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Living our Best Lives: 5 Tips to support an older loved one’s health and well-being

June 12, 2018 by HealthyFamilies BC

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Living our Best Lives: 5 Tips to support an older loved one’s health and well-being

Here in British Columbia our life expectancy is the highest in Canada, and among the best in the world! While that’s great news, we also need to think about how we can add life to years, not just years to life.

Any google search will offer a laundry list of ways to live well. But two things, in particular, can go a long way to improve our life and health. One is being physically active, and the other is keeping socially active. The science is in– being physically active can prevent or help manage many chronic diseases. It can also support your overall mental wellbeing and help you to feel better. Connections with friends, family, and neighbours can help prevent physical and mental health challenges over time.

But, as we age, being both physically and socially active can become more challenging. Choose to Move is a great program to help address these challenges. It is an initiative delivered for free in communities throughout BC. It supports older people who are not active to become more physically active and socially connected. Here are five tips and a few quotes from past participants of Choose to Move on becoming active and engaged.

1. Re-think what it means to be Physically Active:

You don't need to put on your lycra-spandex shorts and run on the elliptical for an hour to be active. Any recreational activities that get you up and moving such as gardening, walking with friends, or pushing grandkids on the swing are great ways to be active. Also try parking at the back of the lot, taking the stairs instead of the escalator, or choosing to ride the bus.

“Just get started, just start at your own level, regardless of where you are at right now. The smallest step will help you move forward. Go ahead, start now, it will really make a difference!”

2. Set Achievable Physical Activity Goals:

We’ve all made those New Year’s resolutions to, ‘Go to the gym every day,’ or to, ‘Exercise more!’ These aren’t always achievable. Goals that end up being achievable are more so realistic and motivating, such as:

  • “I aim to be able to bend over to tie my shoe.”
  • “To be able to cross the street before the walk sign turns off.”
  • “To fire my housekeeper – I want to be strong enough to do the cleaning myself!”

3. Seek Support to Achieve your Goals

Getting support from someone who is going through some of the same challenges can be powerful. It makes us feel that we aren’t alone.  Peer support helps people to keep going when it becomes challenging to stick to the plan. Finding a friend or loved one to help you stay on track and achieve your physical activity goals is a great way to keep motivated and socially connected.

4. Find activities that get you moving and connecting with a social group:

Research shows that those who join social groups for physical activity experience greater motivation. They also feel supported and learn new information about how to take care of their health. Find a group that you can join in your area. It could be a walking club, a community garden, or even arrange to meet friends at the dog park every day at the same time!

5. Have Fun!

Making positive changes for health does not need to be a chore! There are so many ways to become active and engaged. Once you start feeling better, the activity might even feel like a treat.
“Find something you love, start slow and add gradually so you don’t bite off more than you can chew. Better yet, get active with others, and you might surprise yourself by making a new friend or two!”

It’s never too early or late to start life-long habits for health. It’s natural for our bodies and interests to change as we age, but that doesn’t need to stop us from keeping active and connected. Current research shows that the more effort we put into building those strong social networks and strengthening our bodies through physical activity, the longer we can stay healthy and mobile so we can enjoy life on our terms. Now go meet a friend and do something fun and active together.

Author's Bio: Dr. Joanie Sims-Gould is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia, and the Principal Scientist of the Active Aging Research Team, a group of researchers who aim to see people aging how they want, where they want, with whom they want, for as long as they want.

For more information about becoming physically and socially active visit:  

Sources for this Blog:

Life Expectancy:

http://www.statcan.gc.ca/tables-tableaux/sum-som/l01/cst01/health26-eng.htm
http://www.who.int/gho/mortality_burden_disease/life_tables/situation_trends/en/

Physical Activity and Chronic Disease Prevention:

http://www.cmaj.ca/content/174/6/801.short
https://www.bewegenismedicijn.nl/files/downloads/acsm_position_stand_exercise_and_physical_activity_for_older_adults.pdf

Social Connectedness and Health

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22144732
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11205-012-0097-6

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