“Use it or lose it.” A phrase our elderly parents are starting to hear from their doctors. As mom and dad move into their well-deserved golden years, their bodies start slow down — and that’s when health issues start to creep up. If you’re concerned about the health and wellbeing of your parents, try suggesting these ideas to help nurture a life of wellness.
Stepping outside can transform an elderly parent’s health from multiple aspects — physically, mentally, emotionally and even spiritually, says American Trails. Dr. Michael Pratt of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He promotes walking because it’s cheap, simple and accessible, while supporting mobility and independence. It’s also preventive against certain conditions, such as osteoporosis, heart disease and high blood pressure.
Emotionally, long walks outside can help combat depression and improve self-worth. Frequent strolls provide opportunities to connect with the community, clear the mind and boost brain power, which empowers a fulfilling life. If your parent suffers from loneliness, adopting a dog may help fill that void. A furry companion can restore a sense of purpose, especially since the pet needs to go on walks as well.
Tip: Equip you parent with a mobile medical alert device as a safety cushion. You can ensure you parent has access to help in case an emergency occurs when they’re alone and away from home. A medical alert system can notify agents who are trained in emergency procedures
For elderly parents with a more adventurous spirit, join them on a hike. Traversing on uneven terrain with a pack on helps maintain balance and build strength. Like walking, hiking aids in decreasing the effects of aging, extends life expectancy, improves cognition and enhances quality of life. Your parent may also feel a greater sense of reward since hiking offers more of a challenge.
For those who want to hit the trails but may need light training, Backpacker lays out an eating right and strength-building plan. Create a grocery list with your parent that includes antioxidants, extra protein, fruits and veggies. Following Backpacker’s strength-training guide can also help with joint pressure, circulation and preparing for pain-free inclines.
Tip: Gear up with trekking poles or walking sticks. More and more older hikers use these for balance, stability, better endurance and alleviated pressure on joints.
The SoulCycle spinning craze isn’t just for hip, young urbanites. Indoor cycling is just as popular for older adults. Jacob Girlinghouse, a physical therapist with Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital, says many senior-specific classes are taught by instructors who modify for this age group. At these spinning studios, cyclers follow instructions to sit, stand and increase/decrease resistance, which mimics climbing, sprinting and coasting.
This type of aerobic activity allows an elderly adult to be more in control of their elements for a safer ride. It’s a low-impact exercise to help with joint relief and gets the heart pumping. This means pushing those pedals boosts endurance, lowers blood pressure, reduces stress and strengthens the lower body. Attending classes also fosters socialization as your parent continues to ride alongside others regularly.
Tip: Speak with a physician before your parent hops on a bike, especially if they have a heart or medical condition, injury or pain. Riding a regular stationary bike first can help ease into the activity.
Seniors may find it easier to eat prepackaged snacks or meals, as grocery shopping and cooking can be strenuous on an elderly parent. What your mom or dad needs is a healthy plate that includes lean protein, fruits and vegetables, a whole grain and low-fat dairy. This type of plate supplements your parent’s active and independent lifestyle that you’re trying to support, as well as nourishes the body with nutrients and helps fight chronic conditions.
Tip: Meal delivery services for seniors make it easy for your parent to conveniently eat nutritionally balanced meals customized to portion sizes and food preferences.
There are simple ways to help your parents improve their wellness. Keep healthy with these easy-to-implement tips.