Safe Environment, Active Lifestyle: Tips for Seniors Aging in Place
Guest Blogger : Kent Elliot – AT HOME AGING WEBSITE
An alarming number of seniors are injured due to falls in their own homes. In fact, an older adult is treated in an emergency room due to a fall every 11 seconds, and one dies every 19 minutes from a fall, according to the National Council on Aging. Those are sobering numbers for seniors who want to age in place and for loved ones who are concerned for their well-being. Nevertheless, with the right modifications and lifestyle changes, seniors can enjoy a safe and rewarding life at home surrounded by familiar sights, memories, and belongings.
One of the biggest concerns for an older adult who wishes to age in place is to do whatever’s necessary to keep from tripping and falling. That means creating as much free, unimpeded space in each room as possible. Create clear pathways free of clutter (which could include unnecessary furniture) and remove rugs, pet toys, electrical cords, and anything else that represents a potential tripping hazard. Place frequently used objects, such as eyeglasses, within easy reach at all times. Don’t forget to add glare-free lighting to compensate for diminished eyesight.
According to stats from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seniors are at risk for injury in the bathroom more than in any other room. In fact, 81 percent of injuries to seniors occur in the bathroom. As such, there’s a need for safety measures capable of preventing falls. Grab bars should be firmly anchored into the wall in the shower and near the toilet, and non-skid material must be placed in front of the sink, next to the shower, and in front of the toilet. Some people are concerned about the cost of installing a walk-in bathtub, though when weighed against the expense of a hospital stay, it doesn’t seem quite so costly.
Information from the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal affirms that lifestyle habits, particularly those involving diet and exercise, play an important role for seniors. Online statistical resource McMaster indicates that seniors should reduce sodium intake to reduce blood pressure and decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease, cut out processed foods (especially fast foods), include more fish in order to get omega-3 fatty acids; reduce saturated fats, and increase plant-based oils (particularly olive oil), which have a host of health benefits.
Seniors can do a lot to guard against falls by strengthening their core and lower body through exercise. The key is not to give in to a sedentary lifestyle. A full-body workout may not be possible, but there are definitely options that can make a difference, including weight-bearing exercises, which help slow the loss of muscle mass. Additionally, water-based exercise can also bolster muscle strength without placing undue stress on joints and bones. Joining a water aerobics class with friends is both fun and builds strength, and it’s a great way to get the social engagement you need to stay active and engaged. What’s more, if you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan (private insurers such as Humana offer these plans), you already have access to the Silver Sneakers program, which gives you access to facilities in your area. Chances are, there are several water aerobics classes available that are just waiting for you to sign up.
Older adults also need to find ways to stay mentally active, and it doesn’t really matter how you do it. If you like to read, that’s one of the best ways to keep your mind active. Crossword puzzles, Sudoku, jigsaw puzzles, and word games can help you stay mentally limber.
Remaining safe and healthy as you age in place requires an active mindset, the adoption of healthy lifestyle strategies — both physical and mental — and home modifications that reduce risk factors for falls and other in-home accidents. Emphasize open space, abundant lighting, and plenty of support aids in the bathroom. And be very careful to avoid isolation and long periods of physical and mental inactivity.
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