As of the 2016 census, the number of Canadians aged 65 and older was approximately 5.9 million, making up roughly 17 percent of the population. In the next 15 years, those in the 65-plus age group will make up nearly one-quarter of the population. As the number of aging adults grows, it becomes increasingly important to promote healthy habits that support optimal wellness.
This article offers four tips to help your senior patients grow old gracefully, plus some wellness giveaway ideas to support your efforts:
- Practice prevention: Many afflictions associated with aging, like falls, illness and chronic disease, are preventable. Staying on top of vaccinations to prevent flu, pneumonia and shingles is key to staying well. Post reminders in your clinic, but send them via mail as well—attach a vaccination schedule to a magnetic clip that patients can post on their fridge. Make sure patients keep regular wellness appointments by providing them with a wall calendar. Have staff offer to write patients’ upcoming visits on the calendar for them.
- Eat healthily: Aging adults face potential roadblocks when trying to make healthy food choices. Many older folks grow tired of cooking or eating alone, have problems with chewing or swallowing, or experience a decrease in appetite. Those who don’t have the energy to cook or who face eating challenges may benefit from a meal delivery service. Local senior centres are another possibility for healthy, prepared meals. Compile a list of resources to hand out to your aging patients. A portion plate makes a valuable wellness giveaway idea that promotes healthy eating choices.
- Stay active: Aging adults who stay active lower their risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers. It’s common knowledge that exercise can improve strength, balance and mood, but it also boosts the “ability to think, learn and make decisions.” The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends 2.5 hours of aerobic exercise per week for those aged 65 and older. Walking, swimming, cycling and yoga are great low-impact activities for this aging group. Dancing can also be a fun way to get active and socialize. Consider partnering with your local senior centre to host regular ballroom-, line- or square-dancing events. Or, offer weekly aerobic classes specially geared toward seniors. Handing out a wellness promotional item, like a pedometer or activity tracker, can help patients monitor their physical activity and stay on track.
- Remain connected: Social contacts tend to decrease as we age. Reasons include retirement, reduced mobility, and the passing of friends and family members. What’s more, about 25 percent of those aged 65 and older live alone. Isolation can have serious health and wellness consequences. It can lead to dementia, depression, increased stress, inflammation, diabetes and even a shorter lifespan. In fact, its adverse effects have been compared to that of smoking 15 cigarettes per day. Promote social interaction by offering or sponsoring regular communal activities for seniors. Host technology classes where aging adults can learn how to stay connected online. Offer art classes, organize ice cream socials, or hold regular game and movie nights. Promote your offerings on your website, via direct mail and email, and with posters and other signage.
Tips on aging never get old … and there are many things patients can do to make the most of their golden years. Offer your seniors tips on preventative care, healthy eating, physical activity and social connection (and throw in some wellness giveaways to drive your point home). Your patients and their families will be grateful.
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