Getting older does not necessarily mean moving into a nursing home or becoming inactive. With the Baby Boomer generation getting older, it’s more important now than ever for our aging population to understand what is available in terms of healthcare, housing, and a healthy lifestyle.
As we age, it becomes more important that we lead a healthy lifestyle. Today, we live longer lives, with many older people remaining active and independent while caring for themselves and others while still living at home. Medline Plus has a lot of amazingly helpful articles on how to begin and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Having a healthy and active lifestyle can ease some of the changes the body and mind go through as we age.
If you are wondering where to begin with healthy food choices, the government website, Nutrition, has a lot of helpful articles.
As we age, we have to think about how we will keep ourselves safe from falls, spills, and other accidents. The NIH Senior Health website gives some tips on how to prepare your home to avoid injuries. A few tips include removing anything that may cause you to trip, putting non-slip strips on floors and steps, asking a neighbor to spread salt on icy or snowy walkways for you, and having hand rails installed on both sides of stairs and in bathrooms.
Fire safety is also something to consider for your home. The US Fire Administration has a lot of helpful advice to on how to make emergency plans in case of fire and to make your home safe against fires. Some tips include keeping space heaters 3 feet from furniture and turning them off when not in use and making sure that your fire alarms are working properly.
Exercise and Healthy Living
The key to a long and happy life is to get enough physical activity and eat healthily. Florida State University has a great pamphlet covering all types of healthy activities that you can enjoy in your later years. The benefits of exercising include the management of chronic diseases, decreasing blood pressure, increasing strength and independence, and decreasing triglycerides. Daily exercise also improves mood, quality of life, and decreases depression symptoms.
Strength training is also important in maintaining a healthy body and increasing independence as we age. Tufts University has a pamphlet on how to get started, how to stay motivated in your strength training, and ways to celebrate your success.
Alzheimer’s and Dementia
The risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s increases as we age. Our genes can also play a role in whether or not we are at a higher risk for the disease. However, there are some ways that are believed to decrease your chances or delay the development of dementia.
Harvard Health suggests physical exercise, eating a Mediterranean diet, and getting enough sleep as ways to improve your lifestyle and, not only decrease your chance of getting dementia, but also decrease your chances of developing other health issues.
As always, the best path to a positive prognosis is to recognize the symptoms early and see a doctor. Some symptoms include frequent memory loss, confusion about location, and taking longer than normal to complete simple daily tasks. For more information, you can visit the BrightFocus Foundation.
Cancer is also another disease that is best prevented and controlled with early detection and a healthy lifestyle, even as we age. According to a study at The Oncologist, most malignancies occur in persons aged 65-85.
A University of Michigan medical school report states that most cancers can be prevented with simple measures that anyone can adopt today. These include not using tobacco, getting physically active, eating healthy, and getting cancer screenings according to recommended guidelines. Make sure you are getting up to 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity throughout the week. Eating a diet abundant in plant based foods also promotes a healthy body. In addition, routine medical care that includes mammograms and colonoscopies will help in the early detection or prevention of certain cancers.
To learn more, visit Cancer Care: Q&A about cancer in the elderly.
Heart disease is also something that can be prevented with certain lifestyle changes, and if you are genetically prone to heart disease, getting yearly recommended medical screenings is the best path to prevention and care.
Aging Research states that 83 million Americans are estimated to have one or more types of cardiovascular disease, with 42 million of those being age 60 or older. They cover a few elderly heart disease issues, such as atrial fibrillation, aortic stenosis, and some types of valve diseases. There are several brochures to download that give you tips on how you can live a healthy life despite these issues. Healthy Aging is another good source for information on heart disease.
The mental health of the elderly is something extremely important to consider. As we age, we may lose independence, become lonely, and have other issues that we did not have when we were young. For some, this can be troubling or problematic, and can possibly lead to mental health issues such as depression.
The World Health Organization states that depression in older adults can sometimes be overlooked or untreated as they may be seen as symptoms of normal aging. Ways to combat mental health issues, like depression, include getting help, finding an activity you enjoy, or joining a social group.
The National Council on Aging says that one in four seniors experience some mental disorder like depression, anxiety, or dementia. Their website includes many webinars and resources for older adults to help them understand mental health issues and what type of assistance is available to lead a healthier, happier life.
For more information, go to Life Senior Services: 10 facts about mental health and aging.
Stroke is more common as we get older, with three-quarters of all strokes occurring in people over 65, according to the Stroke Center. It is good to understand what the symptoms of a stroke are so that you can identify them and get help immediately. Symptoms include a severe headache, numbness in the face which usually occurs on one side, trouble seeing in one or both eyes, and loss of balance.
Stroke can affect woman differently. Women’s Health gives a lot of information on risk factors that we can or cannot control for strokes. Tips on how to prevent a stroke or increase recovery after a stroke are eating healthy, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, and reducing stress.
To learn more, go to the American Heart Association: Stroke management in the elderly.
Vision and Hearing
As we age, sometimes vision and hearing can deteriorate. That’s why it is important to maintain a healthy diet and have regular check-ups to resolve any issues you may have. The Centers for Disease Control states that 19% of persons over the age of 70 have visual impairments. They also say that going to yearly or biannual medical visits can prevent or postpone serious impairments with vision and hearing.
The most common visual impairment is cataracts, which is a clouding of the lens of the eye. Half of those 65 or older have cataracts. Cataracts can be corrected with surgery and 90% of patients recover their vision without issues. Other aging diseases of the eye are macular degeneration and glaucoma.
While hearing impairments can usually be corrected with a hearing aid, it is found that as little as 30% of older persons who have hearing impairments use hearing aids. While it may make aging that much more of a reality, seeing a doctor and getting a hearing aid can greatly improve one’s life and mental health. Hearing impairment can be caused by exposure to loud noises over long periods of time, smoking, a history of middle ear infections, and certain chemicals.
For more information, go to:
- American Foundation for the Blind: Aging and vision loss fact sheet
- National Association of the Deaf: Official site
Financial Resources for Seniors
The best plan to keep your current lifestyle is to build a financial nest egg for when you retire. Not only are there 40lK plans through a place of work, but there are numerous other ways to build a retirement through certificates, investments, and personal savings plans.
360 Degrees of Financial Literacy gives lots of great advice for those planning a retirement future. Using employer plans such as a 401(k) will help save for retirement. Even starting one after age 50 will allow you to play “catch up” and contribute more to the plan. You can also benefit from tax savings by using employer plans.
IRAs are a great way to build retirement savings. Designating a savings account specifically for retirement and saving as much as you can each month will go a long way during retirement.
Should you find yourself in troubling financial situations, the American Association for Retired People has a public benefits guide available.
For more information, visit Senior Living: Helpful resources for seniors surviving on social security.
Health Insurance, Prescription Costs, Social Security, Long-Term Care, End-of-Life Costs, and Estate Planning
There are many financial situations to consider while we age. This can include finding and maintaining proper health care, adding prescription costs to your monthly budget, receiving social security benefits, long-term and end of life costs, and estate planning. Below are some places that can help you sort through these areas without feeling overwhelmed.
- Life Hack: 10 ways to financially prepare for retirement
- Elder Care Directory: Medicare health insurance for senior citizens
- Social Security Administration: Official government website
- Care Conversations: 6 steps to take to plan for long-term care
- Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation: 10 FAQs – Medicare’s role in end-of-life care
Consumer Protection for Seniors
Fraudsters and scammers tend to take advantage of the elderly more than any other age group. These types of scams target the emotional connection that the elderly have with their families, sometimes fabricating stories of a family member in trouble and needing money quickly.
Consumer Reports shares a story of one woman who lost $65,000 due to a scam artist. The Federal Trade Commission, which handles scam complaints, saw a rise in elderly abuse in 2012 and 2014. There are ways to protect yourself from scammers. The number one rule is to never give out any personally identifiable information, like a social security number or account number. If the call sounds too good to be true, it most likely is. Report any telemarketer calls, suspicious emails, or mail to the Federal Trade Commission.
Resources Related to Avoiding Scams
There are other organizations to contact should you find yourself being scammed. You can contact your state’s Attorney General. The Indiana Government website is one example. Elder Financial Exploitation also identifies the various methods scammers use such as internet phishing or telemarketing scams. Also, be aware that family members can commit elder fraud, like abusing a power of attorney, taking advantage of joint bank accounts, or using ATM cards or checks to take money out of an account.
Caregivers are those giving care to injured veterans, aging adults, children with special needs, and individuals with chronic medical needs. They can be family members, friends, or registered nurses. If you or an aging family member needs in-home assistance or are becoming a caregiver yourself, you can search one of the websites below for a local caregiver or for advice.
Resources for Seniors Caring for Themselves
Not all senior citizens need to move into nursing homes or have caregivers. If you are an aging adult who is living on your own or with a spouse, you can access some important information to make living at home on your own easier and more enjoyable.
For resources, go to:
- BipartisanPolicy.org: Healthy Aging Begins at Home (PDF)
- United Methodist Homes: DIY safety tips for senior citizens
Caring for Parents at Home
Adult children sometimes take in their aging parents to care for them. This can be an immensely rewarding experience but, can also come with many challenges. Focus on Family gives some tips on how to care for your aging parents without forgetting to care for yourself. Some of the tips are:
- Talking to family members about their roles in caring for aging parents.
- Discuss handling finances.
- Create lists and routines to minimize stress.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- Take care of your body and mind with time for you and your hobbies.
For more information, go to PBS: A caregiver’s handbook.
Community Care for Aging Parents
Community care facilities, like assisted living or nursing homes, are some types of housing to think about as we age. If you are unable to care for yourself or don’t have a family member to take care of you, these are great options to look into. Take the time to visit and research each type to find the best fit for you or a loved one. CANHR offers some great information on the topic. You can also visit the Alzheimer’s Association to learn more.
If you still need more resources, the following have helped many people as they adjust to the transition of aging.
The Administration for Community Living Official site discusses grants, programs, and community living options.
The US Department of Labor: Disability resources has a list of resources available to the disabled and elderly.
The Benefits US government benefits website is a helpful resource on what benefits are available.
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development: Information for senior citizens looks into housing options.