Thursday, October 22, 2020

5 Daily Habits of Healthy, Independent Seniors


Last week, a sweet 98 year old woman really impressed me!! I was called by her son, a long term client of mine, to do a home visit and assess her back pain due to a recent fall. Mary was amazing!! She still lives by herself and doesn't take ANY medication!! She's able to maintain some independence and has caregivers come into her home to help her with hygiene, dressing, and home care activities. I was impressed at how well she is still moving around with her walker, despite having some intermittent back pain. This experience got me thinking about what types of daily habits it takes to live a long, healthy and independent life. Keep reading if you are a senior, know one, or plan to be one someday!! 

Movement is Medicine
When I asked Mary if we could do some "exercises" to help alleviate her back pain she said "I don't like exercise." When I rephrased it and asked, "Can we try some "movements" together?" she smiled right away and said "YES!" Even I don't LOVE the idea of exercising, per say. But "Movement" seems like a less intense activity and less challenging than lifting weights, doing squats, and lunges. (Those are great movements, but not necessarily appropriate for a senior who doesn't love exercise.) We kept things basic and performed some gentle body movements while seated and standing. Her daughter-in-law and I moved her dining room table slightly so she can do laps around the table with her walker when her caregivers are present. She enjoyed moving and it actually made her back feel better. 

Daily movement habits could include practicing yoga, walking, biking, swimming, weight lifting, taking exercise classes, gardening, or doing laps around your dining room table. Movement helps to get our blood pumping to bring oxygen to our tissues and organs, as well as pumping our lymphatic system to remove waste materials out of our body. Movement is some of the best natural medicine available to keep your body healthy for decades!! Be sure to get your daily dose. 

Balance is Key
Unfortunately, the reason for Mary's home visit is that she took a fall, which is a common occurrence among the elderly population. She took this fall like a champ, but that is not always the case with seniors. Sometimes a fall can be the "beginning of the end," especially if someone breaks a hip, as it is difficult to make a full recovery. Balance reactions decline as we age, so it is important to incorporate daily activities to maintain or improve our balance. Doing simple activities like calf raises (rising up onto your toes), standing on one leg, performing side steps, and marching in place can challenge your balance. These are all easy to do while standing behind a dining room chair or near a counter so you can use your hands for support. These can also be performed without holding on if your balance allows. Just be sure to keep yourself safe! By incorporating balance activities into your daily routine, you too can maintain your health and independence as long as possible. 

Hydrate for Health
Water is the elixir of life! All of our cells and organs require these essential molecules (hydrogen and oxygen) to perform their many functions to keep us alive and well throughout our lifetime. Water not only helps to keep skin soft and supple, but it also helps to digest our food and move our bowels, which is a function that can become sluggish as we age. Healthy water intake is recommended as "twice your body weight in ounces per day." A slice of cucumber, lemon, or orange in your glass or water bottle could be just the simple addition you need to make drinking water more palatable. It's like having a little party in your water, and the nutrients in fruit can help you absorb and assimilate the water molecules even better! When your cells and whole body function and move at their optimal levels, your health and independence will follow! 

Don't Wait
As much as our bodies are amazing and capable of healing themselves even in our senior years, some issues are better left up to the professionals! Mary's son contacted me soon after her fall because of her back pain complaints rather than waiting weeks and weeks to see if things got better on their own. By being proactive with your health maintenance and any concerns that arise, it is much easier to overcome injuries or imbalances than if you wait until you are miserable to seek professional help. My senior clients who are in the "Maintenance" Mode of their care plan with me are committed to their regular monthly "tune-up" sessions as they feel the benefit of each session and how they all contribute to keeping their mobility at its best. Sure, we can always schedule a session when pain issues are acute or flared up, but I'm not gonna is much easier to keep people functioning well than it is to do "damage control" therapy. By staying in-tune with your movement abilities and body sensations on a daily basis, you are sure to maintain your health and independence much more easily! 


Laughter is the Best Medicine
"One minute of anger can weaken the immune system for 4-5 hours. One minute of laughter can BOOST the immune system for 24 hours!" This quote recently came across my internet feed and although it shocked me initially, it actually makes sense. One of the most enjoyable aspects of Mary's home visit was the laughter we shared. She was pleasant the whole time, despite having some pain when she transferred from standing to sitting, but we shared some good laughs together. I'm confident that her positive attitude and sense of humor are 2 of the main reasons she has made it to 98 years old and is still going strong, despite all the ups and downs that each decade can bring. Smiling and laughing do so much good for our heart, soul, immune system and our mental health state. Be sure to prioritize reading, watching programs, and sharing time with the people in your life who fill your spirit, make you smile and laugh, and warm your heart! Keeping your sense of humor is sure to help you stay healthy and vibrant for years to come. 

As always, I'm here to help keep your body functioning efficiently to stay healthy and independent for as long as I possibly can!

(Written June 2020)

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