Knowing Where to Look: Health Resources and Information for Seniors

Seniors, even those who can care for themselves, sometimes need a little assistance. To a great extent, maintaining your independence depends on adopting a healthy lifestyle and knowing where to look for resources that can help you stay happy and active. Fortunately, there are many ways to incorporate healthy habits into your daily life without spending a lot of money or making a huge time commitment. Below are some tips to help you make that happen.

Eat Smart

Nutrition is a cornerstone for anyone who wants to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Making sure you’re getting nutritious meals on a daily basis requires a commitment to healthy eating, but sometimes you need a little help to make that happen. There are many resources designed to help older adults find sources for fresh, healthy foods that provide the vitamins and minerals they need. The Senior Farmers Market Program, for example, can direct you to markets nearby that sell fresh produce and specialty items. The Commodity Supplemental Food Program is an excellent resource for low-income seniors who need help finding healthy food sources nearby.  

Simple Recipes

Meal preparation can be difficult if you’re having trouble getting around. However, you can still benefit from nutritious meals every day thanks to simple, easy-to-make recipes that won’t stretch your budget or challenge you on a physical level. For example, try some shrimp penne, including peas, olive oil, basil pesto, garlic, pepper, peeled shrimp, and pasta. Saute your ingredients while the pasta is cooking, mix it all together, and you’ve got a delicious and healthful dinner or lunch. Or, how about an Italian chicken bake, which uses only four ingredients? 

Stay Active

Exercise is vital for seniors who are trying to maintain muscle strength and flexibility, increase bone density, and improve balance. Exercise also helps combat depression and anxiety by activating feel-good endorphins in the brain. Don’t worry — you don’t have to try anything that’s beyond your capabilities to stay active, as there are plenty of simple exercises that can be done in the comfort and safety of your home. 

Start out with a few chair squats. To get started, stand in front of a sturdy chair (one that won’t shift or slide) with your feet at shoulder width. Bend at the knees with your shoulders and upper body in an upright position. Slowly lower yourself into a sitting position. Then, push back up and repeat the motion. It’s a great way to strengthen the lower body. 

Wall push-ups can do the same for your upper-body strength. Stand a couple of feet in front of a wall and put your hands, palms-down, against the wall. Stay straight and bend at the elbows. Stop with your face close to the wall, push back, straighten and repeat. If you like to exercise outside, take the dog for a walk around the neighborhood every day, or at a nearby park. 

Finally, you can invest in some basic workout equipment that can help you stay in shape. For example, you can find hand weights for as little as $1.74 at Walmart (price varies by weight), or you can pick up an affordable resistance band. Whatever you decide to do, it’s important to develop a routine and stick to it as closely as possible on a regular basis.

Healthcare

Knowing where to go for health care and information about your Medicare coverage is crucial for helping seniors stay healthy. Stay abreast of changes in your Medicare, Medicare Advantage, or Medicaid coverage — Medicare is highly changeable, and coverage details and conditions come and go frequently. If you’re not sure how to find a healthcare provider who accepts your Medicare plan, check out Health and Human Services’ online resource.    

Assisted Living

If taking care of yourself is becoming a burden, it may be time to start researching assisted living facilities in your area. The internet can be a valuable tool for older adults who need to know what’s affordable and available. There are many online search tools that can make it easy to find assisted living communities in your price range (all you need is your zip code to get started). For example, A Place for Mom notes that in the Portland area, the average cost of assisted living facilities ranges from $1,800 to $8,010 per month. And don’t just judge a facility by price. It’s important to take the time to search for the right facility that fits your overall needs and discuss the decision with your loved ones beforehand.

Written by: Harry Cline, creator of NewCaregiver.org and author of the upcoming book, The A-Z Home Care Handbook: Health Management How-Tos for Senior Caregivers. As a retired nursing home administrator, father of three, and caregiver to his ninety-year-old uncle, Harry knows how challenging and rewarding caregiving can be. He also understands that caregiving is often overwhelming for those just starting out. He created his website and is writing his new book to offer new caregivers everywhere help and support.