Activity, nutrition and support are key to an energetic retirement
BY RHONDA ALEXANDER For Sun-Times Media
Seniors, are you making the most of your golden years?
Healthful practices such as, getting out to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air as well as reading the paper, are just a couple of ways to live healthier as you transition from middle age to your senior years. Three local experts agree that nutrition, activity levels and support systems are the three main categories of healthful practices to focus on to enhance life as you mature.
As we age, our nutritional choices become more important than ever. The saying, “you are what you eat,” takes on a whole new meaning.
1. Take a multivitamin made for people over 50. Nazima Mustafa, an internist with Rush-Copley in Aurora, explained that taking vitamins with supplements should be discussed with your doctor.
“Certain supplements such as the omegas that are popular now, can interact with medications. Always check with your doctor before taking them.”
2. Drink plenty of fluids. Bob William, a family practice physician with Edward Medical Group in Plainfield said, “Drink more water — this prevents constipation.” William also said 20 to 30 grams of fiber and vitamin C help with constipation as well, which is a condition a lot of seniors suffer from due to medications as well as decreased metabolism.
3. Dr. William also suggested getting thyroid and B-12 levels checked regularly as there tends to be deficiencies in seniors.
“In the Midwest, vitamin D levels tend to be lower because we aren’t exposed to as much sunshine. It’s a good idea to take a vitamin D supplement depending on the region where you live.”
4. Pre-portion food. Mustafa said fried and processed foods should be avoided due to the high cholesterol content.
Having a good support system in place can mean the difference between merely existing and having a great quality of life.
5. Cultivate support groups. Dr. Mustafa said, “Local park districts and community centers are good resources. Participate in at least one thing. This will benefit seniors emotionally and mentally.”
6. Avoid isolation. It can be a downward spiral. Susan Thanepohn, director of marketing and grants for Fox Valley Older Adult Services in Sandwich, said, “Maintain relationships with relatives and friends whether it is in person or by technology (i.e. skype, email, etc.).”
Thanepohn said family and friends could help by showing seniors basic steps to urge them to use the computer. Many seniors are afraid of technology and it is a good idea to encourage them to use it with simple instruction sheets.
7. Maintain a good relationship with your doctor. Mustafa believes good communication with your physician can support a better quality of life — particularly for seniors.
The old saying, “move it or lose it,” takes on greater significance as we age.
8. Staying active keeps your body engaged and helps you feel younger and more vibrant.
“How well their feeling mentally has a direct correlation with the way they treat their body,” Mustafa said.
9. Always choose physical exercise as opposed to being sedentary. Thanepohn suggests finding an activity that is best suited to where you are in life.
“Just because you’re in a wheelchair or use a walker doesn’t mean you can’t exercise,” she said.
Exercises that include some form of strength training, stretching and cardio come in many forms as Dr. Mustafa explained. The key is to persist until you find what works for you.
The most important strategy seems to be keeping an open mind and use the resources available. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Check out local senior centers, adult day services or your local YMCA.