How to Stay Healthy Without Help

Updated for December, 2021

Staying healthy is important and often synonymous with feeling vital and being independent. Indeed, health problems can cause various difficulties and complications to our lives as we age. Staying healthy means making healthy lifestyle choices that support our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. We can stay healthy without help if we are committed to living our best life and do what we can to live well as we age. Here are some of the key factors to staying healthy and tips on how to achieve optimum well-being!

woman smiling with an apple
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Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables along with enough proteins and whole grains is the key to a healthy diet.

A Healthy Diet

Your diet is one of the most important parts of having a healthy body. As we get older, our bodies aren’t able to take the abuse it used to when we were younger. Our metabolism and digestion slow down and we begin to feel the ill-effects of certain food choices. Where do we start and what determines a healthy diet? Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables along with enough proteins and whole grains is the key to a healthy diet. As we age, we need to get more fiber, calcium, essential fats, and vitamins to maintain our heart, brain, and immunity and enhance our longevity. Try and reduce sweets and eat smaller more frequent meals during your day to keep your energy up. Smoothies which are easy to make and digest are a wonderful way to get your vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein all in one. One more important thing to remember is to drink enough water (6–8 glasses a day). Seniors are more prone to dehydration as they have reduced thirst sensation and this can lead to serious health risks.

Enough Exercise and Rest

couple exercising together
Our body needs the right balance between the right foods, physical activity, and rest to stay healthy. Staying active by incorporating daily walks, recreational activities such as swimming, golf, gardening, dancing, bike-riding, and exercise classes geared to seniors, are all great ways to keep you healthy. Indeed, regular exercise can improve our cardiovascular health, reduce the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure, maintain a healthy weight, and improve muscle and bone density, physical and mental longevity.

Having enough quality sleep is one of the things that also can affect our overall health. Our immunity is diminished when we don’t get enough sleep, which is a more significant problem as we age. Getting appropriate exercise can enhance our sleep quality along with sticking to a sleep schedule and keeping your bedroom cool and dark while you sleep.

Cut Out the Bad Habits

We’ve heard it before, ‘we are creatures of habit’ and ‘old habits die hard.’ However, when it comes to bad habits that jeopardize our health, there are serious reasons why we should ‘kick the habit.’ Whether its smoking, alcohol, drugs, or eating junk food, there are proven methods to help you make a positive change. Try and stick with one habit at a time, so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Instead of quitting cold turkey, we need to reduce the frequency of the bad habit gradually. In fact, one of the best strategies is to ‘replace’ the action (bad habit) with a new one that gives you a similar reward. So, when you feel the urge or craving, take another action instead. Make a plan and an exact date to start your new routine. For example, if stress or boredom trigger your cravings, figure out a ‘better’ alternative to the habit such as playing your favorite music to boost your mood, calling a friend, or going outdoors for a walk or staying busy with a hobby you love. After some time, we can ‘reprogram’ ourselves and do more of the ‘good’ habits than the ‘bad’ ones.

Maintain Your Body

Senior Exercise
Practicing good hygiene affects our overall health by reducing our exposure to bacteria and disease. Washing your hands before you eat, after being in public spaces, using the bathroom and being in contact with someone who is ill, are preventative measures we should all take. Brushing and flossing a minimum of twice a day to prevent tooth decay is also a must. Bathing and showering regularly also keeps us feeling fresh and socially presentable.

Getting regular check-ups with your doctor and dentist are important to make sure all is well. Even though we may feel ‘fine,’ prevention is the key and remember any health issue that is uncovered early has a higher chance of full recovery.

A 2017 survey revealed that almost one-third of seniors have no emergency savings and 70 percent have less than six months of savings

Elderly couple looking over canyons

Meaningful Relationships

We shouldn’t overlook our emotional well-being and how it impacts our overall health. Indeed, our emotions and how we feel towards essential people in our lives can contribute significantly to our feelings of validation and happiness. Healthy relationships with people that we trust, love and respect, enrich our lives. We need to remember that compromise and forgiveness are necessary to maintaining meaningful relationships, but also honestly recognize which relationships don’t nurture and support us emotionally. We need to walk away from an abusive relationship as they can severely impact our wellbeing. Weed out and eliminate the relationships that negatively affect you and prioritize your significant relationships by investing quality time and attention to them. Stay in touch, visit and spend time with your loved ones and closest friends as much as possible.

Social Interaction

A circle of friends and acquaintances can provide the social stimulus necessary for us to feel connected and integrated into our local community and environment. Recreational groups, senior communities, and clubs can provide a source of fun as well as keep us busy, active and happy. Here we can find commonality and camaraderie among others with similar interests and lifestyles. Indeed, staying socially active can help reduce depression and isolation which affects many seniors as they age. Regularly check in with your local senior community to find out if there are any recreational activities, groups or classes to join. Even organized shopping outings or visits to the local library can provide a pleasant social exchange with fellow seniors.

Having a Purpose or Passion

woman volunteering
Just because we are older doesn’t mean we should give up on our dreams or goals. Indeed, for many retirees, this is the time they’ve waited for to focus on doing the things they loved and didn’t have time for when they were younger. Whether it’s a lifelong hobby or a new interest or skill we’ve wanted to learn, hobbies and interests can spark our passion and give us a focus point for our creative side. If you always dreamed of pursuing acting or singing, go ahead and join the local drama group or choir. You may have never really had the time to dedicate playing the piano or guitar, but you’ve got time now! Go ahead, take a cooking class, learn a new language, join a photography class and give it a try. You may discover you’ve got undiscovered talent, but either way, exploring and learning new skills are great ways to stay mentally active and meet new friends.

Volunteering is a meaningful way to integrate social activity while helping others. Whether you volunteer through a national non-profit organization, local charity group, hospital, church, library or even a grandchild’s school, it doesn’t matter how big or small your role. In fact, there are many types of volunteering jobs available and you can find the right volunteer role through various sources. Ask friends and other seniors what volunteering they do. You can contact a charitable organization that you admire directly to see what types of volunteering roles they have. Another great resource is a web-based tool called Volunteer March which can tell you which volunteer opportunities are in your local area by searching your zip code. Similar to how working and staying busy can be therapeutic, volunteering helps us to apply our energy in an outward positive way and thereby distracts us from focusing too much on internal issues and personal problems. Indeed, it may help reduce the risk of depression associated with loss of a loved one and isolation. In this way, the rewards of volunteering to our emotional health can be immeasurable.