Health Concerns for Senior Citizens: 10 Tips to Stay Healthy
By Dennis Bulcao
Senior citizens need to maintain good health and regularly monitor any concerns they might have, whether they live independently or in a retirement home.
You can remedy many of these health concerns by using an air purifier. Among those health concerns are sleep deprivation, respiratory issues, and a weakened immune system. While having just one of these health concerns could be considered relatively minor, they can lead to more severe problems, particularly if a senior citizen suffers from multiple ailments.
That’s why it’s essential to have a top-notch air purifier in your bedroom. Air purifiers regularly clean the air of allergens and pollutants, which improves your overall health and helps you sleep better.
What to Look for in an Air Purifier for a Senior Citizen
One way to help assure healthy living for seniors is to purchase an air purifier. This should be considered a major purchase and a long-term investment, much like a major appliance. Be sure to make plenty of research and comparison between models. The significant factors to consider are the quality of the air purifier, including the reputation of the manufacturer and the amount of air it can clean per hour.
While there are air purifiers available for a wide range of rooms, a senior citizen will most likely want one in the bedroom. All seniors should try to get a restful eight hours of sleep per night to help maintain overall health, and having an air purifier in the bedroom is the first step toward that goal. Pick a model that has the proper capacity for the size of the bedroom. You might need an air purifier with more extensive coverage if the room is congested and contains many allergens.
A senior citizen who lives on their own might also want to consider whether to have an air purifier in another room where they spend a great deal of time, such as the living room.
Suppose the senior lives in a retirement home; the size of their room or unit needs to be considered. For instance, some nursing home units are a single room, while other companies are similar to a one- or two-bedroom apartment. Be sure to shop for an air purifier that is specific to a bedroom. Check to see if the room is congested or contains many allergens because that will affect the size of the air purifier you need.
Next, consider what impurities will need to be filtered out. The primary contaminants in a bedroom could be allergens such as dust mites, hair, pet dander, and even odors.
Do not settle for a system that is labeled “HEPA-like.” HEPA filters contain highly absorbent material that captures air particles as small as 0.3 microns in diameter, giving them a high-efficiency level. For the best health results, the air purifier you select should both filter and sanitize the air.
Look for a model with automatic sensors that can adjust the fan’s speed based on the air quality and provides alerts for when it’s time to change the filter. Since you don’t want your sleep to be disturbed, look for an air purifier that quietly moves air through the room and has a display panel that is soothing to the eyes.
Find out how often you need to replace the filters and factor that cost into the overall cost of the air purifier. Changing the filters as recommended is key to getting the maximum performance while maintaining excellent health.
Ten Tips for Healthy Seniors
1. Stay as Physically Active as Possible
This is one of the top factors for a senior because being as physically active as possible affects the mind and the body. Seniors should focus on a regular exercise program, whether it’s going on a daily walk, swimming, bicycling, or doing a lightweight regimen that your doctor has approved. Other options include yoga and exercise classes.
If you still live at home, try to stay motivated to keep on track with a regular workout regimen. If you live in a retirement home, they often put together exercise programs for residents. Many retirement homes have exercise rooms with stationary bicycles and free weights. Others might even have a swimming pool.
Regular exercise for seniors has many benefits. It helps reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and also helps ward off diabetes and colon cancer. It will help improve your energy and memory while reducing depression and stress. It helps you maintain your balance, strength, and flexibility, which in turn can reduce the risk of falling and breaking bones. Exercise can help lower blood pressure in seniors with hypertension.
Staying in good physical shape can also help you sleep better and ward off colds and other illnesses. If you keep yourself in good physical condition, it will be one less thing for a caregiver to worry about.
2. Eat Healthy
Sticking to a proper diet is also crucial for many reasons. It helps you maintain a healthy weight, which can decrease the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, and other conditions that threaten the older a person gets.
Your digestive system slows down with age, so eating the proper foods is critical. Make sure to eat a fiber-rich diet that includes fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Stick to proper-sized portions and don’t overeat, which can cause your weight to balloon. Check your body mass index, or BMI, to find out what your ideal weight is. Once you are at that weight, it’s essential to maintain it through proper diet and exercise.
Senior citizens should plan their meals throughout the week. That helps you keep on track and makes it less likely that you veer away from eating healthy. You can even prepare a week’s worth of dinners at once and freeze them.
Seniors should also cut back on their intake of table salt, which can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, and strokes. Instead, season your meals with fresh herbs and spices. Some healthy, flavorful choices are basil, sage, rosemary, cayenne pepper, and turmeric. Likewise, seniors need to reduce the consumption of refined sugars full of empty calories with no nutritional value. Replace cookies and candy with treats that are naturally sweet, such as fruits and certain vegetables.
Seniors need to pay particular attention to staying hydrated. This helps keep your energy and mental alertness up. Doctors recommend ditching the sugary drinks and drinking plenty of water throughout the day, even if you don’t always feel thirsty. Other options include 100% juices and fat-free milk.
3. Get a Proper Amount of Sleep
Seniors need the same amount of sleep as younger adults, from seven to nine hours each night. One difference is that seniors tend to go to bed earlier and wake up earlier than younger.
Many factors can keep older people from getting a good night’s sleep. Some seniors have insomnia, have trouble sleeping due to their medications, or are sick or in pain.
Not getting enough sleep can lead to falls and accidents, depression or exhaustion, irritability, and even memory problems.
There are many tips for getting the right amount of sleep. Don’t nap in the late afternoon or evening because it can keep you awake at night. It would help if you also tried to stick to the same schedule of going to sleep and getting up at the same time every day.
Having a pre-bedtime routine can help you get restful sleep. Listen to music, read a book, or even take a bath to help you relax. Turn the lights down, and turn off the TV and computer well before going to bed. Put away your cell phone or iPad so you won’t be tempted to check them too close to bedtime. Watching these devices too late at night can make it hard to sleep and is hard on your eyes.
Besides keeping your bedroom quiet, keep it at a proper temperature, so you’re as comfortable as possible. Having a top-of-the-line air purifier can also contribute to peace of mind at bedtime, knowing you’re breathing clean, healthy air. Pick a model that cleans the air a certain number of times an hour. Also, look for a quiet unit and has a display panel that is soothing to the eyes. Those two factors will lead to a lovely, quiet bedroom to get plenty of sleep.
4. Have an Active Social Life
They call them the Golden Years for a reason, and you should be enjoying them as much as possible. Having an active social life can contribute to you feeling great physically and mentally. Spending time with your family, especially grandchildren, will keep you feeling connected to the family, particularly in your role as matriarch or patriarch. If mobility is an issue, have them visit you as much as possible. If you can get out and about, see them as much as they call you.
Besides visiting with family members, make sure you spend plenty of time visiting with your friends. The stronger your social life is, the more upbeat and positive you will feel. That, in turn, leads to better physical and mental health.
Various studies show that having an active social life benefits seniors both physically and mentally. One research shows that people older than 60 who visited with friends almost daily were 12 percent less likely to develop dementia than those who only saw one or two friends every few months. According to the National Institute on Aging, social isolation and loneliness have been linked to higher risks of high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, depression, obesity, and cognitive decline.
Some great ways to stay socially active are traveling, volunteering in the community, and having a hobby or two. Even jumping on social media now and then helps seniors remain connected and engaged.
Many retirement homes and communities have a wide range of social activities that include classes and lectures, movie nights, happy hours dancing, music, and book clubs. Many senior living facilities offer transportation to church services, certain social events, and even weekly shopping trips.
5. Focus on Mental Health
Staying mentally sharp is essential for enjoying your senior years. Among the recommended activities for keeping your mind strong are reading, writing, doing crossword puzzles, and trying new hobbies.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 20% of people aged 55 or older experience mental health concerns such as anxiety, severe cognitive impairment, and mood disorders such as depression or bipolar disorder. Making this a much more severe issue is that mental health issues are often implicated as a factor in cases of suicide.
Depression is the most common mental health affliction among older adults. One reason why it’s prevalent in this age group is that it is associated with distress and suffering. It can lead to physical, mental, and social impairments. Older adults with depression tend to visit the doctor and emergency room more often than others, incur higher outpatient charges, have more extended hospital stays, and use more medication. The CDC says that 80% of cases are treatable, but depression is often not recognized or goes untreated or under-treated.
6. Keep Current on Immunizations and Other Health Appointments
Having numerous doctor appointments is just a fact of life for senior citizens. Many of these visits are to address health maintenance and wellness. By the time they turn 50, women should be getting annual mammograms to screen for breast cancer, and men should have annual checks for prostate cancer. Many other preventive screenings are available from your primary care physician.
If you are new to Medicare, you are entitled to a “Welcome to Medicare” visit. All Medicare members also are allowed to an annual wellness visit. During these checkups, you can discuss with your doctor any preventative screenings that apply to you and any vaccinations that you need.
The most important vaccinations for seniors are the flu vaccine, a pneumococcal vaccine to prevent pneumonia, shingles vaccine, and a tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis vaccine, or Tdap.
A vital screening all seniors should get is a blood pressure check. That’s because one in every three adults has elevated blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Other vital screenings include blood tests for lipids, bone density scans, and hearing tests. All are important for continuing to lead healthy, productive lives.
7. Get Regular Dental Exams
It’s essential to keep your teeth and gums healthy because oral health can directly affect your overall health and quality of life. According to the American Dental Association, dental disease is one of the leading causes of emergency room visits.
It’s important to brush and floss daily and get regular dental checkups to make sure your teeth and gums last for your lifetime. Senior citizens should try to visit the dentist twice a year. This could be tough if an old has limited access to transportation. Many senior living facilities offer transport to doctor appointments, including visits to the dentist.
One problem for many seniors is that dental benefits end upon retirement, and Medicare does not cover routine dental care. Some seniors might have reliable transportation and might forget to brush and floss.
Proper dental care can help prevent many common problems such as gum disease, tooth decay and loss, and toothaches. Healthy teeth also allow seniors to eat better and enjoy their food. Poor dental hygiene can cause significant problems. Gum disease increases the risk of heart disease and strokes; seniors with poor dental hygiene are susceptible to bacterial pneumonia; seniors with diabetes are at a higher risk for dental problems such as inflammation and gum disease.
Seniors who smoke or chew tobacco have a higher risk of getting oral cancer. A proper diet of healthy foods is also essential to good dental health. Try to limit your intake of coffee, which can be bad for your teeth. At the very least, make sure you drink plenty of water along with your coffee to help keep your teeth from staining.
It also helps to remind seniors in your family to brush twice a day and use fluoride toothpaste. It might be easier if they use an electric toothbrush. It’s also imperative to remind your loved ones to floss daily to prevent plaque and gum disease. If he or she has problems flossing, your dentist should have tips and tools that will help.
Seniors who wear dentures should be encouraged to keep them clean and to remove them at night.
8. Get Proper Eye Care
Most adults experience changes to their vision even before they reach their senior years. Such changes include a decline in the ability to focus on close objects and reading small print. Some major vision problems include glaucoma and cataracts.
Some ways for seniors to care for their eyes include wearing prescription glasses, shading their eyes from the sun, using ample light when reading and watching television, eating healthy foods, refrain from smoking, and taking breaks every once in a while to rest their eyes.
Vision specialists suggest that adults 55 to 64 need a complete general eye exam every one to three years, and adults 65 and older should visit their optometrist every one to two years. More frequent visits could be necessary if you wear glasses or contacts or have a condition such as diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis that affects your eyes.
9. Get Proper Hearing Care
Hearing loss is a common problem experienced by senior citizens. It can affect the quality of life because it can be hard having conversations with family and friends. Some seniors might feel left out of activities if they have hearing problems, and they might miss phone calls or not hear alarms and doorbells. They might also not be able to understand instructions from a doctor.
According to one study, approximately one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 has hearing loss, and nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing.
Some people might not want to admit they have hearing loss, which can lead them to become depressed or withdrawn because they are frustrated or embarrassed about not understanding what’s being said.
You should address hearing problems immediately. Solutions include hearing aids, surgery, medication, and special training.
10. Medication Management
Many senior citizens take multiple medications throughout the day, so carefully monitoring those doses is extremely important. Studies show that 87% of seniors take one prescription drug and 36% take five or more. 38% of seniors use over-the-counter medication
Seniors must avoid taking the wrong drug, taking more doses than have been prescribed, or completely missing a dose. It’s easy to come up with a simple system for avoiding common medication mistakes by seniors.
Ten things to take note of:
Gather all medications and supplements into one location.
Make sure they are appropriately stored.
Keep an up-to-date medication list with the name of the drug, what dose is required and how often to take it.
Pre-sort medications for the entire week. Various pill organizers are available to simplify this task.
If a senior citizen is taking multiple medications, make sure they are compatible with each other.
Ensure instructions are clear enough that mistakes aren’t made.
Make a chart to remind seniors when to take their medication and to track each dose.
Understand any possible side effects and what to do if any occur, including calling a doctor.
If a senior citizen has Alzheimer’s or dementia, they will need help with their medication to avoid confusion about taking their meds. Forgetting to take the wrong dose or even the wrong medication can lead to serious health effects.
Plan for regular prescription refills. Many pharmacies offer automatic refills and notify you when they are ready to pick up or deliver them. Better yet, your doctor might be able to prescribe a 90 day supply through a mail-order pharmacy.