Aging wisely

I used to be so strong and now I get these aches and pains that I never had before. I know I need

to make changes in my meals, yet I’m not sure what to do anymore.” This expression might sound familiar if you live or work with the senior population.


When we speak about senior wellness, we refer to both mind and body challenges—including mental wellness, physical and nutrition wellness.


It’s important to let seniors know that mental wellness is one of the most important aspects of healthy aging. How can we exercise our mind? Motivate your patients to try something new every week such as mentally stimulating activities—crossword puzzles or Sudoku—to sharpen their neurons. They might want to play memory-boosting games or add a hobby to their routine, something they might have kept postponing in the past. 


In regards to physical wellness, the Surgeon General’s Report on Activity and Health mentions “physical inactivity is more common among minority groups than whites, among older than younger adults and among less affluent than the more affluent groups.”


Older adults should combine endurance, strength, flexibility and balance activities for at least thirty minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on five or more days of the week. They can obtain significant health benefits simply by walking or gardening. An advantage to group classes is the social interaction and bonding that occurs, so dance classes or walking groups can be very successful for this age group.


When it comes to nutrition wellness, educate seniors where they feel comfortable, such as in their homes. If they live in apartments, ask the property manager if you can use their clubhouse or maybe an assigned room to interact with a group of seniors.


I’ve had a lot of success with simultaneous bilingual senior presentations. Seniors like a lot of attention, so as long as your workshops are dynamic, engaging them in activities, they will love you! Add a cooking demonstration, play some games (bingo or spin the wheels while responding to dietary questions) with prizes, and you’ll have the seniors participating actively.


Tips for eating nutritious even when seniors live alone and/or have difficulties preparing foods can be emphasized with some dietary changes: reducing sodium in meals by not cooking with salt and using fresh herbs and other common spices that they enjoy. Educating them on how to read nutrition labels, (through games) can be a way for them to understand what’s in the products they usually purchase.


Last but not least, tips to prevent malnutrition in this age group could include choosing nutrient packed foods that are flavorful and maintain their heritage in their meals, snacking between meals, and choosing healthy options such as smoothies or fruit salad, eating with other family members or friends as much as possible, getting help if they have difficulties in the kitchen, and having a support group who can listen and care for them when they are lonely.