As we get older, living a healthy lifestyle becomes more important than ever. This is mainly due to most diseases and illnesses being age-related and can drastically impact our quality of life. So no matter what age you are now, here are three tips on how you can stay healthy as you age and avoid having to live in a nursing home.
#1: Eat Healthy and Exercise
This is probably the most obvious way to stay healthy as you age. Eating a balanced and nutritious diet and staying physically active are the two best ways to avoid age-related illnesses— especially when used in combination. Examples of age-related illnesses that negatively impact the quality of life include:
- Type 2 diabetes
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
Unhealthy eating and an inactive lifestyle increase your chances of developing diabetes, high cholesterol, and hypertension (high blood pressure), which can all lead to heart disease. Osteoporosis is the weakening of bones, and studies have shown that regular exercise and an increase in calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin K can be helpful in slowing the process.
Also, exercising regularly can help your heart, bones, lungs, muscles, and other organs and systems remain healthy. It’s important to aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. This can be any type of exercise that increases your heart rate (including weightlifting), although you may have to make some changes as you age. Some of the best activities for older individuals include:
- Chair aerobics
Even activities like cleaning your home and working in the yard or garden provide physical activity. You can also choose to take dance classes or play your favorite sport(s) as a fun way to stay active.
#2: Prepare Your Home for Aging in Place
One of the biggest threats to older individuals is falling. Elder falls pose the risk of severe fractures, broken bones, and even death— and the majority of falls occur in the elder’s own home. For this reason, it’s important to prepare your home for aging in place as you get older.
Aging in place refers to remaining in one’s own home as opposed to moving into assisted living or even into a retirement center. However, to successfully age in place, you must be able to do so both safely and comfortably. Certain changes may have to be made to your home, such as:
- Walk-in bathtubs/showers instead of traditional ones
- Vinyl flooring instead of ceramic, hardwood, and other extremely hard flooring
- Low-pile carpet instead of high-pile carpet (tripping hazard)
- Easy-to-grab door knobs and handles
- Chairlifts or residential elevators for multi-floor homes
- Accessibility for wheelchairs/walkers/etc.
The interior design of your home is definitely something to think about if you want to continue living there as opposed to moving into a nursing home.
#3: Stay Cognitvely and Socially Active
Finally, it’s important to stay both mentally (in a cognitive sense) and socially active as you age. Keeping your mind active can lower your risk of developing certain types of dementia while staying socially active is good for your mental health— a problem often ignored in the aging community. Some of the best activities for keeping your mind active include:
- Mastering a new skill, such as playing an instrument
- Learning a new language
- Doing crossword and jigsaw puzzles
- Creating art
All of these activities that help keep your mind active are also social activities that can keep you connected with others. Social isolation is also pretty common in nursing homes.
It’s usually those who are not cognitively active (for whatever reason) that are placed in nursing homes, and these individuals are also more likely to be neglected and even abused by nursing home staff. Of course, not everyone can completely avoid developing dementia or a traumatic brain injury, but taking certain measures to protect yourself can help.
Taking care of both your physical and mental (including cognitive, social/emotional, etc.) health is essential for a healthy lifestyle and can have lifelong positive impacts. Also, making sure your home is safe for you to continue living in is key to avoiding nursing home placement. However, nursing homes are the best option for some people, so it’s important to do your research and find a quality nursing home. It’s also important to speak up and reach out to an attorney if you or a loved one has been a victim of nursing home abuse and/or neglect.