5 Ways to Make Life Better for Your Aging Parent
Getting old is no picnic. Here’s how to make it easier for the people you love.
We’re all going to get old one day. For your parent or parents, that day may have already come. But that doesn’t mean the good days are over. Far from it! Your loved one can still be healthy, find meaning and live a fulfilling life after 70, 80 and beyond—and you can help. Take a holistic approach with these five ways to make each day better for the seniors in your life. (Hint: They’re good tips for you, too.)
1. Provide adequate nutrition so they maintain strength and energy.
A healthy diet with a variety of protein, fruits and veggies and whole grains is key for your parent’s wellbeing. But for all kinds of reasons (think mobility issues, depression, dental trouble and cognitive decline), many Canadian seniors suffer from malnutrition. If your loved one is unable to prepare their own meals, or struggles to cook enough healthy options to keep their strength and energy up, consider a meal service for seniors that will deliver nutritious prepared foods right to their door.
When choosing a service, watch for:
- well-balanced, nutritious meal options
- customization that takes your parent’s diet needs (like gluten-free, lactose-free or low sodium) into account
- easy ordering
- friendly staff that will help your parent load their freezer
- reliable, timely delivery
2. Remove barriers to physical activity.
Current guidelines recommend 150 minutes (or 2.5 hours) of moderate to vigorous physical activity every single week because it’s good for overall health, can help to prevent some health problems, improves balance and strength and can even aid in recovery from surgery or injury. For your parent, this activity could include walking or wheeling, swimming, aerobics, gardening or hiking. Yoga or stretching is also a good add-on! To help your parent actually stick to a routine, you may want to arrange transportation to classes, encourage them to find a walking buddy in their neighbourhood or set them up with light weights, stretchy bands and videos at home.
3. Suggest ways to connect with family members and the community.
Aside from reducing quality of life, loneliness and social isolation may even shorten your parent’s lifespan—and this can be especially true for seniors who live alone. If you’re able, help your loved one schedule regular visits with family and friends (for coffee, meals, walks, card games or car rides) or arrange transportation so they can visit a senior’s centre. When it comes to family dinners and parties for milestones like birthdays and graduations, always encourage them to take part.
4. Help them find a purpose each day.
Everyone’s different when it comes to finding their purpose, and that purpose may change later in life when building a career or raising a family are no longer a priority. For seniors, travelling, learning, creating and cultivating (whether it’s a painting or a fresh tomato) and spending time with friends can all fuel a sense of purpose.
It’s also important for your parent to feel as though they have something to contribute—to the world or to your family. That contribution could be volunteering time at a soup kitchen or animal shelter, or it could be knitting scarves for all the grandkids, organizing family photos or recording the family history.
5. Give them tools to keep their mind sharp.
Diet, exercise, and social interaction can all have a huge impact on cognitive health. But it’s also important to keep the mind engaged in more complex activities. One study showed that learning cognitively demanding skills such as quilting or digital photography improves memory in some seniors. The same is true for reading novels and writing. You may want to stock up your loved one with books (or an e-reader) with large text or help them sign up for a local class.
Looking for a senior’s meal service that works for your aging parent? Consider Heart to Home Meals, which offers over 200 ready-made meals and desserts created specifically with senior nutrition in mind. Your parent’s order will be delivered free and all they’ll have to do is reheat and enjoy.