While many people face new health challenges as they age, aging can bring new opportunities to pursue a healthy lifestyle. There are many things you can do to remain healthy as you age. From exercise, to tai chi, to having a pet, to meeting new friends or pursuing new activities, all of these can help seniors maintain their health and independence as they get older.
One important thing that seniors should do to stay healthy is to get regular physical exercise. The good thing about exercise is that it’s never too late to start! Not only does exercise help prevent illness, but exercise can also reduce older adults’ risk for falls. Exercise does not have to feel like work. Instead, exercise can be fun.1 If you have grandkids, you can take them outside for a walk, game, or other activity. You can play video games that get you up and moving. Many seniors enjoy doing yardwork, including raking, weeding, or planting new plants. In addition, many senior centers offer exercise classes, such as Zumba, and many of these classes are now being offered online to allow seniors to participate from home.
Group activities such as an exercise class can be an important source of social interaction for older adults. Not only will exercise and social interaction improve an elder’s physical health, they also bolster mental
health and independence, making group exercise classes a good option for seniors looking to improve all around well-being.2 If you are worried about whether and how you should exercise, talk to your doctor and get some advice on how you can be active.
We know that one of the biggest challenges to regular exercise can be finding the motivation to get off the couch and move. Click here to learn tips on how to stay motivated to exercise.
For many seniors, having an animal companion helps reduce feelings of loneliness. Having a pet has been shown to improve mental well-being in older adults. Pets can provide seniors with a sense of purpose and make them feel more optimistic about life. For some older adults, having a pet can be challenging because pets require care that an elder may not be able to provide. For these elders, robotic pets may be an alternative option. Robotic pets have been shown to help some seniors reduce stress and anxiety while providing a sense of companionship.3
Mindfulness Activities: Yoga and Tai Chi
Many older adults feel stress and anxiety. This is unhealthy because stress and anxiety can lead to additional mental and physical health problems. Luckily, there are healthy ways to reduce stress and anxiety. Yoga, and tai chi can improve mental and physical health in older adults. For seniors with mobility challenges, these activities can be adapted to fit each individual’s needs and body.
Yoga involves specific exercises, known as poses, which are paired with breathing techniques and meditation. While certain yoga poses may be challenging for seniors, yoga is highly adaptable. There are different forms of yoga that can be practiced depending on a particular elder’s needs and goals. Yoga can improve strength, balance, and flexibility while reducing stress and anxiety.4 To learn more about how yoga can work for older adults, check out this website on yoga for seniors.
One way to describe tai chi is that it’s like a way of doing meditation while moving. Tai chi incorporates a series of gentle physical exercises, stretching, and breathing. Tai chi is ideal for seniors because it is easy on the body and can help reduce stress and promote mental well-being. In addition, tai chi requires no special equipment and can be done anywhere and with a group. Click here to learn more about tai chi.
1 National Institute on Aging, https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/fun-ways-older-adults-stay-physically-active.
2 National Institute on Aging, https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/real-life-benefits-exercise-and-physical-activity.
3 New York Times, “In Isolating Times, Can Robo-Pets Provide Comfort?” https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/26/health/coronavirus-elderly-isolation-robot-pets.html.