Senior Health and Happiness: 4 Big Things You May Not Have Thought Of

Guest post by Scott Sanders from CancerWell.org

Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

Everyone knows that the keys to improving the quality of your golden years are diet and exercise. Eating right and getting enough physical activity is how you help your mind and body stay strong as you age. It’s how you ward off illness and stave off cognitive decline. Important as it is, it’s not the only thing you need to focus on if you want to take control of your overall health. Here are some things you should do that you may not be aware of yet.

Get to Know Your Gut

You can have a healthy diet and still not reach your full digestive potential. It all comes down to what’s in your gut — specifically, your microbiome. Your stomach is full of trillions of microorganisms. This gut flora is actually more important than you think. Sure, it impacts your metabolism and weight, but modern science believes that the composition of your gut bacteria determines what goes on in your brain too — your mood, for one. Long story short, your happiness can be influenced by what you eat. Luckily, you can control your gut composition through diet. Everyone is different, but you can try introducing things like yogurt, kombucha, and other fermented foods like kimchi. You should also look into taking a daily probiotic.

Let Technology Keep You Safe

Don’t worry, you don’t have to get on Snapchat, but you should not be averse to helpful types of technology. Some modern tech can help keep you safer in your own home, which will lead to greater independence and fewer incidents. This is especially important if you or your partner has any sort of disability or mobility issue. One piece of useful tech is a medical alert system (which are available for $19.95 a month).

There are plenty of other helpful tech items you should consider, including health-related video games (think the Wii), in-home voice-activated assistants (think Google Home), and wireless home monitoring that can notify people if certain parameters are tripped.

Only Do Tasks You Can Handle

As you get older, it can be more difficult completing various chores and work around the house. If you decide to perform a task beyond your physical capability, you risk injuring yourself. Instead, only work on home projects within your limits. It’s safer to call in a professional to get a bigger job done, whether it’s landscaping or mowing the lawn. You can also get your cleaning done by a service; just make sure to research prices in your area before hiring because it can be pricey. For example, you’ll pay an average of $180 for a maid service if you live in College Park, MD.

Get Better Sleep

“But I sleep all night,” you might be saying. Quantity does not always translate to quality, and there’s a good chance that you’re not getting the good sleep your body and mind needs as it ages. The fact is, we condition our bodies — through sheer force and repetition — to become better suited to function on poor sleep. We adapt to work with what we have, even if what we have is inferior. You can improve physical and mental issues by rethinking how you sleep.

But here’s the thing: It’s harder to improve your sleep when you’re older because your sleep quality naturally declines as you age. As the National Sleep Foundation notes, “studies on the sleep habits of older Americans show an increase in the time it takes to fall asleep, an overall decline in REM sleep, and an increase in sleep fragmentation (waking up during the night).”

To get better sleep, try any combination of these things:

  • Stop looking at screens (phone, TV, tablet) at least two hours before bedtime.
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
  • Control the temperature in your sleep zone through temperature-regulating bedding, mattress, and fans or heaters.
  • Go easy on the caffeine and alcohol.
  • Do exercise, but don’t do it in the evenings.
  • Stop eating two to three hours before your bedtime.

None of these things — sleeping better, tracking your gut flora, asking for help around the home, embracing safety tech — are some magic recipe for living forever. What they are, however, are proven ways to make your golden years happier and healthier. Try them today.

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