Why Seniors Should Make New Year's Resolutions
New Year's Resolutions are just for the young, right? Not necessarily. Setting resolutions actually has practical value for older people and can impact your overall health positively.
Resolutions Provide Purpose
If nothing else, resolutions provide us with goals and purpose in our lives. Rush University has conducted studies that show people who view life with a sense of purpose are two to four times less likely to develop Alzheimer's. Purpose gives you discipline. Another Rush study notes that self-disciplined, highly organized people are less susceptible to Alzheimer's.
And, a study in Journal of the American Medical Association showed that older adults with a solid sense of purpose tend to retain strong hand grips and walking speeds -- key indicators of how rapidly people are aging.
Writing down our thoughts and desires can make a big difference in our general outlook on life. It's a way to enter the year with an upbeat and positive attitude. And yes, there are studies to support the benefits of a positive attitude as you age. A Columbia University study showed that people who are enthusiastic and content are less likely to develop heart disease, while a Swedish study noted that social people who don't sweat the small stuff are 50 percent less likely to develop dementia.
[See: How Music Helps People With Alzheimer's Disease.]
Share Mutual Resolutions With a Loved One
Having mutual resolutions with a loved one means you can work together to realize them. Let's take one: sharing your life story.
Some families know their parents or older loved one's stories quite well. Many do not. And often, it's because no one has taken the time to ask them about their lives or encouraged them to keep a journal. Think about recording your parent or using other means to preserve memories of your loved one for future generations. There are places that will interview loved ones and write the story for you.
The process of making a family tree provides an opportunity to reminisce and teach you about the lives of family members you may not have known much about. Consider the many DNA kits that are available.
Or, make a family time capsule for your descendants to open in the distant future.
And here's another idea: Create a cookbook together. Especially after the holidays, when memories are fresh from holiday meals you've have shared. It can act as an instrument for carrying on family cooking traditions that might otherwise disappear.
[See: 14 Ways Caregivers Can Care for Themselves.]
Practical Resolutions for Everyone
For starters, make your home safer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 3 adults over the age of 65 falls each year. Many of these falls are preventable. Here's how to make a senior's home safer:
-- Telephones should be in each main room, and they should be positioned low enough that they can be reached from the floor in case of a fall.
-- Keep a working flashlight on the nightstand; check the batteries periodically.
-- Put eye-level decals or reflectors on glass and screen doors.
-- Remove throw rugs from any high traffic areas.
-- Replace glass shower doors with unbreakable plastic or shower curtains.
-- Fix the height of the bed so it's easier to get out of.
Following these senior safety guidelines will help you keep key areas of the house, such as the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and outside, secure.
Set Health Goals
Set up a schedule of doctor visits at the beginning of each year. Get your flu shot. Of course, we are hammered in the New Year with resolutions about diet and exercise. Well they become even more important as you age so actually acting on these resolutions is important.
Eating healthier, setting exercise goals. Did you know that a stunning 3.7 million seniors were diagnosed with malnutrition during 2012 according to the American Academy of Family Physicians?
Plan With Your Parents and for Yourself
Many people avoid conversations around planning for aging, but these can't be avoided forever. Use the new year as an opportunity to get must-have documents (such as marriage certificates, living wills and military records) in order. Educate yourself and your loved one about the cost of long-term care and how you pay for it.
[See: 9 Habits That May Reduce Your Risk of Developing Alzheimer's.]
Make New Friends
Senior loneliness and depression are certainly a reality. A lesson for all of us is to make new friends. Plan more activities with others, and in the process, you may learn new skills and adopt new hobbies, like cooking. Another helpful idea is to become a regular at the local senior center.
Caregivers can help their loved one by sharing in these activities, exposing both themselves and their loved one to new ideas and groups of people. This is especially true if a loved one has trouble getting around by himself or herself.
Use this new year to create mutual goals between yourself and a loved one -- creating purpose and having fun, while building deeper relationships.
Anthony Cirillo is president of The Aging Experience. He's a passionate advocate for family caregivers and older adults, helping them lead a quality life through a platform of educated aging -- physically, emotionally and financially. Cirillo is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives with a Masters from the University of Pennsylvania, His clients have ranged from the Cleveland Clinic, Unisys,and King Faisal Hospital in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to Carolinas Health Care, Novant Health, Wall Street startups and many more. Anthony serves on the Editorial Advisory Board for PPS Alert for Long-Term Care and is an editorial board member for the Journal of Aging and Geriatric Psychiatry.