By Liane Friedberg
With the New Year rolling in, many people are focused on their New Year’s resolutions. Some of us may have already caved and broken some of our resolutions. Others may still be searching for new goals for 2018. No matter how big or small the goal is, setting a resolution at any point is important. For older adults in particular, setting goals and tracking one’s progress can help to ensure successful aging.
One of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to become healthier. Becoming healthier can mean many different things to different people. It may include eating better, exercising more frequently, seeing a doctor more regularly, and more.
Let’s first focus on exercising and how this applies to older adults. As people age, staying active can become more challenging due to natural declines in body mass, joint pain and other physical and medical issues. It may not be practical or ideal to do intensive daily workouts. You should consider starting slow and setting reasonable expectations. Walking 30 minutes a day will show improvement over time. Those who have muscle, bone or joint pains may want to do 30 minutes of walking in the water to lessen the pressure on your body.
Partaking in activities such as jogging, swimming, walking or dancing can be done right at home or in your local community without needing an expensive gym membership. Yoga and pilates can also be good options for older individuals looking to improve their balance, flexibility, joint strength and cardiovascular health. Many yoga and pilates classes are specifically designed for seniors, offering lower-impact exercises than a general yoga or pilates class. For those who prefer exercising in a gym, many senior centers in the city offer low-cost memberships to their fitness centers.
Another common health-related goal that many people have is to eat healthier. Developing heathy eating habits is important as a person ages. As people grow older, their metabolism slows down, meaning they need fewer calories than when they were younger. Older adults also need more of certain nutrients. Additionally, some medical conditions, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, may necessitate changes to one’s diet.
Eating nutrient-rich foods such as vegetables, fruits, lentils, nuts, lean proteins and low-fat dairy products will help your body get the nutrients it needs. Eating healthy does not need to be a burden on your budget. Frozen vegetables, frozen unsweetened fruit, pre-cooked poultry, bagged salad and instant oatmeal are all nutrient-rich options for inexpensive prices.
Taking care of one’s health goes beyond just diet and exercise. Another common New Year’s resolution is to try something new. For many of us, having a consistent routine becomes comfortable. But trying new things can provide a person with opportunities for personal growth. New opportunities can help you meet new people, reduce isolation, become more active, and even improve mental and physical health.
There are many opportunities to try something new in your community. Activities such as volunteering, attending a senior center or taking a class can be great ways to get out and meet new people. Picking up a new hobby, such as planting a garden or learning a new skill, is a good way to get out of the house and be active. We all have things we’d like to try but may not have had the will or the time to do it in the past. Setting a goal and working to accomplish it can help you achieve something you have always wanted to do.
There are many ways to help maintain your resolution. One great way to help keep a New Year’s resolution is to use the SMART goals method. SMART is an acronym that stands for:
Specific — Be specific vs. general. Try to answer the questions: Who, what, when, where and why?
Measurable — Success should be tracked and measured with a number/metric. How much? How many?
Attainable — Make an achievable goal and create a vision with a positive attitude that leads to success.
Realistic — Ensure a goal is achievable based on physical, mental and/or emotional well-being and ability.
Timely — Put a timeline to a goal. How frequent? How often? By what date?
Setting a resolution to become healthier, for example, can be a big goal. Setting SMART goals can help you work toward this bigger goal by identifying specific actions and tracking your progress. You can achieve any goal as long as it is clear, reachable and motivated!
Liane Friedberg is a master of social work student at the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy & Practice and an intern with the LGBT Elder Initiative.