Forming new habits takes time and commitment - and the same can be said for breaking old habits. This makes it challenging to dump unhealthy habits and swap them out for better choices. Not to mention, the longer we’ve done things a certain way, the harder it can be to make changes.
The flip side is that once healthy choices become new habits, it’s easier to stick with them. This is good news if you’re concerned about a senior who could benefit from healthier choices because, with the right support, it’s entirely possible to help them make that change.
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The easiest way to make change is incremental, which is why it’s a good idea to start small. For example, instead of trying to convince someone to go on a drastic diet, help them make healthier versions of their favorite meals and snacks. Eating Well has recipes to lighten up meals that are usually heavy, like fried chicken and creamy dips.
Make it Easy
One of the biggest reasons people don’t make changes is that they simply don’t know where to start. You can help eliminate this barrier by finding fitness options that are easy to try. If getting to a gym is difficult for your loved ones, help them find some fitness gear they can use at home.
Many seniors enjoy the convenience of Silver Sneakers, which is a fitness program designed especially for older adults. Through Silver Sneakers, seniors get access to all kinds of exercise classes, from yoga and sports teams to outdoor activities. The best part is that many Medicare Advantage plans include coverage for Silver Sneakers. To see if your loved one has this benefit, and other benefits geared toward wellness, help them review their Medicare plan to make sure they’re not only getting the best coverage but also taking advantage of all the available perks. As a precaution, it’s always best for seniors who aren’t used to lots of activity to set up a wellness exam and confer with their physician before starting a new exercise program.
Prioritize Oral Health
Seniors who don’t take care of their teeth and gums are at significant risk for tooth loss and decay, heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. Make sure you’re flossing, brushing at least twice a day, and having your teeth cleaned and checked regularly.
If you have crooked or crowded teeth, cleaning them may be difficult, which could lead to some of the health issues mentioned above. You can straighten misaligned teeth with in-office or at-home alignment treatment. At-home treatments like Candid are typically more affordable than in-office treatments and don’t require a trip to the dentist. They also offer remote monitoring by an orthodontist, but their treatments average six months, around double the time of a typical at-home aligner.
Make it Social Joining classes through programs like Silver Sneakers is just one way older adults can be active while being social at the same time. One of the most accessible activities for seniors is walking. If your loved one has neighbors or lives in a senior community, use these resources from The American Heart Association to help them put together a walking club. Walking and talking with friends is fun, which means it doesn’t feel like a chore. Gently emphasizing this benefit may make your loved one more open to giving it a try.
Tap Into Interests and Hobbies Another way to make healthy choices feel less drastic is to choose activities that go with your interests. If your loved one enjoys being outdoors, help or encourage them to get into gardening. Gardening may not be high impact, but the activity involved burns some serious calories. Once your loved one gives it a try, they will likely find that gardening is rewarding and highly addictive (in a good way!).
If your loved one has grandkids, joining in on their games is another great way to get in some physical activity. It’s hard for any adult to keep up with kids, but we can still reap the benefits of their activity level by playing along. Playing with the grandchildren is just pure fun, and the quality time spent together is icing on the cake.
Gear Up One of the most basic barriers to change is not having the right gear. Everyone needs comfortable clothes for exercise, and having supportive shoes is especially critical for seniors. Besides the importance of comfort and quality, anyone feels more motivated to be active when they feel good in what they’re wearing. If baggy sweatpants make your loved one feel frumpy, encourage them to invest in activewear that’s flattering and fun.
No one can force someone else to change when they don’t want to. This is why the best thing you can do is help give your senior loved one that motivation by removing obstacles and making healthy habits easier. There’s no guarantee they’ll get on board, but your support and encouragement can set the stage for positive change.