Healthy Aging Resolutions for 2021

Related topics: Health & Wellness, Senior Life

Senior woman with mask celebrating 2021

If you still have your list of 2020 New Year's resolutions tucked away somewhere, you might feel extra-nostalgic for what was certainly a simpler time! As we head into 2021, we've needed to adapt our health goals to the challenges of the pandemic. Certainly 2021 is not a year to slack on our resolve. Here are 10 things older adults should aim for as the year unfolds:

1. When it is available to you, get your COVID-19 vaccination. Your doctor and local public health experts will be providing information as the vaccine is rolled out. If you live in a senior living community, staff will keep you up to date on availability. Studies show a sizeable majority of older adults plan to be vaccinated, and that sets a great example for younger folks!

2. Continue to protect yourself and others from exposure to the virus. Even as the vaccination process progresses, herd immunity won't happen right away. It will still be very important to protect ourselves and others by wearing a mask, practicing physical distancing, washing our hands, and disinfecting surfaces. Our public health officials will be providing regular updates.

3. Get your health information from reliable sources. This is a good time for a reminder that not all healthcare information is created equal. Legitimate news outlets and government agency websites are most reliable and fact-based. Social media comments and memes and celebrity blogs may be filled with harmful misinformation. And as always, your doctor is the best source of health information tailored just for you.

4. Get plenty of exercise. It's been harder for many of us to be as physically active as we should be. Maybe you're bored with socially distanced walks around the block or the exercise video you purchased last March. Mix it up a little bit! Find online videos that provide variety. Check out suggestions from your local senior services agency. If you live in a senior living community, ask about fitness program offerings. (Be sure to check with your doctor before changing your exercise regimen.)

5. Eat a healthy diet. Many of our usual sources of healthy foods are off limits right now. Trying to avoid frequent trips to the grocery store, we might be choosing processed, nonperishable foods that aren't as good for us as fresh. If you haven't already, check out grocery delivery, or takeout and delivery from restaurants. Senior meal delivery programs are again available in most areas. And one more reminder: If your alcohol consumption has slowly crept upward and you're having trouble controlling your drinking, discuss that with your doctor.

6. Continue to socialize in new ways. If your local public health officials allow it, consider small gatherings outdoors with masks. If staying home is recommended, resolve to improve your video chat skills. Or set regular times for phone calls to friends and loved ones. Over time, when it's safe, we will all enjoy transitioning back to in-person socializing—yet we might still enjoy the new technologies we learned at this time.

7. Report mental health symptoms. Experts say people of every age are experiencing an increased level of stress, depression and anxiety as the pandemic continues. If you are feeling unusually anxious, if you've lost interest in things you usually enjoy, or you're up in the night worrying, talk to your doctor. Physical and mental health problems are often interrelated. Take steps to maintain your sense of purpose. Volunteer online or join a club. If you live in a senior living community, talk to the staff about available activities to lift your spirits.

8. Make regular healthcare appointments. Hospitals, medical practices and clinics report that many people are failing to keep up with their routine medical appointments—and they even avoid seeking help for serious symptoms that might mean a stroke, heart attack or serious fall injury. Medical practices today are taking steps to protect patients against COVID-19 exposure. Talk to your doctor about what you should do.

9. Protect your financial health. If your economic situation has been impacted by the pandemic, learn about assistance that is available. Contact your local area agency on aging to find out about resources for older adults. For financial help related to housing and utilities, read "Where to Find Housing and Utility Assistance During COVID-19" in this issue of Aging in Stride. And avoid pandemic-related fraud—experts say con artists are taking advantage of vulnerable older adults.

10. Exercise your brain. For many of us, days are melting into days with a monotony beyond what we've experienced before. Find ways to engage your mind. Take up a new hobby or listen to podcasts. Many cultural and educational organizations have migrated their offerings online. You might even go on a virtual vacation. Try your hand at word puzzles—for example, the "Classic Board Games Wordfind" in this issue of Aging in Stride.

Bonus resolution for family caregivers: People who are providing and supervising care for older or disabled relatives have faced challenges beyond the normal during 2020. Statistics show that their workload has increased by 36%! Talk to family and friends—they are likely willing to help out. Check into public services available in the area. If your loved one lives in a senior living community, staff will update you on your loved one's well-being and visitation policies.

Source: IlluminAge Communication Partners; copyright 2021 IlluminAge

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