10 ways to make 2020 Your Year of Health Wellness

year of health and wellness 2020

10 ways to make 2020 Your Year of HEALTH AND Wellness

Is one of your new year’s goals to improve your health and wellness? It’s the perfect time of year to make a true personal assessment of your health and happiness. If you are ready to free yourself from the health obstacles you faced in 2019, why not seize this opportunity to implement a few simple lifestyle changes that can lead to more resilience and stability in 2020.

As with all New Year’s resolutions, it’s important to write them down and share them with family and friends; interestingly, we have done just that!  These 10 easy-to-follow lifestyle changes will stack your wellness deck for the rest of this year, helping you feel better physically and mentally.

MOVE IT OR LOSE It

Did you know that only around 1 in 10 Australians over the age of 50 exercises enough to gain any cardiovascular benefit? This is a bit of a concern for us Aussies as staying active is really important to our overall health and well being, especially as we get older. If you are over the age of 60 studies show that you should be doing regular physical activity in order to stay mobile and independent, reduce your risk of disease (or recover from illness if you have a chronic disease or injury).

Chronic pain and other physical conditions and illness can have a dramatic impact on our lifestyles. It’s important to be realistic about what our bodies are capable of in these cases. But this doesn’t always mean that we have to abandon physical activity altogether. No matter what your age, weight, health issues or abilities, there is almost always some kind of physical activity you can incorporate into your day. Most health problems can actually be helped by physical activity of some sort. You should always check with you doctor or trusted health professional about the type and amount of activity you can do.

hydrotherapy class for seniors

The Australian government’s physical activity guide for older Australians: Choose Health: Be Active suggests a range of activities for different health problems such as:

  • Heart problems and/or diabetes: Daily moderate fitness activities like walking, swimming or cycling.
  • Arthritis: Hydrotherapy is excellent. If there is no program near where you live, try swimming in a warm pool.
  • Osteoporosis: Weight bearing activity and strength training can help to make bones stronger.
  • Mobility problems: There are lots of chair based activities you can do – ask your physiotherapist to help work out what is best for you.

If you just want to improve your overall fitness levels and your mobility levels permit, taking a brisk walk around the neighbourhood on your own, with friends or your dog for 30 minutes a day (in three lots of 10 minutes or 2 lots of 15 minutes) can really make a difference. Water exercises are also a great option for enhancing overall fitness as they work out all the muscle groups in the body, are gentle on the joints and improve your bone mineral density.

If you are striving to improve your mobility and posture, you should try to incorporate stretching exercises or other activities such as Tai Chi, Yoga, dancing, bowls, and Pilates into your exercise routine. Pilates is a physical fitness system which teaches control using a small range of motion, graduating to a broader range to improve balance, posture and stability. Many local Pilates and Yoga studios tailor programs to your individual needs.

If you do find it hard to make it to fitness centres or studios, you’ll be happy to know that activities like gardening, mopping and vacuuming can all increase your flexibility and ensure you will always be able to put on your own socks and shoes.

If you do need a bit of help getting out and about you could get some support from an in-home care provider like Prestige. Our friendly carers can accompany you on walks, drive you to activities such as dance classes or bowls, or provide extra support like transport and assistance at hydrotherapy sessions.

DRINKS 8-10 CUPS A DAY

Now that summer has officially arrived it is important to make sure you are properly hydrated. People who have diabetes, kidney issues or take medications that increase urine output are at higher risk of dehydration. To make sure you’re getting enough fluids, we suggest filling a jug of water or bottle and keeping it by your side. This way, there are fewer needless trips to the kitchen, and once you have finished the pitcher, you know you’ve drunk a sufficient amount – without trying to remember how many individual glasses you’ve had. The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend that women aged 19 years and over drink 2.1 litres (about 8 cups) a day and men aged 19 years and over drink about 2.6 litres (about 10 cups) a day. But each individual’s fluid requirements will be different and if you have a condition like heart failure or a particular type of kidney disease you may actually need to limit your fluid intake so you should chat to your doctor about your individual needs.

challenge your brain

Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. Henry Ford

Lifelong learning is essential for keeping your mind healthy and active. Continually learning new things can have a positive impact on your memory, attention, and thinking and reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Looking after your intellectual wellness can be as simple as picking a mental activity to do on a regular basis and vary the action each time, for example doing crosswords or tackling a Sudoku puzzle.

Seniors playing card games

If you keeping your mind active is a personal objective you should take it a step further and learn a completely new skill or subject.  The best part about acquiring a new skill is the sense of independence and self-confidence it will give you.

Take advantage of the gift of free time when you have it to join a local community centre that offers classes and short courses.  Some community centres and local clubs actually offer Seniors-specific activities. For example, The Bayside Seniors Club, based in Highett, organises both Canasta and table tennis games for seniors twice a week.

Read Tech Go can teach you how to become more in touch with technology and the “digital world”.  Understanding how to use social networks and learning how to share your photos and stories from a tablet/smartphone can help you stay better connected with friends, family and peers.

EAT DARK LEAFY GREENS

Chances are you’ve heard the popular phrase currently being used by foodies and health & wellness experts across the world – “Food is Medicine”. But you may not know that it was the father of Western medicine, Hippocrates, who originally coined the phrase. He was also quoted as saying “Leave your drugs in the chemist’s pot if you can heal the patient with food.” Dark, leafy greens are one of those foods and the top of the list when it comes to providing health benefits. They contain contain calcium, iron and folic acid, and can help prevent cancer and heart disease, manage your weight and may even lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes. If you aren’t much of a salad lover and don’t want to spend the time cooking vegetables, you can try sneaking them into a smoothie.  Adding a handful of spinach and kale into a fruit-based smoothie is an easy and tasty way to get a healthy serving of leafy greens.

READ THE LABEL – AND BUY HEALTHY

Do you take the time to find out exactly what you’re eating? Understanding what’s in the foods you eat helps you eliminate extra sugars, fats and harmful chemicals from your body. It’s best to get into the habit of checking the food labels on the products you purchase at the supermarket. The nutrition information label provides key information such as serving size, calories, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, protein, carbohydrate and vitamin content. This makes it easy for you to compare the nutrient content of different options.  The label on the product also contains a list of the ingredients. Did you know that the ingredient listed first is present in the largest amount? Ingredients must be listed by weight in descending order (i.e. the first ingredient contributes the largest amount to the product and the last ingredient contributes the least). So, if sugar is the first ingredient listed on a packet of biscuits or cereal it might not be the wisest choice for snack time if you are trying to stick to a healthy, balanced diet.

Women who are above 75 years of age should aim to consume between 1,600 – 2,000 calories a day. Men of the same age should aim for 2,000 – 2,260 calories a day, depending on their level of activity, height and weight. If you fall into this age range you are advised to consume 46 – 56 grams of protein,  about 130 grams of carbohydrates, and about 20 – 35 percent of their calories from fats each day. However, it is always best to speak to your doctor or nutritionist before making any major changes to your diet.

Four seniors eating healthy

If you keeping your mind active is a personal objective you should take it a step further and learn a completely new skill or subject.  The best part about acquiring a new skill is the sense of independence and self-confidence it will give you.

Take advantage of the gift of free time when you have it to join a local community centre that offers classes and short courses.  Some community centres and local clubs actually offer Seniors-specific activities. For example, The Bayside Seniors Club, based in Highett, organises both Canasta and table tennis games for seniors twice a week.

Read Tech Go can teach you how to become more in touch with technology and the “digital world”.  Understanding how to use social networks and learning how to share your photos and stories from a tablet/smartphone can help you stay better connected with friends, family and peers.

BE MORE CREATIVE

Whether it entails writing short stories, playing music or painting works of art, being creative is an all-natural anti-depressant that motivates you, exercises the brain and makes you feel good.

The sky is the limit when it comes to unique things and activities worth trying out. From learning how to play an instrument or joining a local painting, crocheting or crafting group, there are plenty of ways you can get your creative juices flowing and make friends while you’re at it.

There are lots of great websites now that help you find people with common interests. Facebook allows you to join up to 6,000 groups on their social network.  Another easy way to find opportunities to get creative with like-minded people is meetup.com. You simply sign up for a free account, create your profile and you can start browsing through groups in your local area. In their hobbies and crafts category, for example, you’ll find groups of people who catch up regularly to sew, decorate cakes, do origami, share interior design ideas and hold book club meetings.

There is a lot of power in the ability to create, so find what you are passionate about and express yourself!

ke the time to find out exactly what you’re eating? Understanding what’s in the foods you eat helps you eliminate extra sugars, fats and harmful chemicals from your body. It’s best to get into the habit of checking the food labels on the products you purchase at the supermarket. The nutrition information label provides key information such as serving size, calories, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, protein, carbohydrate and vitamin content. This makes it easy for you to compare the nutrient content of different options.  The label on the product also contains a list of the ingredients. Did you know that the ingredient listed first is present in the largest amount? Ingredients must be listed by weight in descending order (i.e. the first ingredient contributes the largest amount to the product and the last ingredient contributes the least). So, if sugar is the first ingredient listed on a packet of biscuits or cereal it might not be the wisest choice for snack time if you are trying to stick to a healthy, balanced diet.

Women who are above 75 years of age should aim to consume between 1,600 – 2,000 calories a day. Men of the same age should aim for 2,000 – 2,260 calories a day, depending on their level of activity, height and weight. If you fall into this age range you are advised to consume 46 – 56 grams of protein,  about 130 grams of carbohydrates, and about 20 – 35 percent of their calories from fats each day. However, it is always best to speak to your doctor or nutritionist before making any major changes to your diet.

manage stress in the brain and body

Stress can sometimes be a good motivator and help to make you more proactive. When we get stressed our bodies produce greater levels of the hormone cortisol. In short spurts the most well-known stress hormone can boost our immunity by limiting inflammation. The momentary anxiety you feel when your taxi is 15 minutes away or emotions that arise from a political argument erupting at a family gathering could therefore actually be having a positive effect on your immune system.

But when stressors are always present your body experiences over-exposure to stress hormones and  other symptoms such an increased heart rate, insomnia, upset stomach, aches and pains, and heightened muscle tension. The long-term impact of the presence of any number of these factors is an increased risk of a variety of health problems including:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Headaches
  • Heart disease
  • Sleep problems
  • Weight gain/obesity
  • Asthma
  • Memory and concentration impairment
Henry Ford lifelong learning quote - Anyone who stops learning
  • Practice mindfulness: remove yourself from the room, meditate and become more aware of the present moment rather than getting caught up in the past.
  • Visit your doctor regularly: make sure you are up to date with all your health checks; from skin cancer mole checks to blood tests. Peace of mind that you’re healthy and fit will relieve and alleviate any underlying concerns you may have about your wellbeing.
  • Try out alternative therapies: yoga, reiki and massage can reduce blood pressure, release endorphins, enhance mental concentration and even improve conditions like Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.
  • Maintain a healthy, balanced diet: eating well and exercising regularly will help you reduce inflammation in the body and improve your ability to handle stress.
  • Get social support: don’t go it alone. The more you surround yourself with friends and family, the more supported you will feel each day and the better you will be able to cope with various stressors. If you are isolated for any reason you can always reach out to support groups such as those listed on Better Health Channel or Blackdog Institute 
  • Do what makes you feel good: a great way to start reducing stress in your life is simply doing at least one thing you love every day. Whether, it’s a walk in nature, a visit to the theatre or volunteering at your local charity, spending time doing something you enjoy will help you manage the impact that stressful events can have on you.

STAY SOCIAL

It is easy to become disconnected from our friends and family these days, especially when most of our loved ones work, study or have a range of commitments. If you don’t actively seek ways to socialise and connect with others in the community, you can end up feeling isolated and lonely.

The easiest way to avoid social isolation is to connect with people in you local area. You can start with your neighbours. Some streets, apartment blocks and residences hold regular neighbourhood meetups. If you head to a local park, beach, library or attraction such as a museum, gallery or fitness centre you are likely to encounter people with common interests. Sometimes the best friendships start with a brief conversation over a cup of tea. Many home care providers like Prestige offer companionship services where you can have a carer spend time with you each day doing the activities you love.

two senior ladies standing on a pier side by side looking out onto the ocean as part of their wellness routine

You’d be surprised to find how many people sitting at cafes and community centres are eager to meet new people and share their stories. It’s important not to let the fear of being rejected or interrupting a person’s day to hold you back when you see an opportunity to introduce yourself. If you go to an event you haven’t been to before, remember that most people are more than happy to get to know newcomers!

Another great way to meet new people is to become a volunteer within your local community. Museums, hospitals, places of worship, animal shelters and schools are always looking for people to pitch in and help with daily operations. Perhaps focus your attention of taking care of something you know you are skilled at, such as the gardening.

Don’t forget, man is a dog’s best friend. And of course, dogs are not the only animals who make great companions. If you feel capable of caring for a pet, the nurturing, responsibility and friendship that arises can bring so many benefits with it that you will wonder how you ever lived without your little furry or feathered pal.

Nearly 20 million seniors aged 65 and older are single. Intimacy and companionship are a vital part of life and contribute significantly to our happiness, health and overall wellbeing. But the decision to pursue a relationship can be difficult if you are single. If you are ready to date, ask your friends and family to assist you with ideas for meeting like-minded singles. There are multiple online dating websites, and some of them are even geared specifically to seniors. Alternatively, you can take part in weekly luncheons for widows or widowers or join a local club, volunteer organisation or exercise class.

Senior man and his dog looking into each others faces for a healthy companionship

have fun

Having fun is one of the best ways to lighten our mood and increase feelings of contentment and relaxation. No need to stay cooped up indoors, waiting for a social invitation – it’s time to create your own fun!  Here are some of the Prestige team’s top suggestions.

  • Breakaway from your go-to spots and try a new restaurant. Wine and dine with fellow foodies (there are plenty of foodie groups on meetup.com) and have the ultimate culinary experience to tell your family about.
  • Nothing is better than the excitement before a movie starts in a dark theatre and buttery popcorn fingers. Pick a flick of your favourite genre from the screen times at your local cinema. Make it an even more culturally rewarding experience by visiting a vintage theatre like The Astor Theatre in St Kilda.
  • Grab a bargain at your local flea market (like the Camberwell Market in Melbourne or Paddington Markets in Sydney) and rummage through hidden treasures.
  • Create a herb garden of mint, parsley, lemongrass, basil and thyme. All you have to do is find a location that gets decent sunlight throughout the day (at least 4 hours) and plant your herbs in small pots with loose soil for proper drainage. Tend to and water your herbs once soil surface appears dry (indoor gardens need less water, because of the cooler air). You’ll never have to buy herbs at the supermarket again!

CREATE A PLAN FOR 2020

Now that you have thought about all the ways you are going to improve your health and wellness this year, it’s time to jot down a plan of the steps you need to take to become a healthier, happier you.

Grab yourself a planner from your local newsagent or stationery shop and add some key tasks for each day of the week to help you reach your goals. Here are some key ways you can create and follow your 2020 Wellness Plan.

  1. Set a date to start your plan
  2. Set some goals e.g. I will do 30 minutes of physical activity a day (including walking, gardening, and vacuuming or mopping).
  3. Choose the daily activities you need to carry out to reach your goals e.g. drink 10 cups of water, take the dog for a walk, tend to the garden once a week etc.
  4. Create a checklist of tasks which will help you achieve your goals e.g. join a local crafting group, make an appointment with a nutritionist, visit the local pet rescue centre, look up volunteer opportunities in my local area.
  5. Use reminders – place notes around your home or create reminders on your smartphone or tablet using your online calendar.
  6. Get into a routine – Make a regular time for activities where possible in your diary or calendar and share this with friends, family or carers so they can remind you of your daily activities and goals.

Once you have put your wellness plan on paper, you’ll be ready to take on 2020 with the best possible chance of boosting your physical and mental health, and adopting a lifestyle that will literally add years to your life.