New Year's Resolutions for Seniors

Senior Care

As we leave 2021 behind us and look forward to a new year, it’s a popular time to make resolutions to improve our quality of life and the lives of our friends and family. People tend to get more settled in their habits as they get older, but it's never too late for seniors to start making changes that will have a positive impact on their health. With that in mind, here are five suggested New Year's resolutions for your senior loved ones.

1: Healthy eating

It's hard cooking for one, and it's easy to lose interest in meal planning if you are following the same recipes week after week. As the seniors in your life get older, their dietary needs change, and it's important to keep an eye on maintaining a balanced diet. Malnutrition is a risk in the elderly, but paying attention to your loved ones’ eating habits can help prevent such problems from developing.

A healthy diet is also critical in maintaining good blood pressure, which is very important for older people. Avoid things like processed food, salty snacks, and canned soups, and instead focus on  lean meats, vegetables, and whole grains high in fiber to prevent high blood pressure.

If you or a caregiver are involved in grocery shopping or meal prep for your parents or grandparents, encourage them to get involved in the kitchen as much as they are able. Whether that means physically helping prepare food or looking through recipes for new things to try, remember that healthy eating doesn't have to become boring or repetitive. If possible, try to share a dinner together every so often, or encourage your elders to record their family recipes so they can be passed down to their grandkids. It’s a great way to hold onto traditions, and it’s a touching way to spend time together, as well.

2: Exercise

Exercise is one of the most popular New Year's resolutions, but it's easy for anyone to get overwhelmed by new physical goals if you try to take them on all at once. The CDC recommends 150 minutes of aerobic activity a week , or about twenty minutes a day, to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It's important for seniors to stay as active as possible as they age, but people become less active and more sedentary as they get older. Many health problems can be prevented or delayed by embracing a physically active lifestyle. According to the NCBI , research in elderly populations shows that regular physical activity can benefit mood disorders and cognitive deficits, lessen pain, improve mobility, and increase independence.

Because everyone is different and has different physical needs, don't hesitate to talk to your loved ones’ doctor before they jump into a new exercise regime. And twenty minutes of aerobic exercise a day doesn't have to be strenuous. While joining an exercise class or a yoga group might be great for some people, it’s not for everyone. Something as simple as walking around the block has immense health benefits, and getting out into the fresh air has great benefits for the mind, as well. Which leads to our next resolution:

3: Spend more time outdoors

It's easy for seniors to become cooped up in the house, but fresh air and sunshine can make a big difference in anyone's mental state, whether they are young or old. Some seniors have mobility issues that make it difficult to go for walks or spend time gardening, but even sitting outside when the weather is nice has benefits.

A study has shown that older people who spend thirty minutes or more outdoors every day report fewer depressive symptoms, less fear of falling, and a higher quality of life. Spending thirty minutes a day in the sun will also help meet their vitamin D requirements. Vitamin D is important in helping with bone health, anti-inflammation, immune support, and muscle function. But be careful that your parents or grandparents always wear sunscreen to protect their skin from harmful UV rays. 

If possible, try to spend time outdoors every day with your senior loved ones, whether that's going for a walk through a park, working in the garden, or sitting on the patio. Nature is rejuvenating, and it's easy to forget how important it is when we’re so busy indoors all the time.

4: Embrace a positive outlook

Keeping a positive attitude is sometimes easier said than done. While healthy eating, fresh air and exercise all contribute to a better mood, sometimes your loved ones will need more help to get there.

Anxiety and depression are common in older people, but that doesn’t mean they should be accepted as a normal state of mind. Only 10% of seniors with depression seek help for it, partly because of the stigma attached to treating mental health issues, but also because depression can look different in seniors compared to young adults. If you notice signs of depression in your parents or grandparents, encourage them to reach out to their family doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health published a study in 2019 that found that optimistic people have an average 11-15% longer lifespan than pessimists. And while depression and anxiety are natural, having a more positive mindset can come with practice. Finding healthy coping mechanisms to deal with stress, activities to keep the brain occupied and prevent boredom, and a social circle of friends or family to encourage positivity are all important tools in keeping people of any age from getting stuck in a negative mindset.

Check in with your loved ones on a regular basis to see how they’re feeling. Which leads to our last resolution, and maybe the most important:

5: Spend more time with loved ones

Whether it's work, kids, or appointments, we’re all leading busy lives. It's important to consciously set time aside to spend with our loved ones, especially as they get older. Try to dedicate some time to them, whether it's a weekly phone or video call, a play date with the grandkids, or a get together with the whole family. Make sure the seniors in your life know that you’re thinking about them, and that you value the time you spend together.

Social isolation doesn’t just lead to loneliness. It’s also linked to serious health concerns like an increased risk of dementia, depression, and hospitalization. If the seniors in your life live alone, consider the benefits of getting them a caregiver, or looking into companionship care . Even if your single parent or grandparent is still physically capable of caring for themselves, loneliness is a huge factor when it comes to a lower quality of life. If they don’t have much of a social life or you live too far away to visit regularly, companionship care may be the right choice for them, without them having to move out of their own home.

And that’s our list of New Year’s resolution suggestions. Try one or try all five, and may your 2022 be brighter, happier, and healthier for you and your loved ones.