Health Care InformationFriday, August 22, 2014
Healthy Aging: Break Your Routine
We thought it proper to offer up a few tips for rounding out your wellness program. Healthy senior living isn't just about doing what you can to maintain your strength. Sustaining true wellness requires addressing your intellectual, emotional and spiritual needs, too.
Routine can worsen dementia.
If you do the same things, the same way every day, you are doing your brain a serious disservice. Without continuous and varied stimulation, the brain becomes accustomed to routine and begins to atrophy, or waste away, as unneeded neurological pathways break down.
Chronic boredom can cause reduce ability to adjust to a future unusual circumstance. One can see the effect in prisoners or caged animals at the zoo — lack of a dynamic environment can cause one to exhibit bizarre behaviors, accelerate the onset of dementia or even result in madness.
1. Get physical, challenge your brain.
Healthy senior living depends upon getting off the couch and engaging the world around you. Getting regular exercise is important to your physical body, sure, but it also helps to keep your mind sharp.
Your brain naturally calculates and re-calculates to adjust your voluntary movements, balance and reflex responses as your exercise. It must deal with a constantly shifting set of variables to keep you from falling over and hurting yourself.
Your exercise does not need to be high-impact, either — it can be something as simple as taking your dog for a walk around the neighborhood, or working out to an aerobics DVD in your living room. Here are other ideas for low-impact, high-acuity activities you could try to stay sharp:
2. Be social.
It can be hard to maintain an active social life, especially in our later years. Friends move away or pass on, grown children become narrowly focused on the demands of their own households and children —we can be left feeling alone and overlooked. However, there are organized opportunities out there for lonely seniors to meet people.
Maybe an answer for you is to get out and get involved. You'll see new faces, have opportunities to make new friends and increase your overall feeling of wellness by joining a senior day program, a service club like Kiwanis or Lions, or a church social group. Some senior day programs even offer transportation to and from meet-ups.
3. Reach out.
Keeping up an honest communication with your loved ones can be difficult. Many people feel that opening up to family members about negative feelings places an undue burden on them, or makes one seem less able to maintain his or her independence.
But if your reaction to depression and loneliness is to shut yourself away in the house and stop engaging the world around you, you cannot expect to break the cycle. We all need someone to talk to, and we all need to feel loved and valued. When you feel overwhelmed, don't be afraid to pick up the phone and call your family, your minister, or a trusted neighbor.
Occasionally, though, it can take more than just talking to others to recover from a depressive episode. Many mental health providers specialize in senior living issues. Do some research with a trusted confidante — find out what providers are in your area, what credentials they may have and whether or not their services are covered by your health plan. Then, set an appointment. There's no weakness in asking for help. Remember, your wellness program must address the whole you.