Stay-at-Home Health Tips for Seniors
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Businesses and schools all over the country have shut their doors in an attempt to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep Americans safe. More recently, state and local governments have issued stay-at-home orders and encouraged social distancing efforts. For seniors, this poses a number of mental and physical health challenges. We spoke to several health and wellness experts and got their recommendations for staying mentally and physically healthy during these uncertain times.
Physical Health Tips
The COVID-19 quarantine makes staying active a little more complicated, but it’s far from impossible. Seniors have a number of options for getting daily exercise both inside and outside their homes.
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- Get Online: If you’ve got internet access, you’ve also got access to countless low-impact exercise programs for seniors. Jessica Ruiz, a certified fitness instructor at FitRated.com, suggests the following search terms, “bodyweight exercises, tai chi, yoga, senior chair strategies, and chair workouts.”
- Go for a Walk: Stay-at-home orders don’t mean you’re literally stuck in the house. Senior fitness experts like Dr. Scott McAfee of Movement-X suggest at least 30 minutes of outdoor walking for healthy seniors. McAfee acknowledges both the physical and mental benefits of a short stroll. “Getting outdoors, soaking up some sunshine, and saying hello to neighbors,” he says, “can give both your mind and body the boost they need.” He reminds seniors that they should keep a safe, six-foot distance between themselves and others while walking.
- Stay in for a Walk: While it’s important to get fresh air and sunshine when you can, you don’t need to head outdoors to get a walk in. Ruiz notes that you can “walk a mile” with just 15-20 minutes of walking in place. You can even do it while you watch TV. There are plenty of other ways to improvise exercise routines around your home, too. Ruiz recommends doing calf-raises during standing activities like washing dishes, brushing your teeth, or preparing dinner.
Mental Health Tips
Staying in the house all day can be lonely and even depressing. That’s not to mention the added anxiety that comes with living through a global pandemic. Consider taking these steps to boost your mood, reduce stress, and support your mental wellbeing.
- Establish a Brain Fitness Routine: Your brain needs exercise just as much as your body. Dr. Krystal Culler, an Atlantic Fellow with the Global Brain Health Institute, encourages seniors to establish a daily workout routine to keep their minds sharp. She writes, “an exercise should be new, novel, and offer an appropriate level of challenge.” This can be as simple as reading something with the intention of sharing it. “You will process the information differently,” and potentially boost your memory and reading comprehension skills. Dr. Regina Koepp, an Assistant Professor at Emory University, suggests adding activities like crossword puzzles and chess to further promote mental stimulation.
- Meditate: Haley Neidich, a practicing psychotherapist, is particularly concerned by the potential mental health impacts of loneliness and isolation. She urges seniors to work meditation and mindfulness exercises into their daily routines. “The Calm app,” she remarks, “is a great tool for beginners.” Alternatively, seniors can start meditating by simply “closing their eyes and taking 5 slow, deep breaths while seated.”
- Stay Connected: Social distancing is absolutely essential for keeping yourself and your loved ones safe. “The downside of social distancing,” Dr. Koepp writes, “is that it increases the risk of loneliness and isolation among older adults.” She encourages seniors to check in with loved ones over apps like FaceTime, WhatsApp, and Skype. When it comes to the news, however, she discourages seniors from getting “too” connected. She advises everyone to limit their media intake as much as possible and stick to credible sources.
Don’t forget that mental and physical wellbeing tend to go hand-in-hand. A quick walk around the block can lift your spirits and a few minutes of mindfulness can leave you feeling stronger. Whether you’re designing a detailed regimen or just looking to meet a modest goal, be sure to take both sides of your health into account.