By Dennis McFadden, Former CEO(now Retired), Atherton Homes
As we age, the time seems to pass ever so much more quickly. John Updike famously observed that we should “suspect each moment, for it is a thief, tiptoeing away with more than it brings.” Or, in the scrambled syntax of Yoda of Star Wars fame, “always in motion is the future.”
But, a new year is ever the right time to make changes in our lives, changes for the better. Culling the lists of senior resolutions, I have found several worth sharing with readers at the beginning of this year of 2019.
Health related resolutions include the following:
- Participate in cognitive health activities
A raft of research demonstrates the positive benefits of exercising our mental muscles. Books like Keep Your Brain Aliveteach how to create neurotrophins. Activities ranging from chess to ballroom dancing, to painting, to cognitive training games such as Lumosity all can become part of a health regimen for keeping our minds healthy and growing.
- Exercise or start a new physical activity
Exercise for older adults does not need to be exhausting in order to be helpful. Strength training with 1 and 2 lb. weights can enhance balance and reduce the chances of a broken hip sustained in a fall. Many of these activities are social in nature and open up doors of opportunity for getting to know other seniors.
- Eat more fresh foods
Highly processed foods may be easy to heat up for a quick meal, but they often come with a host of unwelcome side-effects. Recently, a shift from processed foods and artificial sweeteners to fresh fruits and vegetables seems to have eliminated my life-long curse of migraine headaches. As one commentator observed, “Make a promise to eat more fresh, healthful fruits and vegetables, and you’ll see a noticeable difference in the way you look and feel, and it takes very little work on your end.”
- Make your home safer
The Centers for Disease Control notes that one in three adults over the age of 65 falls each year. A fall in my home last year resulted in a painful, and expensive, shoulder surgery and a protracted period of very uncomfortable rehabilitation. It took me a full eight months before feeling normal again. Do a safety audit of your home or apartment, looking for trip hazards, and eliminate them. Moving cords out of walkways, ensuring good lighting near beds, taping down carpet and rug edges can all contribute to decreasing the frequency and severity of falls for older adults.
- Schedule regular checkups
I have noticed that my seniors at Atherton Homes use the health care system with greater regularity than those of us who are younger. Yet, failure to schedule regular checkups often results in an increased risk of illness, untreated high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and other medical conditions such as diabetes. My recent annual checkup revealed a need for a much needed surgery that will correct a problem that might have had severe consequences if left untreated.
Activity resolutions may involve:
- Get tech savvy
Do not leave the Internet to the grandchildren. Sites emphasizing senior issues abound for your data mining and perusal. One of my 95-year-old skilled nursing residents was famous for writing e-mails to his grandchildren on a regular basis . . . on his own computer from his skilled nursing room.
- Frequent retirement communities, senior centers, and churches that host groups, activities, and programs of interest
Some of my Atherton residents recently concluded an enriching and enjoyable two-week trip to Ireland, sponsored by the retirement community and open to interested members of the public.
- Talk about the hard stuff
While you, or the senior in your life, can still participate in the discussion, make decisions about living alone, moving to a retirement community, and end-of-life protocols. Issues such as estate planning and wills should not be avoided due to discomfort. And, dealing with such issues in advance can reduce family conflicts later when the senior is no longer capable of expressing his or her wishes personally.
You may not keep any of your resolutions for the entire year. But, in any case, the words of Abraham Lincoln are worth remembering when he said: “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.”