By: Karen Weeks
Elderwellness.net
karen@elderwellness.net

There’s a reason they call them your “golden years.” After working hard your entire life, you finally get to enjoy retirement and experience the joys of seeing your family grow and expand. The one thing that can make this time of your life less enjoyable is poor health. If your mental, physical, or emotional health suffers, it affects your life in so many other ways. While you can’t prevent the normal wear and tear that comes with the years, the good news is that there are several things you can do to improve your overall quality of life while reducing your chance of preventable chronic conditions and injuries.

Navigating Medicare
One of the most unpleasant byproducts of health problems is definitely the expense. In 2013, one in five Americans struggled to pay for their healthcare, and the costs will only increase with time. Medicare is an incredibly helpful resource that shoulders part of the burden of senior healthcare costs. There is no one-size-fits-all Medicare plan — most people need to supplement normal Parts A and B with either Medicare Advantage (Part C) Medicare Prescription Drug (Part D) coverage. The Medicare Plan Finder tool compiles the options available for you in one place so narrowing your selection is simple. This tool is especially helpful for those who are less comfortable when it comes to finding things online.

Finding Safe Transportation
While giving up one’s ability to drive is limiting, it doesn’t mean seniors have to be stuck at home. Nowadays, there are more transportation options for those who do not have a car or license. Ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft allow private car owners to provide rides for substantially less than your average cost of a taxi. Local community organizations, senior centers, and churches may also have volunteer driving programs available for seniors, though they may not be able to drop people off anywhere other than a designated location.

Healthy Eating and Wholesome Foods
It’s important for seniors to ignore fad diets and instead eat a healthy diet full of foods that support their changing bodies. Malnutrition heightens the risk of weight problems, weakens muscles and bones, and leaves seniors vulnerable to disease. Seniors need a diet rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, fats, carbohydrates, and proteins for optimal physical and mental health.

  • Fiber lowers cholesterol, fights heart disease, lowers the risk of colorectal cancer, helps maintain a healthy weight, and regulates digestion. Find a list of fiber-rich foods here.
  • Vitamins and minerals are best obtained through foods, not supplements. If a vitamin or mineral deficiency suspected, have a doctor draw blood work.
  • Healthy fats reduce LDL cholesterol, regulate insulin and blood sugar levels, decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes, reduce inflammation, and improve brain function and cell growth. Food sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats include avocados, nuts, olives, flax seed, salmon, tuna, soy, seeds, and eggs.
  • Carbohydrates provide dietary fiber, sugars, and starches that fuel our bodily functions. The best carbohydrates come from complex foods that contain other nutrients — fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are great examples. If possible, avoid simple carbohydrates and added sugars.
  • Proteins are the building blocks of the human body. They are essential for establishing lean body mass, enabling cell repair, and supporting a healthy immune system. Seniors need two or three servings of high-protein foods to meet the daily requirement of 45 to 55 grams per day.

Healthy habits enable seniors to make the most of their golden years. Medical bills are an unpleasant byproduct of old age. So, stay in the black by taking advantage of Medicare and supplemental plans that cover the costs of healthcare. Many seniors can no longer safely drive on their own, but ride share apps and volunteer driving services grant them mobility and independence despite a lack of a driver’s license. Finally, a wholesome diet is essential for mental and physical health. Seniors need a diverse array of foods to provide ample fiber, vitamins, minerals, fats, carbohydrates, and proteins.