by Dr. Matthew Collins
More and more older adults are planning to remain in their homes as they age. But is your home supporting your health, or might it pose hidden hazards? If you look at your home through fresh eyes, you can find ways that it can help support a healthy lifestyle, both mentally and physically, for years to come.
Some activities that engage your mind are associated with decreased risk for Alzheimer’s and cognitive decline and can help keep you feeling sharp. Reading, Sudoku and even the newer trend of adult coloring books all strike a balance of focus and relaxation. Even listening to favorite music from your youth can also support memory and make you feel happier—consider investing in a small wireless speaker that can stream music anywhere in your home.
To be more active, you can find exercise videos from low-intensity cardio, to strength training, to yoga, either on-demand through your cable provider or on YouTube. In addition to other health benefits, regular exercise—including strength and balance retraining—can reduce older adults’ fall risk.
“To be more active, you can find exercise videos from low-intensity cardio, to straighten training, to yoga”
It goes without saying that a kitchen stocked with brain-boosting, disease-busting whole foods is good for your body and mind. Try new superfoods like quinoa (a whole grain that resembles a nuttier, protein-rich couscous) or ground flax seeds (which boast plenty of dietary fiber and omega-3 fatty acids). A “cookbook stand” to hold your iPad or tablet can make finding healthy recipes even more convenient.
A new mattress will do more than ease aches and pains; it can combat declining sleep quality that many of us experience as we age. After that great night’s sleep, try early morning stretching or meditation to ease into the day. If you’re not sure where to start, consider bringing a tablet into your bedroom to download yoga videos or mediation guides.
Stocking up on toothbrushes, toothpaste and dental floss when they are on sale will make it easier to maintain dental health, which can have a surprising impact on general health, from overall inflammation to heart disease and diabetes.
Twice a year, clean out your medicine cabinet; old prescriptions should be appropriately disposed of at an approved site (many RI police stations accept them so that medications don’t fall into the wrong hands). Newer prescriptions should be organized in a pillbox or other system to help you maintain the prescribed dosage and schedule. Ask your pharmacist for advice on the best system for your routine, as well as which medications should be stored away from the fluctuating temperatures and varying humidity of the bathroom. Limit your risks of falling by investing in attractive anti-slip floor and tub mats.
For many people, gardening is an enjoyable form of physical exercise, with calming emotional benefits as well. Bonus points if you plant and use fresh herbs in your garden in your meal planning! If you have a dog or cat, you’re already enjoying the emotional benefits of these furry friends—but remember to keep tick safety in mind, for you and for your animal companion. Whether or not you have a dog to walk, a Fitbit or even a basic pedometer can be a fun reminder to talk a walk around the neighborhood, which has the added benefit of offering an opportunity to catch up with neighbors and friends. After all, “home” is more than the place you live; it’s also the community of which you’re a part.
Dr. Matthew Collins is a family physician and the Vice President of Clinical Integration at Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island. Matt has more than 15 years of experience working in primary care. When Matt – a former world champion rower – isn’t on the water, he stays fit running, cycling and coaching soccer. Matt is also an assistant professor of family medicine and community health at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.