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Celebrating National Senior Independence Month: It’s never too late to start aging well

You might think of Valentine’s Day or Black History Month when February rolls around. However, did you also know that senior living facilities across the nation are celebrating National Senior Independence Month? As we age, it may become increasingly difficult to maintain the quality of life we once had when we were younger. Nevertheless, many older adults enjoy rich, full lives.

Although aging is inevitable, there are many habits you can implement to preserve your health. It is never too late to start aging well, by making beneficial choices for your own health. For instance, choosing physically and mentally stimulating activities can enhance your lifestyle — no matter how many candles are on your birthday cake.

At Benedictine, we understand how vital healthy habits are to maintaining independence as you age. In fact, our living communities are built around providing holistic care for our residents. While there are a variety of ways to improve and prolong your quality of life, these are our top five recommendations for maintaining independence in your senior years:

Exercise your mind

Maintaining a healthy mind is just as important as keeping a healthy body. Did you know regular mental stimulation can increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain and it can also help prevent Alzheimer’s Disease? Activities that promote brain stimulation include social activity, exercise, gardening, learning a new skill, crossword puzzles, board games, card games, reading or listening to audiobooks and more. Staying mentally sharp is key to keeping your golden years golden.

Get adequate sleep

Adequate sleep improves mood, reduces risk of falls, lowers stress and anxiety, decreases medication dependence, and boosts memory and attention span. Quality sleep is especially beneficial for older adults. Melatonin, the sleep hormone, decreases with age, making it more difficult to fall and stay asleep. But there are a few things you can do to promote natural melatonin production as you age. Spending some time in the sun helps optimize your melatonin levels. Staying active during the day has been shown to encourage better sleep. You can also limit your caffeine, alcohol, and sugar intake to encourage better sleep.

Fuel your body

There is absolute truth to the saying “you are what you eat.” All your cells are comprised of what you have eaten and make up the composition of your blood and vital organs. Just like a car, if you put bad gasoline in, you may end up with a broken-down vehicle. Our bodies are much the same way and tend to not work so well when we don’t get the necessary fuel (nutrients) we need to thrive. Make sure you are eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods that include healthy fats, proteins, and complex carbohydrates. Vegetables and fruits are power food groups, but healthy fats and proteins are just as important.

Engage with others

Research shows that interacting with others in meaningful ways can lower your stress and anxiety and prolong your life. Having meaningful relationships may even boost your physical health, as staying in touch with loved ones triggers the release of dopamine or the “feel good” hormone. In addition, socialization enhances your immune system and increases healthy blood flow. If you are looking for ways to get connected, your senior care center is a great place to start. Many facilities offer structured classes and clubs with a variety of social activities. At Benedictine, we ensure a thriving senior living community by providing engaging opportunities for our residents.

Increase your activity level

Low-intensity exercises such as gardening, sitting up straight in your chair, lifting small hand weights, and walking can build muscle and prevent conditions such as osteopenia, depression, osteoporosis, and anxiety, as well as reduce your risk of falls and injuries. The endeavor of choice can be as simple as making a meal or doing an activity with a friend or helper. No matter your age or fitness level, there is always something you can do to stay active. Starting small and incorporating increasing levels of activity can boost your confidence. Your routine can be as robust as you want it to be — engaging in a safe way to stay active. Remember that some activity is always better than none.

Start small, begin now!

Choose to focus on the positives and what you can do rather than what you cannot do. Little accomplishments go a long way, especially when those accomplishments form new, healthy habits. It is never too late to start making choices to improve your quality of life! You are worth it!