He sits alone - the windows shut; the curtains drawn; and the television flickering softly in the background, the only steady companionship to find. He has no family to rely on, nor friends to seek. Isolation defines his days. It’s a lonely existence, punctuated only by the occasional visits from well-meaning (but busy) neighbors; and, in the endless quiet, he sighs.
This is the all too common portrait of seniors. According to a recent study from AARP, those over the age of 65 often lead inactive lives - with a series of physical, emotional, and mental limitations interfering with their abilities to connect with the outside world:
Characteristic: Divorced, Separated, or Widowed.
Senior Population Affected: Approximately 18 million.
Characteristic: Disabled (Physically or Mentally).
Senior Population Affected: Approximately 17 million.
Characteristic: Living Alone (Non-Institutionalized).
Senior Population Affected: Approximately 11 million.
Characteristic: Low Income (Below Poverty Line)
Senior Population Affected: Approximately 4 million.
Characteristic: Language Difficulties (Limited English Proficiency).
Senior Population Affected: Approximately 3 million.
Characteristic: Inability to Leave Home (Due to Disability).
Senior Population Affected: Approximately 2 million.
Characteristic: Never Married.
Senior Population Affected: Approximately 1.5 million
These elements combine to foster isolated existences, leaving men and women to experience acute loneliness and a lack of meaningful social engagements. This impacts overall quality of life, with the JAMA International Medicine Network reporting drastic declines in health for those identifying as ‘lonely’:
Decline of ADL (Activities of Daily Living)
Inactive Seniors: 24.8%
Active Seniors: 12.5%
Inactive Seniors: 41.5%
Active Seniors: 28.3%
Decline in Mobility
Inactive Seniors: 38.1%
Active Seniors: 29.4%
Inactive Seniors: 22.8%
Active Seniors: 14.2%
These statistics highlight the dangers of inactivity - as well as the necessity of implementing lifestyle changes.
Understanding the Reach of an Active Lifestyle
Too often, seniors equate activity with simple exercise. While movement is a key element of any healthcare plan, it doesn’t fully capture the essence of active living. Instead, those over the age of 65 must embrace a well-rounded routine, emphasizing movement, nutrition, socialization, and mental stimulation.
An active lifestyle is meant to promote health - both physical and emotional. It allows seniors to strengthen their bodies, improve their cognitive abilities, and maintain a greater level of independence. By engaging with the world, men and women can enhance every day.
The Path to Activity
The necessity of an active lifestyle proves impossible to deny. The implementation of that lifestyle, however, is often deemed challenging - with seniors forced to accommodate physical disabilities and emotional handicaps (such as a rise in depression, with Healthline noting a one out of five rate for those over 65). Isolation seems too great an issue to counter.
Through a targeted lifestyle plan, however, this issue can be overcome.
Recognizing the Importance of Exercise
A little bit of movement reaps massive rewards. The Centers for Disease Control reports that seniors who regularly exercise experience several key lifestyle advantages, including:
Increase of Life Expectancy
Active seniors achieve up to 18.4 years of increased life expectancies, compared the 12.7 years achieved by inactive seniors.
Decrease in Injuries
Through balance-based exercise programs, seniors experience a 58% reduction in total falls or stumbles - greatly reducing overall injuries and the need for hospitalization.
Decrease in Medical Costs
Active seniors have considerably fewer medical expenses than their inactive counterparts:
Age: 45 to 54
Active: $1000 per year.
Inactive: $1000 per year.
Age: 55 to 64
Active: $1100 per year.
Inactive: $1300 per year.
Age: 65 to 74
Active: $1500 per year.
Inactive: $2000 per year.
Active: $2000 per year.
Inactive: $3300 per year.
The value of movement extends beyond the physical (or the financial). It also bolsters happiness, with the Huffington Post reporting that regular exercise activates endorphin production - which inspires feelings of goodwill. This allows seniors to immediately and easily improve their well-being.
It also helps to combat isolation, alleviating pains associated with age and boosting overall energy. This enables seniors to seek out social engagements and interact with the world.
It’s vital that seniors establish an exercise routine, using low-impact motions to increase their health. Consider:
- Stationary Cycling.
- Water Aerobics.
- Chair Yoga.
- Leg Curls.
- Hip Flexions.
These exercises accommodate limited mobility and help to increase health. They’re also often offered through local gyms or day centers, promoting social opportunities. Click here to read an article which lists 10 simple and effective exercises for women over 40 years old.
Embracing a Healthy Diet
An improved lifestyle begins with an improved diet. Seniors, however, often struggle with nutrition, with strict budgets, limited transportation access, and physical disabilities interfering with their abilities to create proper meal plans. Because of these, their health suffers greatly. According to a study from Feeding America:
Approximately 5.4 million seniors experience food insecurity (a lack of nutritious foods or an inability to cook these once having obtained them). Of these individuals:
These symptoms impede active lifestyles. It becomes essential, therefore, for seniors to adopt smart eating habits - ensuring that both their health and emotional stabilities remain intact.
According to the National Institute of Health, seniors should fuse their daily diets with:
Food Type: Vegetables
Benefits: Antioxidants, Phytochemicals.
Recommended Servings: 2 to 3 cups.
Recommended Foods: Kale, Spinach, Collard Greens, Sweet Potatoes.
Food Type: Fruits
Benefits: Vitamin A, Vitamin C
Recommended Servings: 2 to 3 cups.
Recommended Foods: Oranges, Apples, Bananas, Strawberries.
Food Type: Grains.
Benefits: Fiber, Iron.
Recommended Servings: 6 to 7 ounces.
Recommended Foods: Whole Wheat Bread, Whole Wheat Pasta, Brown Rice, Cereal.
Food Type: Dairy.
Benefits: Calcium, Vitamin D.
Recommended Servings: 1,200-mg.
Recommended Foods: Low-Fat Milk, Low-Fat Cheese, Low-Fat Yogurt, Low-Fat Butter.
Food Type: Protein.
Benefits: Zinc, Vitamin B.
Recommended Servings: 68-grams to 102-grams.
Recommended Foods: Poultry, Seafood, Beef, Tofu.
By establishing healthy diets, seniors can improve their health - making it far easier to pursue active lifestyles.
Understanding the Social Advantage
The cornerstone of an active lifestyle is socialization. Through meaningful interactions, seniors redefine their emotional well-beings. According to a recent Gallup poll, those engaged in regular conversation report increased positivity and reduced stress:
Amount of Social Time: None
Amount of Social Time: 1 Hour
Amount of Social Time: 2 Hours
Amount of Social Time: 3 Hours
Amount of Social Time: 4 Hours
Amount of Social Time: 5 Hours
Amount of Social Time: 6 Hours
This proves a clear correlation between socialization and quality of life. Seniors should, therefore, find ways to connect with the world. These ways may include:
By establishing contact with others, seniors can enhance their lives - replacing isolation with friendship, support, and communication.
Improving Cognitive Functions
Isolation wreaks havoc on the mind. According to a study from Massey University, those suffering from inactive (and unengaged) lifestyles experience an accelerated loss of cognitive capacities:
These elements combine to expedite the arrival of Alzheimer’s, Dementia, or other forms of cognitive failure - rendering seniors unable to live independently. It becomes crucial, therefore, to create an active schedule to challenge the mind and improve overall logic skills.
To do this, seniors can:
Combine these options with socialization, stimulating neural responses and communication alike. This will ensure improved (and extended) cognitive functioning.
Through active lifestyles, seniors can transform their health - physical, mental, and emotional. They can battle isolation and improve each day.
Maintaining Activity Levels: Consult With a Physician
Before implementing a lifestyle plan - changing exercise routines, diets, and more - seniors should first consult with their physicians. Recognize that some activities may prove impossible, due to health limitations. Verify each goal before creating a new routine. This will ensure safe and effective results.
He spends his days alone - disconnected from the world and lacking the energy to change this. An inactive lifestyle has left him burdened with a weak body and a fading mind.
This isn’t the future he once imagined... and it’s not the present he now has to accept. Instead, by adopting a new plan, he can improve his well-being. He must:
- Introduce Low-Impact Exercise Into His Routine.
- Establish (and Follow) Nutritional Guidelines.
- Seek Socialization Through Senior-Centric Organizations and Groups.
- Improve Cognitive Functions Through Mentally Challenging Activities.
By accomplishing these goals, he can take control of his life and experience positivity. Isolation no longer needs to define him. Instead, happiness can shape each day.
An active lifestyle is essential for every senior. To learn more about how to create a custom plan, contact us today.