How to care for the health of elderly family members
Appointments with a doctor, dentist or chiropractor, hearing and eyesight checks; the list goes on. Keeping healthy in old age is important whether it be for regular well-being and lifestyle care or for chronic illnesses and serious health issues.
People who had good health habits when they were younger tend to stay relatively healthy. But it is never too late. Good health habits can make a difference even to elderly people who are prone to illness or have not made their health a priority in the past.
To help you navigate their health care needs, we’ve put together our top tips for keeping healthy in old age.
Keeping our aged family members healthy and safe is on top of the to-do list for many of us and preparing a healthy, nutritional diet for them can sometimes be challenging. To keep the elderly in your family healthy, you should ensure that they also get the right amount of exercise; that’s where Sapphire Spas can help. The safe and supportive environment of buoyant, warm water is one of the best ways to encourage and protect the elderly from injury whilst exercising. It also puts some fun back into it too and the whole family can join in.
The Basics of Nutrition
Even if the elderly in your family live a healthy lifestyle that involves adequate amounts of exercise, following a healthy diet specifically designed for wellness in the later years, is a must. While some of the generic food intake and nutritional guidelines still apply to the elderly, they have certain specific nutritional needs that have to be met.
As we get older we often need fewer kilojoules because we are less active than when we were younger. However, we still need a similar amount of nutrients, sometimes more. For example, as we age our requirement for calcium increases and we need extra serves of low fat milk, yogurt and cheese. Follow this link to find out how many serves you need to eat per day.
This means our choices must be nutrient dense but not energy dense and we should be careful to choose discretionary foods only occasionally as these are higher in kilojoules.
To help your elderly family members get the best nutrition possible, you need to ensure that they consume a balanced diet with an adequate amount of vitamins and minerals, a lot of fresh green vegetables, fruits, nuts and a decent amount of lean protein. Moreover, you also need to ensure that they do not consume foods that are high in added salts or sugars, as this could increase the risk of complications due to high blood pressure and blood sugar respectively.
Areas of consideration for the elderly
While we all know what we should be eating and how much exercise is recommended for our current age, different concerns must be addressed when looking after people in their later years. Here are some exclusive points of health concern for the elderly:
Reduction in fat intake
It is always best practice to encourage the aged people in your family to keep away from foods that are high in saturated as well as a trans fat. These are ingredients that contribute to cholesterol and for people above the age of 60 – 65 years, they can lead to coronary heart diseases. You can help them by swapping these with some healthy alternatives.
Bone and muscle strength
Since ageing causes the reduction of both bone and muscle mass, it is vital that you ensure the aged members of your family engage in some form of light physical exercise or yoga. For example, brisk walking once a day for at least 15 to 20 minutes is beneficial in maintaining a healthy bone and muscle density as well as a good lifestyle.
This is also where a spa pool or swim spa would be beneficial. With the assistance of our support bar, those of you requiring help with stability can still use a swim spa with confidence. Any exercise, stretch or mild cardio workout can just as effectively be performed whilst holding the bar, mounted in front of the swim jets, for support.
Good daily routine
A habit of sleeping on time, waking up on time, eating on time can have enormous health benefits. Good quality sleep can minimise the risk of diabetes and heart diseases and will also motivate the elderly to look after themselves with a more alert frame of mind.
Dental problems in people above the age of 60 are a major point of concern. It is not uncommon for the elderly to have some gum diseases or other dental problems, so it is best to provide the elderly with recipes that are healthy as well as soft to chew.
The risk for cavities goes up with age. Plus, many mouth infections can be linked to serious health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke. So elderly people should visit the dentist regularly for check-ups.
Importance of Fibre and Fluid
A healthy diet for the elderly cannot be complete without an adequate dose of fluids and fibrous foods. Since constipation and dehydration can be common post the age of 60 years, it is of utmost importance that you ensure the aged people in your household consume enough fibre and fluids.
Circumstances, health problems, budgets and eating issues can mean that our range of foods gets smaller as we get older. However, it remains important to eat widely from all the food groups to make sure we get the nutrients we need. Trouble shooting and a few tips can keep a wide variety of foods in our meals and snacks. If your budget is more limited, plan well, use what’s available and buy only what you need. If you’re cooking for one, collect some healthy, but quick and easy ideas and try to organise to eat regularly with friends or family. If nuts, grains and hard fruits and vegetables are a problem for your teeth, go for milled wholegrains, soft cooked and canned fruits and vegetables and nut pastes.
A Healthy Lifestyle for Senior Citizens
Besides nutrition, there are many other components of a healthy lifestyle that you need to factor in when looking for a happy and healthy life for the elderly members of your family.
For example, mental health is as important as physical health and for people over the age of 60 years, you need to ensure they get a certain level of mental activity to keep their grey cells working. You can craft a few simple yet challenging games for them or even engage them in board games that can stimulate their cognitive functioning.
Research shows that mental stimulation helps to ward off a decline in mental health. Crossword puzzles, quizzes on the TV, books and radio plays and discussions, are just a few of the ways you can encourage them to stay mentally active and engaged with the world.
A swim spa is the perfect way for grandchildren to interact with the elderly. Grandparents will be safe and comfortable, supported in the seated areas of the spa, while the kids splash and play to show off their swim strokes and handstands. Kickboards can be shared and balloons filled with water against the swim jets are a playful way for multiple generations to interact.
For senior citizens to maintain a healthy body and a decent level of physical fitness for general mobility purposes, it is essential that they regulate both their weight and metabolism. Starting them on a protein diet chart or diet plan customised according to their individual health needs can help them in muscle regeneration as well as reduce unwanted fat in their bodies.
Again a spa or swim spa can assist in this area. The warm water of a spa is a safe, supportive aid to relieving the pain and stiffness of arthritis. Your body becomes almost weightless as it’s submerged in water, helping to ease discomfort caused by stiff joints, keep them moving, increase their range of motion and maintain muscle strength.
Exercise not only increases energy but improves memory and alleviates depression. Short strolls, long walks or a safe exercise programme, can keep elderly people healthier longer. Even better, find an exercise class or a local walking group. It’s so much easier to keep motivated in the company of other people.
Some ideas to keep healthy could be
- walking the dog
- days out with friends
- exercise classes
- set up a simple home gym
- swimming (either at the beach, local pool or in your own swim spa)
We hope these suggestions inspire you to make care for your elderly loved ones an easy part of daily life. They once participated in all the activities you enjoy today so, if you make slight adjustments to suit elderly members of your family and community, you will be able to interact whilst engaged in activity that all age groups enjoy.