takes work. Following a few common sense tips can help you extend your active lifestyle and thrive for years to come.
Quit smoking. If you haven’t already quit smoking, and we really hope you have, stop now. Smoking kills by causing cancer, strokes and heart failure. Smoking also leads to erectile dysfunction in men due to atherosclerosis and to excessive wrinkling by attacking skin elasticity. You don’t have to go it alone, there are many resources available to help you quit.
Keep active. Adults 65 years and older gain substantial health benefits from regular physical activity, even if they don’t meet the recommended 100 – 300 minutes of exercise a week. Seniors who are physically active can engage in activities of daily living more easily and have improved physical function (even if they are frail). Do something to keep fit each day, something you enjoy that maintains strength, balance and flexibility and promotes cardiovascular health. Physical activity also helps you maintain a healthy weight, prevent or control illness, sleep better, reduce stress, avoid falls and look and feel better, too.
Eat well. Combined with physical activity, eating a variety of foods from all food groups can help supply the nutrients a person needs as they age. Many illnesses, such as heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and osteoporosis, can be prevented or controlled with dietary changes and exercise. A healthy eating plan emphasizes fruit, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat or fat-free dairy; includes lean meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts; and is low in saturated fats, trans fats, salt (sodium) and added sugars.
Maintain a healthy weight. Extra weight increases your risk for heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Use the Kaiser Permanente BMI (body mass index) calculator to find out what you should weigh for your height. Get to your healthy weight and stay there by eating right and keeping active. Replace sugary drinks with water. It’s calorie free, and drinking water throughout the day, keeps your body hydrated.
Keep your mind alert. Challenging your brain with mental exercise helps maintain individual brain cells and stimulate communication among them. Pursue a hobby or learn a new skill. Read; join a book club; play chess or bridge; write your life story; do crossword or jigsaw puzzles; take a class; pursue music or art; design a new garden layout; volunteer. Building and preserving brain connections is an ongoing process, so make lifelong learning a priority.
Stay up-to-date on immunizations and other health screenings. As you age some of the guidelines for various health screenings, i.e., mammograms, PAP smears, prostate screening, skin cancer, colon-oscopy, may change. Follow the advice of your primary care physician about the routine health screenings you should receive and how often. Those who are new to Medicare are entitled to a “Welcome to Medicare” visit and all Medicare members to an annual wellness visit. Take this time to discuss your wellness plan with your doctor and be sure to follow up as prescribed.
Get regular dental, vision and hearing checkups. Your teeth and gums will last a lifetime if you care for them properly. That means daily brushing and flossing and getting regular dental checkups.
By age 50, most people notice changes to their vision, including a gradual decline in the ability to see small print or focus on close objects. Common eye problems that can impair vision include cataracts and glaucoma.
If you are experiencing hearing loss, get checked. Compared to people with normal hearing, those with moderate hearing loss have triple the risk of developing dementia.
Stay socially connected. Loneliness is a common problem that seniors face, particularly if they are living alone. … Staying socially active helps you maintain both good emotional and physical health, whereas remaining in isolation can greatly reduce your overall quality of life. When it comes to sexual intimacy and aging, age is no reason to limit your sexual activity. Discuss with your doctor any physical changes that come with aging and get suggestions to help you adjust to them, if necessary.