After the holiday season, many seniors are left feeling exhausted, overwhelmed or even a bit helpless. Between visiting with the grandkids, putting up festive decorations, and hosting a dinner for friends and family, older adults may feel like they haven’t had any time to take care of themselves. Thankfully, the new year promises a fresh start and a plethora of potential resolutions. While seniors’ priorities and desires may look completely different than when they were younger, there are plenty of ways older adults can enhance their lives and achieve new goals. Here’s a list of our top 10 New Year’s resolutions for seniors.
1. Adopt a Nutritious Diet
A balanced and nutritious diet can help seniors feel energized throughout the day and prevent various health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and osteoporosis. Older adults should focus on adding more nutrient-dense foods—such as proteins, fruits and vegetables—and foods high in calcium and vitamin B12 into their diets.1
Staying hydrated is also essential for maintaining a healthy diet. Try to drink 57.5 fluid ounces per day; otherwise, you may begin to experience dehydration symptoms like weakness, dizziness and confusion.2 Dehydration can also affect the kidneys and could lead to kidney failure if left untreated.
2. Eliminate Unhealthy Habits
A common habit that many older adults try to quit is smoking. A study from The New England Journal of Medicine found that smokers between the ages of 55 and 74 are three times more likely to pass away within six years than those who have never smoked.3 Older adults should also reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption. Due to social and physical changes, seniors are more likely to misuse or abuse alcohol.4 This can lead to several health problems and even addiction.
3. Practice an Active Lifestyle
As an aging adult, one of the most important things you can do for your health is to stay physically active. Adopting a regular physical activity routine lowers your risk of several diseases and keeps your muscles strong, meaning you can remain independent longer.
While any physical activity is better than none, doctors recommend seniors incorporate the following exercises each week:5
- Aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, hiking, jogging or running
- Strength activity, such as weightlifting, body weight exercises, resistance bands or yoga
- Balance activity, such as dancing, yoga, or tai chi
4. Cultivate Your Hobbies
After retirement, many find themselves with extra free time on their hands, and there seems to be a never-ending list of New Year’s activities for seniors to enjoy. This is the perfect opportunity to learn a new skill or reconnect with one of your favorite pastimes. Various studies found that keeping the mind stimulated with activities like quilting, puzzling and playing music can improve memory and self-esteem, reduce stress levels, and possibly delay cognitive decline.4 What better way to spend the new year than nourishing your cognitive health and having fun?
5. Form Better Sleep Habits
Getting a good night’s sleep not only keeps you from feeling tired all day but it also plays a crucial role in your health. In fact, seniors who consistently don’t sleep enough or experience poor-quality sleep are at an increased risk of health problems, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and obesity.6
Developing a regular sleep schedule and following a bedtime routine is a great way to help your body prepare for sleep. Seniors should use low lighting during the evenings and minimize blue-light exposure before going to bed.7 It’s also important for older adults to make sure they’re taking prescription medicine at the right time of day, as some medications can affect sleep.
6. Stay on Top of Your Doctors’ Visits
Make your health a priority this year by scheduling your medical appointments in advance. Start by making an appointment with your primary care doctor early in the year. Your primary care physician can help you understand your overall health and implement any recommended changes. They can also direct you to specialty doctors you should start seeing. It may also be a good idea to note what time of year you should plan to receive a vaccine. Having these appointments on your calendar early can help keep you organized and healthy.
7. Nurture Your Relationships
It’s important to stay connected with friends and family as we age. If we don’t, we’re more likely to feel isolated or lonely, which can be detrimental to our health. In fact, not only can loneliness leave you at an increased risk for depression, but it also increases your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke by 30%.8 In addition to your physical well-being, chatting with your friends regularly can improve your mental and cognitive health. A study from the University of Penn suggests that seniors who engage in frequent, positive socialization experience improved memory and cognition skills.
For those who prefer in-person connections but live far away from family and friends, HomeWell’s Life Enrichment Activities Program (LEAP) may be able to help. This program is designed to ease feelings of loneliness and isolation by providing seniors with companionship and care services from a compassionate caregiver of their choice.
8. Evaluate Your Home’s Safety
Sometimes, as we age, we take our home’s safety for granted. Things begin to pile up in the corners, lightbulbs burn out and are never replaced, or the smoke detector goes unchecked for five years. Prioritize safety this year by taking a careful look at your home and identifying what hazards need to be fixed.
Here are a few tips seniors can do to feel safer at home:
- Remove trip hazards and clutter from walkways
- Install grab bars or railing in the bathroom
- Replace lights in poorly lit areas
- Check outdoor spaces for large cracks, broken steps, or other hazards
- Check the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors annually
Another way seniors can cultivate a safer living environment is by participating in HomeWell’s SureStep Prevention program. Through this program, clients receive a custom-designed in-home care plan that addresses a variety of factors, providing them with peace of mind and a complete care solution to fall prevention.
9. Organize Your Affairs
While it may not be the most fun, being proactive and getting important documents in order may be the best thing seniors can do for themselves this year. Aging adults should consider meeting with a lawyer to prepare their will, appoint a durable power of attorney for finances, and organize a living trust. Be sure to keep all these documents in one place and share the location with your loved ones or your attorney. Older adults may also consider talking with their loved ones about organ donation and funeral preferences.
You or your loved one may want to avoid these types of decisions, but preparing for end-of-life situations can ease the stress for family members, provide peace of mind, and help ensure that your wishes are honored.
10. Discuss the Need for Home Care
No one likes to think about the day they cannot take care of themselves, and many families never have the conversation about who is going to care for mom or dad. While these discussions can be frustrating or disheartening, families who are prepared experience less stress and anxiety when the need for in-home assistance becomes a reality.
Families should decide whether a family member will become the designated caregiver or whether it would be best to hire a professional through a home care provider like HomeWell Care Services. Seniors should be involved in these conversations, as well, to ensure that their wishes are heard and their well-being is maintained. No, this may not be the most exciting New Year’s resolution for seniors, but it is certainly one of the most important.
Regardless of how well or how long you maintained your resolution last year, the new year is the perfect time to start anew. Take some time to reflect on this past year—what went right and what could have gone better—then decide what you want to see change in the new year and make it a reality.
1. Best Diet for Seniors: How to Eat Well and Stay Healthy | HealthPartners
2. Q&A: How to Prevent, Detect, & Treat Dehydration in Aging Adults | Better Health While Aging
3. 50-Year Trends in Smoking-Related Mortality in the United States | National Library of Medicine
4. Cognitive Health and Older Adults | National Institute on Aging
5. How Much Physical Activity Do Older Adults Need? | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
6. A Good Night’s Sleep | National Institute on Aging
7. How Blue Light Affects Sleep | Sleep Foundation