New Year's Resolutions for Older Adults
The top five resolutions in 2015 were to lose weight, get organized, spend less money, enjoy life to the fullest, and stay healthy. While these are excellent goals for people of all ages, what should seniors focus on, in particular? Better yet, how they can increase their chances of reaching their goals so they don’t submit to failure early on? Here are some tips and resolutions for success in all areas of life in 2017.
Tips for Resolution Success
When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, it’s not simply the thought that counts. You may have good intentions to lose weight, but, without a lot of effort on your part, you won’t meet your goal. For each resolution, you need to make a plan and stick to it.
The key is to be explicit and detailed when creating a resolution. Simply recognizing that you need to lose weight is not enough. That’s too vague. You need to have a clear, specific goal, such as: “I want to lose 10 pounds in six months.” This is a goal that is clear and realistic.
Saying that you want to lose 10 pounds in one month is not realistic. As a result, you will experience frustration, which will only set you up for failure. So, spend some time thinking about the things you would like to change in your life and how you plan to go about doing so. You’ll find that you’ll have more success with clear-cut, measurable goals.
Resolutions for Physical Health
We all can make changes to live a healthier lifestyle, and seniors are no exception. If your diet hasn’t been so great in recent years, resolve to live a healthier lifestyle. Replace sweets and fatty foods with lean meats, fruits, and vegetables. Instead of French fries, choose a salad. When you crave something sugary, reach for an apple or an orange instead of a candy bar. Exchange a hamburger for a chicken sandwich. These small changes will help your body in the long run.
Seniors need healthy foods, now more than ever, but they also require fewer calories. Aim for five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Beans and whole-grain breads and pastas are also healthy choices. Don’t try to avoid all fats. There are good fats, such as olive oil and nuts, that are healthy in moderation.
You can continue to eat meat, but make smart choices. Avoid too much pork and red meat. Instead, choose healthier options such as chicken and fish. Salmon and tuna can be consumed twice a week. Try some of the many new meat substitutes once a week on Meatless Mondays.
Since osteoporosis is common as we age, consume more calcium and vitamin D. Milk, cheese, and yogurt are good food choices to consider, as are dark-green leafy greens like collards and kale. If you believe your diet may be lacking certain vitamins, consider taking vitamins. Ask your doctor if you should incorporate some into your diet.
Besides eating well, it’s important to exercise. Even those with chronic conditions such as heart disease and arthritis can benefit from mild activity. You don’t need to join a gym or play vigorous sports. Simply walking daily or participating in swimming and water aerobics can improve flexibility and keep weight under control. If you enjoy exercising with others, look for exercise classes and walking groups near you. You’ll feel more motivated if you’re with other like-minded individuals looking to socialize and stay healthy at the same time.
Don’t neglect your sleep. Sleep helps repair your body and keeps everything functioning properly. Despite what you may have read, seniors don’t need less sleep than younger people. They should still aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Naps are generally not needed during the day. In fact, avoid them, if possible, since they can keep you awake at night.
Quit smoking. Smoking affects the entire body. It’s especially harmful for diabetics, since smoking narrows the arteries and affects circulation. Smoking can also cause heart disease and lung cancer. In fact, those who smoke are twice as likely to develop heart disease. Once you quit smoking, you’ll feel better. You’ll have more energy, and you’ll be able to sleep and breathe easier. Even if you’ve smoked for decades, it’s never too late to quit. It may take multiple tries for you to quit, so don’t give up. Ask your doctor for help. There are medications and patches that can control cravings and help you quit for good.
Every year, 1 in 3 seniors suffers a fall. Falls are common among seniors, but they’re no laughing matter. Falls can be serious and even fatal to older people. That’s because many seniors lose muscle tone and balance as they age. This doesn’t have to happen to you. Regular exercise can build flexibility and strength. Assess your home for trip hazards. Install grab bars in showers to reduce the risk of slipping and falling. Nightlights can help you see so you can avoid falls.
Above all, prevention is the best course of action to maintain your health. Even if you feel fine, resolve to schedule a checkup with your doctor at least once a year. Health screenings can check your vision and hearing. Your doctor may also check for osteoporosis, colon cancer, and breast cancer. These screenings can uncover any issues and help manage them before they become serious. You might also need immunizations, so ask your doctor about getting a flu shot or others based on your age.
Resolutions for Emotional/Mental Health
Just as being physically healthy is important later on in life, so is being mentally sharp. Being a part of the working world helps our brains make new connections, thanks to the new things we learn and the relationships we form. However, once we retire, we may not think about exercising our brains. Even though your mind may slow down, you still need to challenge it. When we don’t stimulate our brains, we open the door to age-related memory problems such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Brain-sharpening games can help you stay mentally fit. Puzzles are a great way to challenge yourself mentally. Jigsaw puzzles or word games such as crossword puzzles, word searches, and Sudoku are all great options to try. You can print worksheets online or download apps that you can easily access from your mobile device so you play any time, any place. There are many online games that you can play with others. If you enjoy playing against others, but are unable to get together with friends or family, sign up to play games with an online community.
Card games and board games are also good choices because they not only require you to think about various strategies, but they also require social interaction, which is also good for the brain. You can play these with friends and family members, so they’re great ways to spend quality time.
Bingo is also popular with the older crowd because it’s a fun way to meet others and even win prizes. Many cities have bingo halls or other venues where bingo is played on a regular basis, so check it out. It’s a great way to meet new people, and social interaction is great for the mind.
Reading a book can also expand your mind. A good fiction novel can transport you to a different place for a few hours. Plus, you’ll help your brain make connections with the characters, scenery, and plot.
If you love to learn new things, consider going back to school. Many community colleges offer free or low-cost classes for seniors. Community colleges have a large selection of courses to choose from, so chances are you’ll find something that interests you. Choose courses ranging from art, to history, to math, to science, to music.
Emotional health resolutions may include spending more time with family. Let family members know they are welcome to visit more often. Make an effort to visit them, as well, and attend family gatherings whenever possible. When you can’t physically be with family members, keeping connected with them through phone calls, emails, texts, and social media can uplift your spirits and keep depression at bay.
Depression is a common health concern for seniors. Isolation and loneliness come into play, and both can cause sadness. Being more social can help prevent depression. Try to connect with others. Ask friends and family to visit more. Join groups based on your interests. When you spend time with others, you won’t feel as lonely.
Resolutions for Financial Health
Financial resolutions are good for seniors, since getting older comes with its own set of expenses. It’s important to be aware of money issues, since living within your means can be difficult, especially on a fixed retirement income.
Probably the best way to save money is to create a budget. Take stock of all your income and see where you’re spending your money. You can use an Excel spreadsheet or take advantage of the free apps and spreadsheets available to you online. The hardest part is sticking to a budget.
Once you create a budget, you can save more money. After assessing your expenses, you’ve likely found several areas where you can cut back on spending. Maybe you can get rid of your cable TV subscription. Maybe you can cut back on eating out so often. Perhaps you can delay certain purchases until they are on sale. In any case, come up with a specific savings goal – like saving an extra $100 each month – so you’ll be motivated and more likely to succeed.
Pay down debts. If you have balances on your credit cards, car payments, or a monthly mortgage, take steps to pay them down or eliminate them altogether. If money is tight, you may need to bring in more income. Many seniors continue to work during retirement. Part-time jobs can provide regular paychecks to supplement Social Security and pensions. A job can also bring about emotional benefits, such as higher self-esteem, increased independence, and social interactions – all which are beneficial to seniors.
Is becoming an investor on your list of New Year’s resolutions? If so, you need to start sooner rather than later. Generally speaking, you can expect a 7% return on your investment, but that’s after 10 years of investing. So, if this is something you really want to do, don’t delay. Make an appointment with a financial advisor to see which types of investments will work best for you.
These are just some ideas for seniors who want to make sure they live life to the fullest while remaining physically, emotionally, and financially healthy. Here’s to a new and improved you in 2017!