For some, living alone is a dream come true, with your own space, the relaxing quiet, and a rewarding sense of independence as you age in place. However, in your senior years, your body is not what it used to be, and when there is no one immediately by your side, some additional concerns are bound to come up. Ease your family’s mind (and yours) with these essential tips for seniors who live alone:
First and foremost, you need to ensure that your fitness is still functioning at a reasonable level, no excuses. Thankfully, improving your physical condition can be as simple as getting out of the house and walking around as much as possible. The fresh air will help destress and calm you, the movement will strengthen your muscles and bones to avoid falls, and the outdoor scenery will rejuvenate your spirit and minimize your brooding.
Exercise is nothing, however, without a healthy diet to complement it. Stock up on lean protein, colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat alternatives, without forgetting to drink plenty of water. If mobility is a concern for you, look at online services who will deliver groceries to your door, and while you’re at it, ask if there is an option to order your medication too!
Speaking of medication, you should regularly go for health check-ups and speak to your doctor about your prescriptions. Even if you are not experiencing any negative side effects, it is still a good idea to reevaluate their benefits and get a professional’s opinion about other choices on the market. During this conversation, you might want to ask if you can get some additional boxes too, as these can be your safety net if you run out and can’t get to the pharmacy for whatever reason.
Without anyone to remind you, it is imperative to have a foolproof system which tracks your medication schedule. Set up a calendar or (for the more tech savvy) install one of the many available smartphone apps which can keep inventory of your medicine for you, alert you when it’s time to take pills, and remind you when refills are due.
Your Social Life
One of the biggest risks that seniors face when living by themselves, is that dark feeling of loneliness, known to aggravate depression, impair physical health, and even deteriorate cognitive performance. Fortunately, there are ways to combat it: go out and see more people! Get to know your neighbors, participate in community activities, make an appearance at local gatherings, and attend classes which focus on your hobbies.
For family members, it’s important to frequently check in with your loved ones who live alone. Establish a routine visiting agenda, and use technologies like Skype to make contact when a personal stopover isn’t possible. When you do come around, ask about these isolation troubles and review their current medication situation, but only after you’ve given them a big hug!
The best way to deal with a fall is to not have one at all, which is why the home needs to be set up in ways to avoid this common occurrence. Walk through each room and remove any potentially dangerous trip hazards, such as loose rugs, exposed wires, and general clutter. Reorganize furniture until there is a clear path from one end of the house to the other, and confirm that each room is bright enough to see where you’re going. Install hand railings in the bathrooms and up the stairs, use non-slip covering on tiles, and purchase a fall mat to place next to the bed, preventing any potential injuries from falls at night.
For additional peace of mind, investigate the security of your house. Are the front door and any other protective gates easy to lock? Does the neighborhood warrant an alarm system? Would a motion-activated light sensor protect against any break-ins? These are only some of the questions which need to be addressed.
Finally, spare a thought towards preparing for the worst. If a natural disaster strikes or the power goes out, how will this affect someone without a helping hand? Minimize any severe predicaments by keeping a flashlight next to the bed, a collection of spare batteries in an easy to reach location, and a large reserve bottle of water just in case. And, of course, test those smoke alarms every week!
In Case of Emergency
At the end of the day, accidents are going to happen, which is why there are certain essentials which cannot be overlooked. List all crucial numbers next to the phone for easy access, purchase a wearable alert system to call for help if you’re unable to move, and keep an ID bracelet on your person at all times, detailing any existing conditions to inform emergency professionals when you are unable to.
Retiring can be socially isolating. Not only does it mean that you no longer interact with your coworkers on a daily basis, but you may not be able to get together with friends and family members who are still working. You need to make a plan to make new friends and have new adventures.
Today’s seniors are living longer, are better educated and more physically active than past generations. They have more time and more options to stay socially active as they age. Some common ways older people engage socially are going to museums and the theater, participating in activities at a senior center or joining a card club. But, there are more ways to connect with others, too. Think outside the box to stay young and engaged. Try these ideas.
Be a lifelong learner
Consider taking a community or university class to meet other people with similar interests. Pick subjects that you’ve always wanted to learn more about, such as biology, political science, history, psychology or foreign languages. Or take a class that can help you learn a new hobby or skill, such as photography, scrapbooking art or carpentry. Keep up with advances in technology by enrolling in computer or technology classes. Some universities have classes designed for seniors without tests or credits and may be offered for free. Check if a college near you offers this perk.
Some people start a second career or pick up new skills on the job. Try something new like becoming an Uber/Lyft driver or go back to school or launch a new business or foundation.
Join a club
Get involved in special clubs with events like recreational vehicle groups, quilting clubs, fishing groups, religious study groups, travel groups, society or book clubs. Whether it’s a passion you’ve had your whole life or a newfound interest you want to try, exploring a hobby with a group can expose you to new ideas and adventures.
Volunteer your time at schools, churches, libraries, non-profit organizations and community centers. Find something you are passionate about. It is a great way to get together socially with others who have interests similar to yours and help those in need. It also gives purpose to life.
Get physically active with others
It’s important to stay physically active as you age. Check out groups that provide both physical and social activities, such as dance, yoga, charity walks, biking groups, swimming, golf, pickle ball or lawn bowling. You could even become a referee for your favorite sport.
Some activities are open to all age groups, while others are for seniors only. Silver Sneakers is a program designed to keep adults 65 years and older healthy and moving. The program includes 13,000 participating facilities, such as YMCAs, across the U.S. It offers access to exclusive fitness classes, meetups and even Medicare health plans. As a member, you can attend any participating gyms at any time.
Opportunities abound. It may take a step out of your comfort zone to try something new, but you won’t regret taking the leap.
Jean Cherry, BSN, WCC, MBA develops clinical programs and writes for Walgreens, where you can find assistive devices for seniors like lift chairs on the Walgreens website. As a former home health nurse, Jean prides herself in helping seniors stay active in their communities and live independently at home.
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