The holidays are almost upon us with promises of delicious food,
festive parties, and fun family gatherings! Right? Yes, but alongside those
happy thoughts are visions of a mile long “To Do” list, text message “spending”
alerts from your bank, and the onset of FTYFDOTJ (Fear That You’re Falling Down
on the Job) in your caregiver duties. This year, prepare yourself for the
holidaze with our Holiday Guide to Self-Care for Caregivers and set the
stage for an amazing 2020!
The truth is, there is no time off during the holidays for
caregivers, but you can schedule time to spend time talking with others who are
walking in your shoes. Several organizations can put you in touch with a group
in your area so that you can connect in person. If you can’t get out of the
house, there are online groups where you can chat with other caregivers. A
sampling of those organizations includes:
• The U.S. Department of
Veterans Affairs’ VA Caregiver Support Group has a Caregiver Support Line
(1-855-260-3274) and Caregiver Peer Support Mentoring Program.
• The Family Caregiver
Alliance operates the Caregiver-online support group, which provides caregivers
a safe place to discuss the stresses, challenges, and rewards of caring for
adults with chronic debilitating health conditions.
Your children can be a source of relief for you during their
holiday breaks. Don’t underestimate them. Yes, they might roll their eyes and
complain about having to tear themselves away from their phone/tablet/computer
but let them know their help is important to you and they will immerse
themselves in the task at hand.
The benefits? They get to spend time with a grandparent or family
member who they rarely see due to busy school and homework schedules and you
get an hour here and there to check items off of your holiday “to do” list.
Some suggested activities for your kid caregiver:
• Read a book together –
the classics are always good!
• Teach your grandparents
about how to navigate the Internet.
• Make a video
“documentary” about your grandparent’s life. Ask questions about their
childhood, military service and careers, and what it was like to experience key
historical events that happened before you were born.
• Ask your grandparent to
teach you a skill you don’t know, like chess or knitting.
• Take a walk together.
If your grandparent is in a wheelchair, take him or her on a walk – it’s good
GIVE THE GIFT OF CONNECTION
One of the great stresses of the holiday season is finding the
“perfect” gifts for friends and family members who you have been gifting for
years. Yes, there is more to the holidays than presents under a tree, but the
reality is that gift exchanges are an important tradition for many.
Thoughtful gifts come in many packages. Why not give your senior
relative the gift of connection? Sign them up for a daily/weekly call service
that provides them with cheerful and light conversation based on their
interests and offers an ear to listen when they need a pick-me-up or don’t feel
so well. Companion
Matters has a variety of call service packages that fit the needs of seniors
who live alone or who have a full- or part-time caregiver.
As a caregiver, you realize that you cannot fulfill your parent’s every
need and you should not have to. A call service steps in to supplement the
amazing work you do every day!
GIVE THANKS FOR YOGA
Yoga is a tried and true self-care institution. There is something
to be said for a practice that traces its roots to the Indus-Sarasvati
civilization in Northern India over 5,000 years ago.
It’s a given that we all need to exercise to remain healthy and to relieve stress. Set aside 15, 20, 30, 45 or 60 minutes (if possible) to dedicate to this ancient art that has been proven to improve muscle strength, flexibility, balance, mobility, and mental health and wellness. Find a class at your local community center that has a senior program and you’ve got a win-win situation on your hands! If that isn’t available to you, there is a wealth of online yoga videos that you can find through a simple search on YouTube.
According to Jonathan Graff Radford, M.D., a member of the Mayo Clinic’s Research Faculty, yoga is particularly beneficial for caregivers.
“Studies indicate that caregivers who engage in regular yoga practice enjoy lower stress levels and better physical well-being. Research shows that yoga may help caregivers:
• Feel more capable in
their caregiver roles
• Improve depression
• Lower anxiety levels
One study found that caregivers who participated in an eight-week
yoga group saw physical and emotional benefits from the practice. Seeing those
benefits appeared helpful in alleviating any guilt they felt for taking time
EAT, DRINK AND ASK FOR HELP, CAREGIVER!
Make time to go to a party, have a holiday lunch with friends or
simply hide under your cozy blankets in bed and binge-watch Netflix. To do this,
you may need to rely on the good hearts of family members, friends or even
neighbors to take over your caregiver duties for a few hours or an evening. The
people around you most likely already want to help, but don’t know how to
offer! Take them up on it this holiday season!
Whatever you do, don’t feel guilty about taking time for yourself!
You’ve got a lot on your shoulders year-round, so don’t add an extra layer of
self-loathing to it! Chances are, your mother and/or father could use a break
from you too (no offense intended)!
Caring for loved ones is what we do and leads to bonds that cannot
be broken and lifelong memories. Remember this when you are feeling low or have
a bad case of the holiday blues. The role you have taken on is a true gift of love
to the family member who relies on you every day!
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There never seemed to be time to check off items on your bucket list – or even make a list – when you were younger and engaged in a tug-of-war with work and family life. Who says you can’t create a “Senior Bucket List” that is tailor-made for the golden, post-65 retirement years when you have the time and the freedom to tackle it?
If you don’t have a Senior Bucket List, the time is now to start making one. If you have a bucket list that is hidden somewhere on the top shelf of your closet or in a hidden file on your computer, dust it off and make a few changes that fit your current lifestyle.
WHAT IS A SENIOR BUCKET LIST?
A bucket list is a lifelong “To Do” list of foods you want to try, places you want to visit, goals you want to achieve, life lessons you want to learn, skills you want to master – and more! A Senior Bucket List is the same, but with a few tweaks based on life lessons learned. Likely candidates to cross off your original bucket list include eating “delicacies” that are still moving, jumping off of a bridge over a rushing river, and traveling to a foreign locale that requires several modes of transportation plus a five-mile hike to get there.
This doesn’t mean that a Senior Bucket List is tame and boring, it just means that the bucket list items are less flash and more soul. The goal is less about ticking items off the list for the sake of ticking items off the list, and more about enjoying the journey and reveling in new experiences!
BUILD YOUR SENIOR BUCKET LIST
Start your Senior Bucket List with one short-term goal – something that is fairly easy to achieve but that you’ve never been able to do because life always seemed to get in the way. Write it down in a gorgeous journal you’ve had tucked away in your bedside table for years or just jot it in a plain tablet of lined paper. If you are a computer aficionado, there are bucket list-themed websites where you can create a free account and type in your list while drawing inspiration from fellow bucket listers. Sample sites include Bucket List and BucketListly.
Once you launch your list, make a point to add to it regularly, whether it be once a day, once a week or once a month. Draw inspiration from your surroundings – from your friends and family – from your dreams and imagination. Here are a few suggestions to get your list started!
SENIOR BUCKET LIST GOAL #1: FLEX YOUR MIND MUSCLE
Lifelong learning reaps more than its share of benefits. In addition to adding intellectual spice to your life, new knowledge keeps boredom from taking over and has been proven to improve brain health. A collaborative study conducted by Indiana University, Johns Hopkins University, University of Florida and the University of Washington published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that mental training exercises, ie. learning something new, had a direct impact on mental function later in life.
Learn how to play chess. Take a class at a community center or online.
Learn how to create a website. You can start with simple free website builders like wix.com or weebly.com.
Watch a TED Talk on video. The non-profit TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design and is dedicated to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). This TED talk by Jane Fonda is inspirational.
Learn to speak another language. Ask a friend to tutor you, sign up for classes at your local community college or check out free language-learning tools online.
Join a book club. If you can’t find one that appeals to you, start one and put yourself in charge of book choices!
SENIOR BUCKET LIST GOAL #2: GET OUT(DOORS)
A change of scenery almost always does a body good, particularly if you’ve been cooped up inside due to weather or illness. Add to that a breath of fresh air and a dash of exercise and you’ll be rewarded with a burst of energy that can last for days.
Go on a picnic. Grab that cute picnic basket that hasn’t seen the light of day in years and pack it with your favorite sandwiches, snacks, and sodas! Head toward the nearest park or, if you’d rather stay close to home, locate a shady spot in your backyard.
Take an early morning walk in the forest. Grab some friends and leave the television and technology behind while you explore a well-worn path through the trees. The quiet will soothe your soul while you reap the healthy rewards of walking.
Go puddle-jumping during a summer rain. Remember that feeling you had as a child splashing through puddles and dancing in the rain? Recapture those memories the next time a summer sprinkle falls from the sky!
Paddleboat across a lake. The greatest thing about a paddleboat? You can go as fast or as slow as you want! Pick a day when the sky is bright blue and the water as smooth as glass. Double down on your bucket list by bringing your basket on the boat and finding a gorgeous lakeside spot to park your picnic!
SENIOR BUCKET LIST GOAL #3: CATCH THE TRAVEL BUG
If you like to travel – or want to travel more – you are not alone. Baby Boomers are roaming the globe, with close to 50 percent saying they travel to “relax and rejuvenate,” according to an American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) travel survey. The split on domestic and international travel is about 50/50. It doesn’t matter where you go as long as it is somewhere that piques your curiosity. Sometimes you unlock mysteries in the most average of locales!
Drive Route 66. Planning this trip is more than half the fun! Dozens of websites recommend Route 66 attractions state by state, as well as authentic hotels and diners along the way.
Go on a girls’/boys’ trip to Las Vegas. Who can resist a long weekend in America’s adult playground? You don’t have to be an avid gambler to have fun in Sin City – there are plenty of tours to take in and around the Strip and the city is a mecca for people-watching.
Travel by train. Through trains are part of our everyday landscape, a journey by train is like taking a trip back in time. Amtrak trains make tracks across the U.S. on a fairly frequent basis, and Vacations by Rail is a one-stop-shop for train travel in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. The art deco-themed Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is a once-in-a-lifetime luxury that belongs at the top of every bucket list!
Swim with dolphins. Just being near a dolphin can fill you with peace, joy, and love. Luckily, there is no shortage of amazing and beautiful vacation destinations that offer this activity so pick a bucket list travel spot and swim amongst these graceful creatures!
SENIOR BUCKET LIST GOAL #4: MAKE NEW CONNECTIONS
Become a mentor. You have a lot of life experience to share with younger generations, and there are more than a few organizations that would welcome your mentorship with open arms! Reach out to a local school, church, chamber of commerce or entrepreneurial organization and offer your insights.
Sign up for daily/weekly call service. Your family cares deeply about you and vice versa, but there are times when life gets in the way and you can’t touch base as often as you like. A call service provides you a cheerful connection and light conversation based on your interests, and an ear to listen when you need a pick-me-up or don’t feel so well. Companion Matters has a variety of call service packages that you can utilize based on your unique needs.
Get your DNA tested and start your family tree. You may have a good idea of the origins of a few generations on your family tree, but there are hundreds of years – and more – of history that you can uncover with a simple DNA test and an Ancestry account. Enlist the help of family members and you could unearth long-hidden family secrets!
Call an old friend you haven’t talked to in years. If you have trouble finding a phone number, never fear! Create a Facebook account (if you haven’t already) and start searching for friends! Once you locate long-lost friends, send them a direct message and strike up a conversation. From there you can exchange phone numbers and swap memories.
Create a social media account (other than Facebook). With 75 percent of Baby Boomers on Facebook, there’s no doubt you’ll be in good company. Branch out beyond Facebook and try out a platform that appeals to you, like Twitter or Instagram. With short, pithy posts, Twitter speaks to the part of you that thrives on being “in the know” and on top of current events. Instagram’s visual appeal calls on you to use your creative side with photos and visual quotes.
SENIOR BUCKET LIST GOAL #5: DO GOOD DEEDS
Volunteering is a win-win situation. You lend your vitality, experience and time to a worthwhile cause (of which there are many in need) and, in turn, you reap benefits. Giving to others can help reduce stress, combat depression, and stimulate your mind. You can also form long-lasting friendships with people (and pets) that expand your mind and brighten your life!
Volunteer at an animal shelter. If you are an animal aficionado or a born-again animal advocate, then volunteering a few hours a week at an animal shelter is right up your alley. Who knows? You may meet your next furry companion!
Read to kids at a local elementary school. Teachers are always searching for people to read to their classrooms and eventually the parent volunteer list dries up (and the kids like to see new faces). It’s a treat to spend time with age groups that haven’t yet reached the “eye roll” stage and will probably smother you with questions and hugs!
Adopt an elephant, rhino or giraffe orphan. Maybe you can’t exactly make a trip to the wilds of Africa, or maybe you just never had it on your bucket list. You can still make a major impact on threatened and endangered species on that magnificent continent. It may actually spur you to add “visit my adopted elephant child” to your list!
Pay the toll for the person behind you. If you’ve ever been in line at a coffee shop and received the good news that a total stranger has paid for your cup of joe, you know the feeling of pure joy that good deed evoked in you. Do the same for the poor soul sitting in a long line of traffic behind you at the toll booth – you may just make their day – or week!
SENIOR BUCKET LIST BONUS: JUST BECAUSE
Some things you should do “just because.” Just because your grandkids recommended “Stranger Things” on Netflix. Just because you are a true crime show addict and want to act out a faux criminal scenario. Just because you have never finished a puzzle. Go for it all!
Binge watch a Netflix series.
Attend a Murder Mystery Dinner.
Name a star.
Go to a Yoga class.
Create a family logo.
Complete a jigsaw puzzle that has at least 1,000 pieces.
Never stop searching for ideas to add to your Senior Bucket List and it will grow to be as unique and inspirational as you are!
“Stop dreaming about your bucket list and start living it.”
Annette White (Instagram: @bucketlistjourney)
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These are kind words backed by good intentions, but when you are an older adult living on your own – or a caregiver – these words can evoke frustration. It puts the burden on you to call, text or email your friend or family member in your care circle with specific requests when you are not sure what they are willing to do or if they have the time to help. Quite frankly, you may not have time to reach out to them when you need someone to drive you to the doctor or pick up a few items at the grocery store. Thus, you end up doing it yourself.
There is no denying that family members and friends are
at the center of your care circle, the group of people you surround
yourself with to provide support as you care for an aging parent or as you grow
older. They are there for emotional and physical support and to help in a
pinch. A care circle is meant to expand as your needs grow. You are not
expected to have all of the answers or even find all of the answers on your
own. There are numerous organizations and trained professionals who can step in
to help shoulder the load, particularly if your family is small, distant and/or
juggling several responsibilities.
The number of assistance programs for seniors and their
caregivers is impressive but tracking them down yourself can be overwhelming. We’ve
compiled a list of six essential resources to add to your care circle so that
you lead a well-rounded and active life.
ONE SEARCH = THOUSANDS OF BENEFITS
Did you know there are 2,500-plus benefits programs available to seniors in the U.S.? It would be an overwhelming task to hunt them down, one by one. Fortunately, the National Council on Aging has dramatically simplified the search process with its web-based Benefits Checkup search service – www.benefitscheckup.org
Navigate to the website, type in your zip
code and search results will appear for programs in your area, including:
Using this service is a no-brainer. More than
8 million seniors have discovered $31 billion-plus in benefits through the
Benefits Checkup service, according to the National Council on Aging, a
nonprofit advocacy and service organization that focuses on joining the efforts
of government, businesses and nonprofit organizations to improve the lives of
our older adults.
HOME CARE SERVICES: HELP WITH YOUR “TO DO” LIST
There are times when you simply cannot juggle all of the
items on your daily “To Do” list. There is no shame in reaching out to
organizations that have resources in place to help you with housekeeping,
errands and transportation services. It
would be a shame NOT to take advantage of these helping hands!
The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging operates the Eldercare Locator servicefive days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. to connect you with local service providers that can help with a ride to the doctor, a trip to the grocery store, chores around the house, meal deliveries and more. You can reach an information specialist at the Eldercare Locator service in a variety of ways:
There is also a handy pamphlet that you can download for more information about the Eldercare Locator service.
Similarly, the Eldercare
Directory is an organization that has compiled extensive information about services
available to seniors and caregivers in all 50 states and the District of
Columbia. You can use the online search tool to find certified in-home care, home health, home nursing
care, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech pathology, and medical
social services in your area. An added benefit is that Eldercare Directory
shares unbiased ratings and client reviews for each service so that you can
refer to those when making service provider selections.
CALL COMPANION SERVICES: MAKE MEANINGFUL CONNECTIONS
We all enjoy our space, but we also have a deep need for
companionship. If you are one of the approximately 16 million senior citizens
in the U.S. living alone, there are times that you may feel lonely and/or
isolated. You are not alone. Caregivers can step in to bridge the gap,
but no one person can meet all of another’s needs.
Positive interpersonal communication and meaningful human connection have consistently proven to play a role in the vitality of people’s lives. Simply put, we all yearn for engaging and lively conversation. We all want to feel connected and to be heard. A call companion service steps up to supplement a caregiver’s role. They are there to listen to your incredible stories, share life experiences and check to make sure you are feeling good, taking your medication and that you are comfortable in your home.
Companion Matters offers a variety of call service packages that you can sign up for based on your needs. There are 13 different plans, ranging from twice-daily call services to weekly check-in calls. You are paired with call companions that share your interests so that you enjoy conversing and look forward to touching base with each other.
LEGAL SERVICES: GET HELP WITH THE DETAILS
Delving into legal documents can be both intimidating and
mind-numbing, but it is a necessary evil, particularly when you are preparing
wills, powers of attorney and advanced directives. If you do not have an
attorney in the family, finding one can also be an intimidating prospect.
The first step you as a caregiver or senior can take is
to get the facts about what an elder law attorney can do for you. AginginPlace.org is an excellent resource for
An equally important responsibility is the protection of your (or your family member’s) rights as an older adult. In our modern world, there are, unfortunately, individuals and companies that thrive on devising scams that target seniors. We must make it our mission to speak and act against those who perpetrate these crimes. Helpful resources to utilize include:
The Eldercare Locator helps you find legal services in your community. Enter your ZIP code or city and state in the search bar at the top of the webpage or speak with an information specialist at 1-800-677-1116.
can also download helpful brochures here with tips on how to deal with conversations about legal,
financial, medical and other sensitive subjects.
FINANCIAL SERVICES: NAVIGATING YOUR GOLDEN YEARS
Retirement planning continues well after retirement! Gone
are the days when a family provider retired with a pension that all but
guaranteed several years of a comfortable retirement for his or her family.
Caregivers and seniors alike face retirement realities that may be a bit
tricky, so it pays to know where to turn when you need additional resources or
programs that supplement your finances.
Every life stage brings its joys and challenges. Exercise
and healthy eating can pave the way for remaining active in your later years,
but that does not eliminate physical changes that go hand-in-hand with the
natural aging process.
It makes sense to align yourself with physicians who
specialize in senior (geriatric) medical care. Important qualities to look for in
a primary care physician include:
Substantial experience with conditions such as heart
disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, osteoporosis, and depression;
A good reputation for prescribing appropriate medications
and managing the interactive effects of medications on seniors;
A wealth of knowledge about home health services and when
to use them;
Recommendations for regular screening tests (mammograms,
bone density tests, stress tests, etc.) at appropriate intervals; and,
Suggestions for appropriate fitness and meal plans for
Your local Area Agency on Aging (AAA) and/or insurance
provider can point you in the right direction. Other organizations that can
help you find a doctor include:
The American Board of Family Medicine offers an online physician search service for board-certified geriatricians. Type in your city and state and select “Geriatric Medicine” in the “Limit Your Search” box.
Health insurance in general – and the Medicare program in particular – is a complex and confusing subject. With 10,000 people celebrating their 65th birthday each day in the U.S., the need for accurate and clear information about Medicare is at an all-time high. There are solid resources available – just a few clicks away – through the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), which helps you locate the state agency that can provide you answers about your Medicare coverage. You can also download the “Medicare & You” handbook as an additional guide to use while you are navigating murky Medicare insurance waters.
Staying active year-round is an essential part of maintaining good health for everyone, but especially for seniors. Regular exercise has numerous benefits for seniors. It helps maintain muscle mass and joint health. It releases endorphins, which can help prevent or treat depression. Exercise also increases balance and stability, which can help prevent falls and injuries.
Now that summer is here, seniors have even more options for fun and engaging exercise. If you’re looking for activities for seniors this summer, read on!
1. Go for a Walk or Roll Outside
Walking is one of the easiest activities that seniors can engage in. It’s low impact, it’s good for the joints, and it improves cardiac function. After a winter of mall walking, seniors will be excited to head outside! So head to your local park or easy hiking trail and get moving.
For seniors who need assistance with mobility, getting outside for a “roll,” either in a wheelchair or with a walker, is still a fun activity with multiple health benefits. The fresh air will improve lung and cardiac function and a healthy dose of Vitamin D helps with mental health.
2. Plant a Seed
Many seniors love to garden. Planting something and caring for it until its full-grown gives a deep sense of accomplishment, which is important for mental health. And all that digging, watering, and weed pulling is actually great, easy exercise for seniors. Even those with low mobility can help out in the garden with the help of a good stool or seat.
If seniors are still at home, they may have their own garden to maintain. If they’re in a retirement home, assisting with the gardens on the grounds is a great option. If there are no gardens accessible where they are living, seniors can be brought to a community garden, where they can share a plot with friends or family so they’re not solely responsible for its care.
3. Go for a Swim
Swimming is one of the best and most accessible forms of exercise for seniors. Those who need lots of mobility assistance on the ground can usually move around the pool with ease. And particularly active seniors love the challenge of swimming laps or taking a water aerobics class.
For seniors who’ve been heading to an indoor pool all winter, heading to an outdoor community pool or even the beach is an exciting outing. Remember that the sand at the beach may be challenging for seniors with mobility issues or joint problems. Community pools are particularly accessible for seniors of all activity levels.
4. Volunteer With a Furry Friend
Volunteering is a great way for seniors to be an active part of of their communities. Volunteerism also gives a sense of accomplishment and competence that is essential to seniors’ mental health.
To combine volunteerism and exercise, seniors can head to a local animal shelter and offer to walk or play with the dogs living in the shelter. Many shelters struggle to give every dog in their care the exercise and one on one attention they need, so they’re usually more than happy to let volunteers take the dogs for a short walk around the grounds.
Shelters usually have a playroom where dogs can run around in as well, so seniors who are less mobile can get some low-impact play in with a furry friend.
5. Head to the Farmer’s Market
Summer is the season for local Farmer’s Markets and these events are a perfect opportunity for seniors to combine a good walk and some shopping. The benefit of walking at the Farmer’s Market is that everyone can walk at their own pace because they’re browsing the booths. Those who want to get their heart rate up can take a few vigorous laps around the market before shopping, while those who want to take it slower can leisurely browse from booth to booth.
The Farmer’s Market also provides seniors with the opportunity to purchase healthy foods that they can prepare for themselves or with the help of their caregivers.
6. Take a Tour of Your City
For many seniors, it’s been a while since they explored the sights of their own city. Many cities offer walking tours that are accessible for all activity levels. Some cities also offer Segue tours, which allows seniors to get around a little easier.
For especially active seniors, a lot of cities offer biking tours. Seniors need not own a bike to participate; bikes can usually be rented through the tour company.
For seniors with mobility issues, a self-guided tour with a caregiver pushing them is a great option. Many cities also offer open-air bus or boat tours, which allows seniors with mobility issues to get some fresh air and soak up the sun.
7. Go Berry-Picking
Summer is the season for all sorts of delicious berries. Strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries are all in season at different times throughout the summer. Heading to a farm that offers a pick your own berries option is a great way to get seniors outside and moving.
Berry picking can be done at a slow pace so everyone can participate. And there’s the added benefit of getting fresh fruit when they’re done!
Remember that depending on the berry, picking can require a fair amount of bending, which may not be appropriate for all seniors. For seniors who cannot bend easily, waiting for blueberries to be in season is a great idea since they grow on taller bushes.
The Best Summer Activities for Seniors
These are only a few ideas of summer activities for seniors that can keep them both active and mentally engaged. The ability to get outside, breathe the fresh air, and soak up the sun has health benefits for every senior, regardless of their ability to be active and mobile.
Rates of obesity and heart disease have dramatically increased in the last few decades. In fact, the CDC has reported that heart disease now accounts for 25% of deaths in the United States.
Luckily, there are some easy ways to prevent and reverse the risk of heart disease and other terminal illnesses. In addition to having a balanced, low-cholesterol diet, regular exercise is the key to living a long and healthy life.
But hitting the gym or going for rigorous runs every day isn’t realistic for certain segments of the population – especially seniors. So what’s the best way for seniors to get in their daily exercise? It’s as simple as walking.
Is walking a good exercise? Absolutely. A daily walk is one of the healthiest things you can do for your body. Why is walking especially good for seniors? Keep reading to learn more.
Is Walking a Good Exercise?
Some people are under the impression that walking isn’t as beneficial as running or breaking a sweat in the gym. But studies have proven time and again that walking is one of the best exercises there is.
The Harvard Health journal has found that walking regularly can improve heart health by drastically lowering the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
And that’s not all. Numerous studies across the board have concluded that regular walking is the best exercise for seniors, not only because it’s achievable and realistic compared to some other forms of exercise.
The most important thing for overall health is to get moving. But for some seniors, exercise is difficult to do arthritis, joint and back pain, COPD or other ailments.
In this case, walking is a great option because it is a low impact exercise that can feasibly be performed over longer periods of time.
You don’t have to run a marathon or throw your back out lifting weights to reap the benefits of exercise. Even a short walk every day has a huge positive impact on overall health and wellbeing, both physically and mentally.
Physical Benefits of Walking
As mentioned earlier, walking regularly has been scientifically proven to lower the risk of heart disease. Because it increases blood flow to the brain, over extended periods of time it can significantly improve cardiac health.
Going for a brisk walk once a day can also improve symptoms caused by kidney disease and reduce the risk of certain cancers.
Walking at any speed reduces the risk of developing osteoporosis as it improves the strength and durability of muscles and bones. It also boosts the immune system and blood circulation.
Because walking is a lower impact exercise, it won’t cause the lungs to overexert themselves. In cases of COPD and other lung-related problems, walking even short distances daily can reduce the chances of hospitalization.
Not only does regular walking help with reducing the risk of potentially fatal diseases, but it also helps to control and manage weight.
Obesity is one of the leading causes of heart failure, and walking can help with weight loss while at the same time improve heart health.
Mental Benefits of Walking
If the physical benefits aren’t enough to sell you, walking has numerous mental benefits as well. Psychologists have found that walking, especially in nature, can improve depression and anxiety.
There’s something about walking in nature that stops the brain from focusing on negative thoughts. Worry goes out the window as soon as you start moving around and breathing fresh air.
And this alleviation of depression and anxiety leads to a better overall mood and can significantly improve self-image. And depression, anxiety, and mood aren’t the only things impacted.
Studies have found that frequent walking is also linked to improved memory. The increased blood flow to the brain can prevent and slow down the deterioration of the brain’s tissue in older age, which can improve cognitive ability.
This improvement in cognitive ability can even prevent and slow down the symptoms of dementia. Studies have found that sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease who took four 30-minute walks a week experienced improved memory.
A Little Goes a Long Way
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends 150 minutes of moderately intense exercise or 75 minutes of highly intense exercise weekly for healthy adults to achieve optimum health.
While this might seem like a lot, studies have found that even a fraction of that amount can have a huge positive impact. Experts agree that a little exercise is better than none at all.
Inactivity is the silent killer. Getting up and going for a light walk for even just fifteen minutes a day is an attainable, enjoyable activity that will only have a positive impact. There is no downside, whatsoever.
As we age, all sorts of things happen to our body to limit the type of activity we can safely partake in. But there are very few excuses that should keep seniors from getting out for a daily walk.
Canes, walkers and having a companion come along with you for company and safety are all within the realm of possibility. Sitting still is more dangerous than any risks related to getting moving.
For optimum health, the recommended number of steps per day is 10,000. But there’s no rush to get there. Start small at 1,000 per day and add more as you get more comfortable.
Even if you never hit 10,000 steps per day or 150 minutes per week, any progress you make toward that goal will do you good in the long run.
The Bottom Line
It’s never too late to add exercise into your daily routine. If joint or back pain is stopping you, remember that going for a daily walk will only help to reduce those pains that are holding you back.
Walking regularly won’t only improve your mental health, reduce pain and lower the risk of chronic disease, it can be the number one secret to living a longer, healthier life.
Because walking is low impact, easy, free and does not require rigorous training of any kind, it is considered to be the best exercise for aging adults and seniors.
So, is walking a good exercise? The answer is an emphatic yes. Check out our services that help seniors live a happy, fulfilling life.