With rising rates of chronic diseases like Alzheimer’s and heart disease among populations of aging adults, reshaping the idea and approach to senior health has never been more important.
Supplying older adults with the tools and skills they need to manage their own health effectively can make all the difference in both their longevity as well as quality of life. How can care networks and medical providers do this?
Educating seniors about easy ways to monitor their own health and wellbeing at home must come from their overseeing medical doctors and potentially home health aids. This might include training on how to monitor blood pressure, dress wounds, track blood sugar, manage a healthy diet, and get routine exercise.
When patients have control over their health, not only do they feel more confident and self-reliant, but it can prevent complications down the line including rehospitalization, infection, and death. Education may come in the form of classes at the hospital, home visits from medical providers, or assistance from community leaders.
Did you know that roughly half of all patients don’t take their medicine as prescribed? For seniors especially, many factors play a key role in poor medicine adherence including complicated medicine regimens, lack of caregiver support, and difficulty remembering and setting reminders.
Guidance to ensure that medicine is taken correctly to be the most effective in treating illnesses and injuries might include better visual aids and written descriptions, training patients and caregivers, as well as simplifying dosages and frequencies at which medicines are taken.
Want to encourage seniors to get out and stay active? Not only does routine exercise and social interaction boost physical health (lowers blood pressure, aids arthritis and osteoporosis, reduces risk of heart disease, etc), but it’s great for mental health as well, helping prevent cognitive decline and dementia.
Get serious about mobility
Seniors with mobility issues may be more likely to avoid physical fitness and even simply getting out of the house to run errands. Equipping seniors with easy-to-use mobility aids like quad canes, knee scooters, and walkers motivates them to stay active, get out and about, and avoid sedentary habits that can have a negative effect on their health.
While digital innovation and applications might seem more in tune with younger generations, seniors are largely going to benefit from embracing technology. Both as a way to stay connected with friends and family near and far (social media, Skype, etc), and also as a way to manage their own health (tracking prescriptions, symptoms, appointments, etc), everything from virtual assistants to smartphone apps can transform the quality of senior living.
The former school of thought had seniors spending their “Golden Years” resting as much as possible and “taking it easy.” Today’s senior mantra, however, couldn’t be more different. Seniors are feeling motivated to be more adventurous and active than ever before.
In addition to low-impact exercises like hiking, swimming, tennis, dancing, and rowing, mindfulness cultivating practices like yoga are being recommended more and more for senior adults. Why? In addition to alleviating arthritis and back pain, yoga practice for elderly adults has been shown to reduce stress, help lower blood pressure, prevent cognitive decline, and reverse bone loss.
The extension of a senior’s family may be vast, and the time they get to spend with their younger grandkids and great grandkids may actually be really good for their health too. Like younger children, seniors need to hone fine motor skills to maintain strong brain health. Spending time in a nursing home with child visitors or working out at a multigenerational playground could do wonders for reinvigorating senior health (in a fun way too!).
The final decades of life shouldn’t fall prey to poor health management and mobility problems. With the right tools and support from health and care networks, seniors can be pursuing goals and passions like never before.