How to Help a Senior Embrace Healthy Lifestyle Changes
Embracing healthy lifestyle changes is one of the best ways to increase the likelihood of positive health outcomes. Whether you’re young or old, making positive changes is incredibly beneficial. The goal of the healthcare system is, essentially, to keep us alive and to manage any conditions we have or may develop. Beyond that, it’s up to us to take care of our health and to do everything we can to stay healthy.
Staying healthy can mean different things to different people. Not everybody is starting at the same point health-wise, but we’ll all end up at the same finish line eventually. We have a certain level of control of the journey, and how comfortable it is before we get there. Of course, many things are out of our control, and accepting that is just part of life. ‘
If you’re caring for a senior, or there’s a senior citizen in your life that you care about whether it’s a parent, a grandparent, an aunt or uncle, or even just a neighbor or someone else you’re close to, and you’re concerned about their health, it’s something you have to approach very tactfully.
You can’t just go up to a senior and say, “Hey, you aren’t living a healthy enough lifestyle, change.” That probably won’t yield the best results. Ultimately, the way to approach this really depends on your relationship to them and their personality, but generally the best route to go is to approach it from a position of love. You can sit them down and let them know that you care about them, and you want them to be around for a very long time, and you want to help them make some changes to their lifestyle.
These healthier changes could include things such as:
Smoking less: Keep in mind that there was a time when Doctors would go in magazines to tell people that smoking is healthy. It’s been a long time since that’s been the case, but if that’s what you grew up with, it can be hard to break the habit. By now, most people know smoking isn’t the healthiest thing, but again, they’ll probably have a mindset of “I’ve been smoking since I was a kid, and I’m fine,” so it’s hard to get through to them. You can rely on data, maybe photos of the lungs of someone who has smoked for a long time, but it’s probably more helpful to rely on an emotional appeal. Also, give them hope, let them know that it’s not just a matter of preventing future damage, but smoking cessation can improve their current health, too. The body can heal itself from past damage, at least to a certain extent.
Drinking less: This one is similar to smoking, and these types of habits are very hard to break in older people. Drinking less is probably an easier sell than quitting altogether, but it will be an uphill battle, either way.
Eating better: As we get older, taste buds aren’t what they used to be. Cooking flavourful healthy meals can be a good way to promote better eating in senior citizens,
Exercising more: If you’re helping someone who is old, sore, and relatively sedentary, you can’t really expect them to start running laps around the field or powerlifting. Aquatic exercise is a popular option for seniors because it doesn’t put any excessive pressure on their joints, and it can be a fun group activity. Having a purpose to the exercise can help, for example walking to a bingo game down the street. This one really comes down to their age, condition, and abilities but there’s probably something that they can do more than what they’re doing.
Mental health: Awareness around mental health is a relatively new thing in our society, as such there are many older folks who may be struggling with various undiagnosed mental health issues. These issues could be preventing them from taking other positive steps, but example a low level depression that someone has struggled with their whole life, perhaps without even really having a name for it, would lead to them turning to drinking, food, or other excessed to try to feel better.
You’ll notice that a lot of these things are the same health improvements that anyone can make. Before making any major lifestyle changes, it’s prudent to check with their doctor and to be mindful of any pre-existing conditions.
Now, if someone has made it to their golden years and has developed certain habits, it’s going to be nearly impossible to get them to give those things up. Not only is it something they’ve come to rely on, but they have the bias of the fact that they’ve made it that far in their life.
Misconceptions About Changing Lifestyles
When you’re trying to help someone else change their lifestyle, it’s not necessarily going to be easy. Even if they’re open to the idea, and embrace the change, there’s only so much they can do at a time. Think of it as a long-term process, where minor improvements will compound over time, and can lead to further changes.
If they’re just not on board, you can’t really force them, and you shouldn’t take it personally or resent them for it. There’s no sense is harming your relationship with them by getting into fights or allowing resentment to fester. All you can do is try your best, but the choice to make changes has to be their own.
At the end of the day, spending more time with them and expressing more of an active interest in their life can be some of the most positive changes you can make for them. If they’re in a care home or living on their own, visting more often will brighten their days and improve their moods, and sometimes that can be the catalyst needed.
In some cases, you just have to accept that there’s nothing you’re going to be able to do besides being there for them.
Being an advocate for their healthcare is another step you can take beyond encouraging a healthier lifestyle, for example looking into dental care for seniors, getting them setup with Medicare, and more.