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Seniors’ Guide to Taking Control of Your Health

This article was written by Sharon Wagner of

As we age, it’s common to experience a decline in health across all aspects of our life. Our joints stop working the way they once did, our balance is thrown off, and our skin stops bouncing back like it did when we were younger. Our mental health can decline as well, especially if we are not as social as we once were. Once all of our children have flown the nest, a decreasing sense of purpose can lead to negative self-thoughts and low morale.

All of these factors can create a lesser quality of life, which only furthers the decline of our health. However, with a little effort, it is possible to take back control of our physical, mental, and spiritual health to increase our overall wellness.

Sleep Well

A chronic lack of sleep can create problems for people of all ages, but can be especially detrimental to seniors. If you’re having trouble catching Zs night after night, take a look at your bedroom. Has it been seven or more years since you’ve replaced your mattress? If so, it’s probably lost its ability to support your spine, and it’s undoubtedly full of unhygienic dust mites, sweat, and dead skin cells. Make an investment in buying a new one — which is also an investment in your overall health — and find one that keeps your spine in alignment and keeps you cool while you sleep, which are two factors that often inhibit a good night of rest. Similarly, is outside light keeping you up each night? Adding some blackout curtains to your bedroom can help reduce ambient light and even noise that creeps into your bedroom, so you should consider adding a set to your bedroom.

If your bedroom is already a calming space that promotes restful sleep, making a few simple tweaks to your daily habits can help you increase the quality of your shuteye. Try winding down for bed an hour earlier with a good book rather than a TV show, and cut back on caffeine, especially if you’re used to indulging in a coffee or soda in the late afternoon.

Improving your Physical Health 

Many of the healthful practices that are encouraged for younger people are also very helpful for seniors. Exercising has numerous benefits for seniors, including a longer lifespan, increased mobility, and better bone density. Exercise can even prevent strokes, heart attacks, and falls. However, it is important to exercise appropriately according to your body’s needs. Running five miles as you did in your 20s just isn’t possible anymore, and attempting it is likely to do more harm than good. Instead, according to U.S. News, there are some strength exercises you can try that are both gentle and effective, such as chair squats – which is an activity done in the Move and Groove classes at YWCA Central Carolinas. Light aerobic activity, such as walking, can also be helpful. You might also want to try yoga or another routine to strengthen your balance and mobility. It’s important to take a balanced approach to your exercise routine and doing a little bit of everything.

Group exercise classes at YWCA Central Carolinas that are perfect for seniors (and those that are recovering from injury or need to be gentle on their joints) are Low Impact Interval Training (LIIT), Yoga – Exploring the Details, Aqua Arthritis Energizer, Aqua Tai Chi, and Industrial Strength Fitness’ recurring Tai Chi and Qigong series. You can see all of our classes on our Fitness Class page.

Eating a healthy diet is also a huge portion of your physical health. Did you know that many older adults overeat? As we get older, our caloric needs often decrease, but our eating habits do not change. This leads to overeating. Instead, you should aim to eat a healthy diet that is full of lean proteins and veggies. Of course, a sweet treat now and then isn’t going to cause any damage, but make sure it is balanced by a healthy meal or snack.

Taking Control of Your Mental Health

Mental health illnesses are more common in seniors than you might think. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, approximately 15 percent of adults over 60 have a mental disorder. As we age, it is common to find ourselves more isolated. Our children no longer live with us, and many of our family members are too busy to visit regularly. It can get lonely! To fend off the loneliness, it might be worthwhile to look into an emotional support dog. Emotional support dogs make great companions, and can provide comfort and support.

You might also want to re-discover a purpose. As our children move out and we retire, our original purpose can become lost. After all, we no longer have to take care of the kids or build a career. According to the Washington Post, people with a sense of purpose are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, heart attacks, and strokes. The easiest ways to discover this purpose is to re-ignite your flame for old pastimes and try new activities with friends or loved ones. Did you once have a love for photography but found that work got in the way? Pick up your camera again. Did you want to be an artist as a teenager? Perhaps you should try painting again. The important thing is that you keep moving and get engaged in activities you enjoy.

Aging can come with its own set of new problems, such as decreasing physical and emotional health. However, by taking a few steps to improve both areas of your life, you will reap benefits that will keep you living large for years to come. Remember, the key is to never stop moving.