Elderly Health Safety & Resource Page
Protecting the health and safety of the aging population is an important task that falls upon the general community as well as caregivers, friends, and family. When steps are taken to promote good health and well-being in the elderly, it signifies respect for individuals regardless of age, abilities, or station in life. Whether you care for a senior or are entering your golden years, certain information about health and safety can help address age-related issues as they arise. Modifying the home, watching one's diet, and adopting a good exercise program can all count as positive changes in a senior's life. Staying alert about medical issues, using assistive technology, and remaining active in social circles can also directly contribute to good physical and mental health.
Modifying home areas can go a long way in protecting the health and safety of seniors. Zones designated as particularly hazardous, like kitchens, can be made safer by incorporating simple changes. Installing bright lights, clearing pathways, using non-skid bathmats and rugs, and buying extra-loud fire and smoke detectors can ensure the safety of seniors. Specific modifications to the home can be made based on a senior's particular needs as well. For example, people with balance problems might benefit from the installation of grab bars, those with vision problems can trade-in phones for those with larger dial pads, and older adults who have recently begun using wheelchairs can have doorways widened to accommodate mobility equipment. For a basic starting point to senior-friendly design, consider reading over the Americans With Disabilities (ADA) guidelines and adopting these easy concepts into living spaces.
- Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) Accessible Design Guidelines for 2010 (PDF)
- Power Play: Helping Aging Muscles
The best diets for seniors are often those that are developed around personal health needs and medical problems. For instance, the adoption of the DASH diet can be a wise choice for those who have high blood pressure or heart disease, while monitoring sweets can be an important part of keeping diabetes under control. Any diet that is adopted should be varied and contain the nutritional components that seniors need, such as good amounts of calcium, fiber, protein, and iron. Vitamins A and C and folic acid should also be present in meals, as these can help protect against senior-related health problems. Many older adults live on a fixed income, but a variety of programs and plans exist to help ensure that they can eat well while buying groceries on a budget.
For many, regular exercise can help promote health and feelings of well-being. Seniors can especially benefit from physical activity, as it can reduce the potential for acquiring age-related health problems like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and particular forms of cancer. Mental diseases and disorders, like depression, may even be alleviated with the introduction of exercise into a daily routine. Low-impact or moderate exercises such as walking or swimming can provide numerous benefits.
To reap the best rewards from exercise, it can be best for seniors to choose activities that they already enjoy and make a concentrated effort to transform them into full-on exercises. Gardening and dancing can count as exercise if extra time is put into raking leaves or a fast tempo gets toes tapping and hearts pumping. One of the best ways for seniors to engage in exercise and keep it a part of their lives is to make it a social event, so group activities can be especially beneficial in this way.
As a general rule, at least one of the four main types of exercise (endurance, balance, strength, and flexibility) should be present in an exercise regimen. Physical activities that combine two or more types of exercise, like yoga, can provide the most benefits. Seniors should consult with their doctors to determine the best form of exercise for them after considering preexisting health conditions and safety concerns. All efforts should be taken to avoid exacerbating problems that can be recognized as medical. The vitality of seniors can be dependent on choosing appropriate exercises based on specific abilities.
Vision, Memory, and Hearing
Sensory impairments like vision and hearing problems can often arise in the senior population and cause problems in daily living and social function. Early detection of problems with hearing and vision can protect against unnecessary accidents, like falls, that can have negative effects on senior health. Assistive devices such as glasses and hearing aids can increase the quality of life and independence, while medical treatments may be able to slow or even nullify the progression of related diseases. Since brains are very similar to muscles in some ways, it can be important to keep exercising the brain as one grows older to promote cognitive function. Online memory tests can also give seniors the ability to make a preliminary assessment about their memories and provide them the opportunity to approach their doctors with concerns, should they get results that signify problems that are medical. Vitality devices and exercises like these can significantly improve a senior's experience of the world.
- Trends in Vision and Hearing Among Older Americans (PDF)
- Facts on Hearing Loss
- How to Prevent and Minimize Age-Related Hearing Loss
- Catch Memory Problems Early: Take the SAGE Test
Seniors can face special challenges when it comes to managing medications. As health problems can often arise or be more pronounced in the older population, it can be important for seniors to practice the safe handling of medications while also ensuring that their medication schedules are adhered to. Learning about side effects, guarding against medication misuse, and finding ways to make taking medications easier are all significant parts of senior medication management. Opting for medication bottles that allow for easy opening can relieve stress on hands and joints and reduce flare-ups of conditions like arthritis. In addition, choosing a pharmacist who has received special training to work with seniors can help protect an elderly person's health by making the tasks of ordering, receiving, understanding, and taking medications easier.
- General Medication Guidelines
- Managing Your Medications for Older Adults (PDF)
- Safe After 60: Medication Safety (PDF)
Isolation is a very real threat to seniors' well-being. Being cut off from a community, friends, or family can have a profound effect on physical and mental health. The simple act of participating in social activities can alleviate depression, improve cognitive function, and deter the presence of physical ailments. Staying active in a social circle can also function as a way to build or maintain connections that can directly decrease the potential for elder abuse and mortality. Seniors have a variety of options when it comes to staying social. Joining a book club, exercise group, or art program or taking a class can provide great mental and physical stimulation. Visiting a senior center can connect older people with others who have similar life experiences. Participating in volunteer work can also engender feelings of well-being and usefulness in seniors who have physical ailments that undermine their self-esteem or self-concepts. Social inclusion has a host of benefits, not least of which are distinctively medical. Vitality levels in the older population are inextricably linked to engaging with a community and enjoying time within it.
- Socially Active Older Adults Have Slower Rates of Health Declines
- For Seniors, Participating in Social Service Activities Can Improve Brain Function
- Senior Corps: Corporation for National and Community Service
- Create the Good: Find Volunteer Opportunities
Burt Cancaster, Author