Despite the advent of retirement communities and assisted living facilities many seniors opt to remain in their own homes.
This shouldn’t conjure up images of bleak loneliness; try to at least consider that some people like “living on their own.” The decision is yours: Will it be a difficult adjustment or a time of self discovery?
Many seniors, especially women, are forced into making this monumental decision whether they want to or not. It is difficult to think about, much less plan in advance, but at least take a few moments to consider “what if.”
Shake of the idea that you have to be surrounded by others to make you happy. Learn to be independent early on. Don’t be so tied to your spouse and/or children that if something happen to them you don’t have other support systems to fall back on. Learn how to be your own person.
Few people actually complain about being lonely; they rather enjoy their independence. Consider the pros and cons: Not having to tidy up the house every morning, unless you are compulsively tidy, might have a certain appeal. You may like being able to control what, when, and where you want to eat. Just think, you can stay up late and eat crackers in bed without disturbing anyone. You can throw open the windows if you are too hot, watch favorite soaps, or work from home. You can read, paint, or enjoy other arts and crafts without feeling guilty, and you don’t have to put current projects away every night to avoid that “cluttered” look.
You may not mind coming home to an empty house but try to avoid spending too much time alone. You will be more content if you expand your horizons to include other people so that you can enjoy the best of both worlds. Suggestions for seniors might include: Joining a senior center, volunteer work, working from home and getting to know your neighbors. Make a point of getting out of the house and talking to other people on a daily basis. It is up to you to learn how to alone without being lonely.
I like human interest stories. A few weeks ago our local newspaper featured the story of a 92 year old gentleman who has walked 23,000 miles, over the last 27 years, at a local mall.
Exercise and window shopping are strange bedfellows, but enclosed malls have become popular venues for senior walkers. In the morning hours, before stores open for business, groups of walkers are encouraged to meet and walk. The wide corridors, attractive décor, and indoor landscaping provide a safe and congenial place to meet.
Walking is a popular form of physical activity but you are not alone if you hate walking by yourself or find broken sidewalks, traffic noise, and inclement weather less than appealing.
Why mall walking?
l. Mall walking is safe and inexpensive, especially if you leave your credit cards at home, not to mention that you will be surrounded by like minded individuals. You will be pleasantly surprised to find an entire community of people meeting regularly to walk.
2. Mall walking gives you somewhere to be on a regular basis; a routine that will give structure to the rest of your day.
3. Physical exercise as well as the social aspect of mall walking keeps people coming back for more.
Check with local malls offices about rules, regulations and clubs. All you have to do is walk in (most malls open from 6-7:30 in the morning), say hello, do a few stretching exercises, lace up your sneakers and strap on your pedometer. Slip into a group that looks right for you and follow along; the pace may range from snail to hare but you will soon find one that is right for you.
Mall walkers come in all ages, sizes, shapes, and stages or health but they all have the same goal; to keep moving.
My cousin, who I frequently use as an example, is intelligent, funny, and a typical modern senior. She and her husband dine out often and she admits to “doctoring” up frozen pizza, using gravy from a jar, and every other convenience she can think of. She isn’t the only one; we are all guilty of “making do” on at least two, maybe even three or four nights a week. We all know better but nutrition takes a back seat when we are hungry and running behind schedule.
Does that mean that the food we pull off a shelf, out of the freezer, or select from a buffet table are all bad for us? Who can we trust? Are any convenience foods nutritious?
Of course they are, but dietitians will line up to tell you that you have to do your homework. Convenience foods are tempting. The boxes, dry goods, canned and frozen foods all look good but are they good for you? Most of them are loaded with calories, salt, fats, sugars, additives and preservatives. This revelation takes the wind out of your sales doesn’t it? A steady diet of convenience foods can lead to weight gain and may put your health at risk.
So, how do you find healthier versions? Healthy convenience foods can be found but you are going to have to shop at a time when you aren’t hungry, and when the stores aren’t crowded.
First, you actually need to read the labels to learn if there are any “real foods” in the box. Ingredients are listed in order of quantity so look for items that put meat and vegetables first.
Secondly, don’t forget to look at the nutrition facts; how many calories per serving, how much fiber, sodium, sugar and fats are included. Ideally an entrée should have 600 or fewer calories, 5 grams of fiber or more, 500 or less milligrams of sodium, zero grams of trans fats, 5 or less of saturated fat and no sugar.
Good luck with all that. Do your research. At the very least check out some of your “favorite” convenience foods; see how many of them fit the bill. Keep a journal of your findings and get to know the brands you can trust.
Seniors, as most others, look forward to cold weather with a mixture of anticipation and apprehension. If sitting in front of the fireplace all winter long isn’t your cup of tea, think about learning how to do something fun.
Physical activities like skating, skiing and snow shoeing can make winter a lot more bearable and you can indulge in a cup of hot cocoa, Irish Coffee or a Hot Toddy afterwards if you think you’ve earned it.
Snow shoeing is so much fun that people of all ages are doing it for fitness, recreation or for sheer pleasure. It you like you can take a little class at the neighborhood recreation center but no special skill set is required. It takes all of 5 minutes to master how to fit a pair of snow shoes to you feet, and how to put one foot in front of the other without tripping over your own feet.
All you need is the urge for some outdoor exercise, warm clothes, decent hiking boots and a pair of lightweight snow shoes. New snow shoes are smaller than the original models and are surprisingly easy to maneuver. Built in crampons (claws) provide excellent traction in icy or steep conditions. So whether you just want to take your camera and do a gently walk in the park or scale a hiking trail is up to you.
Because snow shoeing is the winter equivalent of hiking it can be as aerobic as you want to make it. The faster you go or the steeper the trail the more intense the workout. If you use poles you get a total body workout that is still low impact (snow provides a soft gentle landing with each step and if you fall over you are more apt to giggle than cry out in pain.)
People of all ages take to the trails. If you are older and are still looking for a high powered workout take extra precautions:
Avoid frostbite by protecting exposed areas with appropriate clothing. Keep your feet warm with proper socks and waterproof boots. Protect hands with mittens and cover head, face and ears with a hat or scarf.
Avoid hypothermia by dressing and layers (a recreational sporting goods store will tell you about the latest and best clothing to insulate your body and keep your warm).
Older people with heart disease need to be aware that exercising in cold weather puts extra stress on the heart. You can enjoy the out of doors snow walking and leave the difficult trails to younger folks.
Talk to your doctor if you are worried about asthma attacks, dehydration or muscle injuries. Pace yourself and have the time of your life. Take proper precaution to make time spent outdoors safe and enjoyable.
We complain a lot about air travel but it is still the quickest and more convenient way to travel. You will be pleasantly surprised to find that being a senior has some perks. My elderly cousin and her husband travel from the Midwest to the East Coast several times a year and have figured out how to make it as painless as possible. This is what she has to say:
“We board a commuter plane at a small airport and don’t need much help at this point. However when we get to the larger airports it is a different story; we take advantage of the transportation assistance offered to seniors (wheelchairs or motorized shuttles) and others who have difficulty walking.
Arrangements for these services can be made in advance (when boarding passes are ordered) but don’t panic if you forget. It is still possible to request assistance when you check in or even when you get to the boarding gate.
When arriving at the large airports, it can be confusing knowing which way to go to get to your boarding gate. Don’t be afraid to ask for help; when using transportation services they will do this for you.
We avoid the check-in kiosks and have the person at the desk print our boarding passes. If you order your tickets on line you will receive a confirmation via e-mail. Take the itinerary to the check-in counter and they will print out your boarding passes.
Fortunately our flights aren’t that long so we don’t have to worry about getting in and out of our seats to stretch our legs. We do wear surgical hose and we try to reserve aisle seats to make getting into and out of seats easier.
The seats are smaller and the little extras that made flying fun have disappeared, but people still go the extra mile for you. Take advantage of the services offered and save yourself the stress of trying to do everything on your own.”
Please feel free to share your experiences and your suggestions on how to make airline travel pleasanter for the senior traveler.