With retirement and aging, older adults can find themselves with a lot of free time and not many ideas of what to do. Some alternatives to keep the mind busy and active are volunteering, starting another business, embarking on an encore career, engaging with one’s community, and caregiving or taking responsibility for grandchildren or friends with limited mobility.
These things can help us to build structure and purpose into our lives as we age and as we care for our own parents. It won’t surprise you to learn that the most popular pastime for older adults is watching TV. According to a MetLife study in 2012, socialization and communication as well as recreation and exercise decreased from 13% to 10% after the age of 75. My friend, Dr. Arnold Bresky, a preventive gerontologist, has come up with a nine point system of ways to be proactive in healthy aging and both prevent and treat symptoms of dementia. These tips can be applied to our own health in addition to our aging loved ones.
1. Fun and laughter: have 9 hearty laughs per day.
2. Relaxation, meditation or prayer: meditate or pray at least once a day.
3. Tunes Rx: Play joyful and relaxing music at least 15 minutes a day.
4. Sleep: Ideally sleep 8 uninterrupted hours between 11PM and 7PM.
5. Physical exercise: exercise everyday and track your progress. This can be anything from a slow, gentle walk to pool workouts, going to the gym, or taking a class.
6. Nutrition: eat a low fat Mediterranean diet. Many of our aging parents do not get the nutrients and vitamins they need. A low-fat Mediterranean diet that consists of things like olive oil, fresh fruit, vegetables, and low sugar options.
7. Hydration: drink 6, 8 ounce glasses of water a day. So many of us forget this important step. This is exceptionally true for older adults who can get dehydrated from medications and other sources.
8. Learn something new: Do crossword puzzles, create art, or take a class to acquire a new skill. Engaging our aging loved one’s minds can be a critical step in preventing depression.
9. Practice Acts of Kindness: reach out and make another person smile at least once a day.
My 91-year-old Mom is the poster girl for healthy aging. She lives alone, still drives during the day, gets together with friends often to socialize and play games, takes classes at the local community college, exercises in the community pool, takes care of her diet and walks on the treadmill for 20 minutes every morning. Although caring for our aging loved ones and ourselves can be challenging at times, making sure to take the steps to age healthily can ensure our ultimate success.