As we age it becomes more and more difficult to stay healthy, but it is possible. There are several steps you can take to improve your health and stay healthy in retirement, and some of them may be easier than you think.
Physical activity is important, but this doesn’t have to mean going to the gym and hitting the 50-pound weights. This could be as simple as walking 15 minutes a day, twice a day. It could mean walking ten minutes a day, three times a day. It could mean getting out and gardening, dancing, fishing or swimming. Find something you enjoy and dedicate yourself to doing that every day, if possible. One motivation for staying consistent in your new exercises or activities is to find a friend to join you, keep you accountable and make the time more enjoyable.
Your muscles will probably be sore as you begin your physical activity, but it will go away in a few days as you adjust to your new exercises. However, those of you with chronic health problems, like diabetes or heart disease, should talk to your doctor before increasing your physical activity. You may be at a greater risk of becoming injured with too much increased activity.
Another way to stay healthy is to add more fiber to your diet and eat healthy foods. Fiber is really good for you because it decreases the risk of heart disease, cancer and type-2 diabetes. It may also lower your cholesterol level and help your colon work better. According to familydoctor.org, men over 50 years old should get 30 grams of fiber a day and women over 50 should get 21 grams a day.
Additionally, eating healthy foods can help boost your immune system. For a list of these types of foods, see 15 Foods to Boost Your Immune System.
Some other important tips for eating well include: making sure your food looks and tastes good, not getting dehydrated and making meals a social event.
Getting a good night’s sleep is especially important for older adults. Sleep enables your body to correct any cell damage that occurred during the day, strengthens your immune system—which can then prevent disease—and improves concentration and memory formation.
However, getting a good night’s sleep is sometimes easier said than done. Many times, depression, excessive daytime sleepiness and attention and memory problems can be a sign of some type of sleeping disorder in older adults. They may also experience more nighttime falls, use over-the-counter sleep aids and have increased sensitivity to pain. Older adults who do not get enough sleep may also be at increased risk of diabetes, weight problems, cardiovascular disease and breast cancer (in women).
For more information on diagnosing sleeping disorders and ways to overcome them, see How to Sleep Well As You Age.
Never stop learning. Training your brain and learning new things to keep your memory sharp can start at any age, but the sooner you start the better off you’ll be. Here are a few tips on how to do just that:
- Learn a new subject. It’s never too late to learn something new. Learn a new language, painting, dancing, fishing, computer skills, etc. Most community centers or community colleges have several inexpensive classes available for you to take.
- Try something new every day. This could be anything from working a new puzzle to taking an alternative route to the store, or maybe even brushing your hair with the other hand.
- Challenge yourself. Add a new challenge to something you love doing and do often, like baking a new recipe or playing a new game.
Coping with Change
As we get older, we will lose some of our loved ones—whether they pass away or move farther away. Coping with that loss can either strengthen your health or diminish it. In these times of change, focus on what you’re grateful for and accept the things you cannot change. Also, don’t be afraid to acknowledge your feelings and express them in a healthy way. Keeping them bottled up can be detrimental to your health.
Taking time to nourish your spirit is a healthy habit to adopt. One way to do this is by finding activities to participate in that bring you joy. Some examples of this include:
- Taking a class or joining a club
- Traveling somewhere new
- Taking a scenic hike, going fishing, going camping, going on a ski trip, etc.
- Take up an old hobby or try a new one.
- Learn something new like playing an instrument, a game or learning a foreign language.
- Volunteer in your community or attend local events.
- Play with your nieces, nephews, grandkids or a pet.
- Write about your life to share with your family and friends.
- Go to a concert or play. Visit a museum.
And finally, stay connected. Find people to share your life with and turn to for company. They can be a great encouragement to help you fight feelings of depression, loneliness, hardship, disability or illness and loss as you age. If you don’t have anyone in your life you can turn to for that, put forth the effort to make new friends and try to connect with them and your family on a regular basis. A good goal to set for yourself is to make sure you spend time with at least one person every day.