The year 2020 came with increased levels of stress, social isolation, and worry surrounding the novel coronavirus. The beginning of 2021 can be a perfect time to start fresh and establish some new and perhaps healthier habits. People who are already suffering from chronic conditions should set simple and realistic goals that are manageable with their health challenges.
As a primary care provider who specializes in caring for older adults, I believe having a goal-oriented mindset can be beneficial. As a new year rolls out, I encourage my patients to keep their New Year’s resolution if they made one or to establish some health goals now. Here are five achievable resolutions to kick off the year on the right foot.
Health Goals for Older Adults to Promote a Healthy Life
Pursue an active lifestyle
Staying active is a great goal to have every year. While some exercise opportunities have become limited due to the pandemic, it is still important to stay as active as possible through home exercise. Adults can engage in resistance training at home, aerobics, yoga and walks around their neighborhood. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), regular physical activity is vital for healthy aging.1 Talk to your doctor before significantly increasing your activity level and ask about the type and amount of activity that may be best for you.
Focus on home-cooked meals and healthy snacks. As an active gardener who keeps my own chickens, I know firsthand the benefits of healthy eating habits and gardening.
If you’re restricted to a special diet after developing an allergy or condition talk to your doctor about your meal plan. Depending on how they are prepared, home-cooked meals can often have lower levels of sodium, sugar and fat when compared to meals at a restaurant.
Challenge your brain and stimulate your mind
It is important to practice a form of daily brain stimulation. According to the National Institute of Aging, age can cause changes to the brain size, vasculature and cognition2. A healthy life, both physically and mentally, may be the best defense against the changes of an aging brain. Completing crossword puzzles or playing games such as chess can be fun ways to keep your mind active while enjoying a new hobby.
Stay connected with friends and family
A dose of time with family and friends can be very beneficial. The National Institute of Aging mentions that older people with strong social and community ties are more likely to live a longer life3 and cites research stating that being in isolation can contribute to high blood pressure.4 I recommend adults stay in touch with loved ones either virtually or safely (socially distanced) indoors or outdoors. If you are not familiar with video call or messaging apps, this is the perfect opportunity to learn more about this technology that can help your family and friends stay more connected. Make it goal to learn something new this year!
Nurture an interest
According to the National Institute of Aging, people who engage in activities or hobbies can feel happier and healthier. Learning new skills can also increase cognitive function. Music, theater, dance and creative writing are just some ways that older adults can improve their wellbeing through hobbies. These specific interests can help with memory, boost self-esteem, reduce stress and increase social interactions.
It's important for all of us, and older adults especially, to stay focused on managing our health. Stating our intention, through a resolution or health goal, can help us maintain our commitment and stay on track.
1Adults Need More Physical Activity | Physical Activity | CDC
2How the Aging Brain Affects Thinking | National Institute on Aging (nih.gov)
3Do Social Ties Affect Our Health? | NIH News in Health
4Social isolation, loneliness in older people pose health risks | National Institute on Aging (nih.gov)