The elderly population is projected to increase exponentially across the globe between 1987 and 2030 by 26%. In most countries, the elderly are referred to as those above the age of 65 years. Our seniors are an important part of our community and we should ensure that they are well taken care of. Aside from taking care of them ourselves, we should encourage them to play a role in taking care of themselves.
As we get older, the nature of our needs changes due to the changes in our life. For example, our health care needs increase because we tend to develop more ailments as we grow older. This can cause chronic pain issues that can stay with them for the rest of their lives. A doctor, in this case, may want to try a different form of medicine such as the strawberry banana strain from medical marijuana, to help them not only alleviate their pain but help with the following stress. There is more detail below on how we can help out the elderly with their individual problems too. Some of these major needs the elderly may experience include;
- Healthcare needs– some of the diseases they experience include cancer, urinary incontinence, metabolic syndrome, autoimmune diseases, arthritis amongst others. These diseases affect everyone but their incidence increases with age.
- Financial needs– during the transition from employment to retirement, many older people may find themselves with more financial needs than they did before. Bills and utilities may get more expensive for them especially after being retired for many years.
- Social needs– retirement has been said to come with a loneliness aspect because one no longer has colleagues around them all day. The elderly can therefore get very lonely and this may even lead to depression, anxiety or stress.
- Mobility needs– with age, the degeneration of skeletal muscles may render our elderly immobile or they may have difficulty being mobile. This may range from senior developing arthritis which renders any kind of walking movement painful to loss of sight which will render them unable to drive.
As mentioned above, as we age, we sometimes develop more ailments than we did when we were younger. Some of the diseases that plague our older generation include; heart disease, pulmonary disease, cancer, arthritis, urinary incontinence, hypertension and diabetes amongst others. We need to encourage the elderly to seek healthcare services when there is a need and regularly to keep up with their physical and mental health. Many of these diseases cause pain to them and if not managed, may result in one leading an uncomfortable life. Some of the ways we can support them include; taking them for their hospital visits, getting them pillboxes so they can keep track of their medication, checking up on them and asking them about their health while encouraging them to go for their regular check-ups and getting them devices that could ease their day-to-day life such as wheelchairs, walking ramps, incontinence underwear, hearing devices and reading glasses amongst others.
It is a well-known fact that a little bit of exercise a day can keep many illnesses at bay. Staying sedentary all day has been known to mess with our sleep/ wake cycle affecting the quality and amount of sleep we get every night and can also negatively impact our metabolism. The elderly need to consult their healthcare worker on the kind of exercises they can do daily to avoid hurting themselves or falling. We can encourage our seniors to work out by working out with them, dropping them off and picking them up at the gym or yoga studio or helping them find a workout plan that works for them. Workouts the elderly can do include power walking, yoga, swimming, Zumba, dance class, aerobics class amongst others.
A little bit of movement every day has been known to have many positive effects on the elderly such as; alleviating arthritic pain if not too severe, helps in weight loss thus reducing the amount of cholesterol in the body and avoiding diseases associated with high cholesterol in the body. It has also been said to stimulate the brain and delay aging, prevent depression, anxiety and a myriad of other mental disorders whose risk increases with age.
The food we eat is so important as we age as it provides us with energy to go through our days and also boosts our immunity amongst other things. The three main food groups being carbohydrates, proteins and fats are necessary for the various vital bodily functions. We should encourage our elder generation to ensure they maintain a balanced diet when it comes to their meals. A balanced diet, according to researchers, includes a healthy serving of vegetables or whole fruits, a medium-sized portion of protein (these are your plant protein and your animal protein), and a small portion of carbohydrates. Fats and fibers are also important in our meals as fats are utilized in the body in many essential functions while fibers help indigestion).
What we eat has also been said to affect our mood constantly. When we feed our bodies healthy foods, we tend to experience a general feeling of well- being. On the other hand, if we only feed on junk food, we may experience increased tiredness, lethargy, illness and mood disorders including depression.
4. Social life
Encouraging the elderly to attend social gatherings is a good way to lift their spirits and stimulate their mental well-being. It is also important for us to invite our senior generation to social family gatherings such as birthdays, weddings, holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Social interactions help keep their brains active and also combat loneliness which is a huge problem that the elderly face.
In addition to social activities, it is important to encourage older people to develop new hobbies. Upon retirement, many elderly people find themselves with absolutely nothing to do during the day after having worked for years. This can affect their self-esteem, their mental health and their physical health due to their newly adapted sedentary lifestyle.
Another way to encourage our seniors socially is by seeking their advice as many of our seniors are full of wisdom from all the years of experience. This could better their mood and lift one’s feelings which could prevent depression and other mental illnesses.
Most of us spend 30 years of our lives or more working and therefore do not take the time to develop any hobbies. Hobbies are important especially during retirement as they give us something enjoyable and time- consuming to do while stimulating our brains. Keeping your brain stimulated is important in order to avoid degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia. We need to encourage the elderly to develop hobbies in their old age as they even have more time to work on them and perfect them.
Some of these hobbies could be; crocheting, knitting, yoga (which is also good as it provides an aspect of exercise), gardening, reading or painting and drawing. We can encourage our seniors by taking part in the activity with them; helping them find a club or studio they can join and participate in the activity with fellow peers, offering transportation services to and from these areas and providing the equipment necessary for them to pursue their hobbies.
6. Mental wellness
The WHO has estimated that approximately 15% of the population aged 60 and above suffer from a mental disorder. Some of these mental disorders that the elderly suffer from include depression, anxiety, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and Schizophrenia amongst others. These conditions can cause their health to degenerate and make their day-to-day lives uncomfortable. We need to encourage our seniors to take care of their mental wellbeing by encouraging them to talk to someone and not sip into loneliness, taking them for therapy in case one is diagnosed with depression, seeking medical advice and using the medicine if need be, checking up on them often so they do not feel deserted.
It is important to remind them that mental well- being is important not just in your youth but also as you grow older.
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