How to navigate the experience of getting older and what people need to know to stay healthy.
The growth in the number and proportion of older adults is unprecedented in the history of the United States. According to a comprehensive study conducted by the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion titled The State of Aging & health in America 2013, two factors – longer life spans and aging baby boomers – will combine to double the population of Americans aged 65 years or older during the next 25 years to about 72 million. By 2030, older adults will account for roughly 20 percent of the U.S. population.
“The overall health of these older adults will depend largely on how they navigate critical aspects of their health, including nutrition and exercise, socialization, medical treatment, and safety,” says Brenda Lyle, Aging Services Manager at One Senior Place in Altamonte Springs. “Family and friends also play a big part in this navigation, especially when the older adult develops physical or cognitive limitations.”
Nutrition and Exercise
Staying active and eating right represent critical aspects of your physical well -being. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, older adults need 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (brisk walking, pushing a lawn mower) and muscle-strengthening activities two or more days a week or 1.5 hours of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (jogging or running) and muscle-strengthening activities two or more days a week. According to NIH Senior Health, good nutrition is associated with illness prevention (heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer), higher energy levels, weight management, better digestion and mental/emotional health. Eating well gives you the nutrients needed to keep your muscles, bones, organs, and other parts of your body healthy and include vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates, fats and water.
“It comes down to healthy lifestyle choices,” says Lyle. “You don’t have to run a marathon to stay healthy, but going for walks, doing low-impact exercises and eating a sensible diet will go a long way in helping you age gracefully.”
Depression is a common problem among older adults, and it can be caused by various factors, including genetic disposition, stress and changes in the brain. A loss of a spouse can trigger depression, as can increased isolation or lack of mobility. Regardless of the causes, the first step to getting appropriate treatment is to visit your doctor. Certain medications or conditions can cause symptoms similar to depression, and your doctor can rule out these factors by doing a complete physical exam, interview and lab tests. If these other actors can be ruled out, your doctor may refer you to a mental health professional. He or she will then diagnose the depression and work with you to choose the most appropriate treatment
If the depression is being caused by the loss of a spouse, lack of mobility and increased isolation (or lack of socialization), it’s important that family and friends offer support and encouragement. “Spending time with others — including family, friends and neighbors — boosts brain activity and gives you a sense of belonging and community,” says Lyle. “You may reach a point where you’re not as mobile as you used to be, but steps should be taken to ensure that you still have interaction with people, even if you need help with shopping or driving.”
Good communication between you and your doctor is an essential part of taking an active role in your health care. As you get older, it becomes even more important to talk often and comfortably with your doctor. Knowing how to describe your symptoms and bring up other concerns helps you become a better partner in your healthcare. Be clear and concise when describing your symptoms, which may include pain, fever, a lump or bump, unexplained weight loss or gain, or having a hard time sleeping. Your doctor may want to know if the symptoms are constant or if anything makes the symptoms better or worse.
The important thing to remember is that the more your doctor knows, the better. Be forthcoming with information and most certainly ask questions. If you have questions about your medication, or you’re experiencing side effects from your medication, make sure your doctor knows about it. If you have a question about a test or procedure, ask your doctor to explain why it is important, what it will show and what it will cost.
“When it comes to your health, good communication with your doctor provides the best outcomes,” says Lyle. “You’re going to feel better just knowing that you’ve covered everything with your doctor and that the both of you are on the same page when it comes to your health care and treatment. ”
We all want to remain independent throughout our lives and stay in control of where and how we live, but our ability to do so may depend on our health and physical capabilities. As we age, some things naturally become harder to do on our own. You and your family may begin to consider live-in help or senior living alternatives when it becomes difficult for you to perform daily living tasks without significant support from others. Some of the challenges you may eventually face include loss of vision, poor balance, memory loss or forgetfulness, fatigue, loneliness, or dementia.
“If you still want to live at home, you need to understand the risks,” says Lyle. “It’s unhealthy to stay at home if you don’t have the support you need because this represents a major risk to your safety. If you can manage to stay at home safely and independently, you should, but if your health declines, you need to reconsider your options.”
One Senior Place is a one-stop resource and information marketplace. Completely unique, One Senior Place provides information, counseling, referrals, educational events and direct access to independent senior-focused businesses– all under one roof! To schedule a free consultation with an Aging Services Expert call 866-706-9386.