While many of us are enjoying the advantages of better health resulting in living longer, we are also faced with new and different challenges than generations before us. One challenge is how to make the most of our time while maintaining our quality of life and independence. As we age, many of us want to remain independent in our homes for as long as possible. We want to age in place. Maintaining good health is the key to aging in place. It entails knowing your health risks, taking preventative measures, eating healthily, being physically active, caring for your mental health, and staying socially connected.
Routine checkups and health screenings can detect changes in your body that may signal a problem is developing. Some basic health assessments for seniors include strength assessment, self-care abilities, and vision and hearing assessment.
Eat a healthy diet consisting of mainly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Maintain a healthy weight by balancing the calories that you take in from food with the calories you burn off by your activities. If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation and pay close attention to alcohol-medication interactions.
To help you eat right, several local organizations provide nutrition education and low-cost meals for seniors.
- Community Services Agency of Mountain View, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills offers hot lunches each weekday for seniors who are 60 years or older at the Mountain View Senior Center. In addition to the daily nutritious meal, nutrition and health education is provided to increase awareness and knowledge of healthy options. Call the Senior Nutrition Program at (650) 964-6586 for more information.
- El Camino Hospital offers a complimentary 30-minute consultation with a dietician to review your current diet and evaluate your nutritional status. To schedule a consultation call the El Camino Hospital Health Library & Resource Center at (650) 940-7210.
- The Santa Clara County Meals on Wheels program delivers frozen entrees, breakfast items, and grocery items once a week to seniors. Nutrition can be delivered right to your door if you are age 60 or older, unable to shop or cook meals for yourself, and have no one available to help with meals on a regular basis. Call (408) 350-3246 for more information about Meals on Wheels.
Physical activity helps older adult maintain independence by preventing diseases and disabilities. Poor muscle strength, lack of balance, and inflexibility are linked to a sedentary lifestyle and can greatly increase the risk of falling. Movement does not need to be strenuous and you can start small and work up to 30 minutes or more of moderate physical activity per day. You can exercise and make new friends by joining activities organized by the following organizations.
- Bay Area Older Adults offers outdoor, social and cultural activities for adults age 50 or older. Outdoor activities include nature walks, educational hikes, and social picnics. For information about upcoming activities, contact Bay Area Older Adults at (408) 774-0593 or visit www.bayareaolderadults.org.
- The Los Altos and Mountain View Senior Centers offers group exercises aimed at different levels of physical activity, like walking groups, dancing classes, and more. Contact the Los Altos Senior Program at (650) 947-2797. Contact the Mountain View Senior Center at (650) 903-6330.
Caring for your mental health is an important factor in aging. Depression in seniors often goes untreated because people think depression is a normal part of aging. On the contrary, depression is not typically associated with aging process. Seniors are often reluctant to speak to their physicians about mental health issues, with concerns about stigma or privacy. Depression is treatable. Left untreated, depression can lead to a loss of quality of life or even suicide.
- The Friendship Line at Institute on Aging is the nation’s only 24-hour toll-free hotline for older and disabled adults. Trained staff and volunteers make and receive calls to and from individuals who are either in crisis or just in need of a friend. Call the Friendship Line at (800) 971-0016.
- The Older Adults Transitions (OATS) program at El Camino Hospital specializes in helping seniors overcome depression and anxiety. The program provides individualized treatment, which can include therapy and medication management. To learn more about the OATS program, call (650) 940-7138 or visit www.elcaminohospital.org/OATS.
Staying socially connected can have a positive impact on your health and prevent isolation which is a risk factor for depression. Many seniors are at risk of isolation because they live alone in their own homes and have limited interaction with family, friends, and neighbors. Connecting with other older adults at local senior centers is a great way to meet new people and help prevent loneliness.
Using technology to connect or stay connected with your family and make new friends is also beneficial and can help homebound seniors feel more connected.
- The Los Altos and Mountain View Senior Centers provide technology assistance to seniors looking to gain basic computer skills.
- The Senior Center Without Walls program offers activities, friendly conversation, and an assortment of classes and support groups to homebound elders and others who find it difficult to go to a community senior center. Participants call from the comfort of home through telephone conference calls. For more information about the Senior Center Without Walls program, call (877) 797-7299.
Lack of transportation can keep seniors from getting to medical appointments, obtaining prescriptions, accessing banks, shopping for groceries, visiting friends, and remaining independent.
- The RoadRunners Transportation Program accommodates patrons with rides to any destination within a 10-mile radius of El Camino Hospital. For fees and details about RoadRunners Transportation, call (650) 940-7016 or visit www.elcaminohospital.org/RoadRunners.
- Paratransit provides transportation for individuals with disabilities who have difficult using fixed route transportation systems. To learn more about OUTREACH paratransit services call, call (408) 2865 or visit www.outreach1.org.
Making mindful choices about how we live will help us maintain our physical, mental, and social health and independence. There are many community resources available to help us age in place. It is important to seek out assistance when needed in an effort to maintain a quality of life we are accustomed to.
This article first appeared in the October 2015 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter and was updated in July 2018.