Like 90+% of older adults, you probably hope to stay in the comfort of your home as you get older. Regardless, all of us want to have as much control as possible of what happens to us as we get older. That means staying safe so accidents or preventable problems don’t derail our best-laid plans.
But, there’s no need to make a total lifestyle change to live safely as you get older. You don’t need to live in a bubble or stop everything you enjoy. As a matter of fact, that’s the last thing you should do. Here we’ll share some small changes you can make in your routine to keep you safe. These can easily be incorporated into daily life, so you can keep on enjoying it as you wish.
The Little Routine Changes That Can Keep You Safe as You Get Older
Do a five-minute stretch.
Simply take five minutes a couple/few times per day to stretch. Studies show stretching benefits include maintaining strength, improving flexibility, increasing circulation and energy, and decreasing pain. Flexibility will help you stay nimble and prevent falls.
Even better, add a couple moves from yoga or tai chi into your routine. Both offer stretching, strengthening, and balance components. Or, try a couple of our favorite personal trainers’ recommended balance exercises.
Move a bit throughout the day.
Sitting might seem relaxing, but it’s tough on your body. Simply standing up every now and then or moving positions can keep you much stronger and healthier. Try to do tasks that incorporate some movement. Better yet, get outside occasionally if possible. Just a stroll down the block a couple times per day keeps you mobile. Just look at all the ways walking can keep you safe, healthy and happy...
- strengthen your muscles
- help keep your weight steady
- lower your risk of heart disease, some forms of cancer and diabetes
- strengthen your bones, and prevent osteoporosis and osteoarthritis (regular walking could halve the number of people over 45 who fracture a hip!)
- reduce blood pressure
- improve your balance and coordination, and decrease your likelihood of falling
- keep your joints flexible
- increase your confidence and mood, reduce anxiety or depression
- improve your energy levels and increase your stamina
Staying fit clearly can keep you safe physically. It has also been shown to reduce age-related memory loss. Adding more movement to your day will have huge benefits as you get older.
Add one or two servings of fruit and vegetables to your diet.
Eating habits are tough to change. Rather than going on a radical diet, just start by adding one piece of fruit and one vegetable to your daily routine. That alone could make a big caloric and nutritional impact. We’ve all heard the benefits of healthy diet for cancer and heart disease prevention. But, did you know the same diet advice could also play a role in cognitive health? We need more nutrients and fewer calories as we age, so some extra fruits or veggies really help.
Cook a fresh meal every day (or most days).
To add on to the habit above, eating less processed foods is one of the best dietary changes you can make. This will reduce your sodium intake much more than putting away the salt shaker. And, eating simple, whole foods prepared at home has numerous health benefits. Look at how often you eat processed foods or restaurant meals. Make a commitment to plan meals so you don’t find yourself reaching for unhealthy convenience foods.
For some people, this is more than a little routine change. Maybe you hate grocery shopping or can barely boil water. Don’t worry, there are many great resources to make this easy nowadays. Check out our Easy and Delicious Ways to Better Nutrition.
Make medication-taking routine (if you take any).
Ideally, you don’t take any medications. However, most people do take daily prescriptions as they get older. So, if that’s you, make taking those medications a serious part of your routine. Medications may not be effective if not taken properly. Worse yet, they can be dangerous. Set up a reminder system, especially if you take medications a few times per day. Consider using a pillbox or electronic system to stay organized. If you've had problems keeping medications straight, find out about medication management services. And, make sure a medication review is part of your yearly healthcare routine too.
Keep a regular schedule of health maintenance.
In the early years of Medicare covering preventive benefits, only between 8-20% of beneficiaries got their annual wellness exam (the #s have been increasing, but not by much). The single biggest predictor of whether someone will get their (free) annual exam is whether they did it the year prior. Thus, building good health maintenance habits helps keep you on track.
We all know too well how easy it is to let time pass between appointments. Many people miss annual exams, recommended screenings and regular dental visits. However, reactive healthcare puts you at risk. The way to stay safe is to track how your health is doing before you notice symptoms (or find yourself at the ER). If possible, book appointments at the time of your prior one. Or, take your providers up on their offers to remind you and make a note on your calendar.
Make sure to get hearing and vision checked, too. Hearing loss can mean difficulty hearing phones, doorbells, smoke alarms, and other key sounds around the home. It can also create balance issues, which makes falling more likely. Aging eyes can have trouble adjusting to light changes and difficulty perceiving depth and contrast. Fortunately, there are aids available for hearing and vision, as well as tools we can recommend for improved home safety.
Here’s a list of all the preventive and screening services covered by Medicare.
Eliminate safety hazards in your routine movements.
Do you need a step stool to reach items for cooking? Is there sufficient lighting throughout your home? What about at night when you get up to use the bathroom? Do you have to walk around things or are there clear pathways? Are there throw rugs or cords in your path?
Click Here to download our room-by-room home safety checklist to review. Even better, get a home safety evaluation with personalized recommendations.
Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep each night or incorporate naps into your day.
This helps avoid fuzzy thinking and reduces the risk of falls. Not sleeping enough can lead to higher risk for obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Naps can improve memory and make up for missing a full night’s sleep.
If you have trouble sleeping, we have some tips in our article 11 Habits of Successful Aging.
Do something social every day.
More social interaction boosts life expectancy, even in people who already have a chronic disease. Socializing helps combat loneliness, depression, isolation and improves cognition. Plan time to talk to friends and family on the phone or by video chat. Consider volunteering or joining groups around your interests. If your mobility is limited or you don’t drive anymore, it might be worthwhile to hire a companion to help you keep up with favorite activities.
Do one thing to challenge your brain.
Check out The Best Brain-Boosting Hobby for ideas to incorporate into your routine.
Feeling motivated to help yourself or an aging parent?
Get a professional home evaluation & recommendations; find out about in-home support services tailored for you.