Avoiding Assisted Living & Staying Healthy!
Summary:Our site is about assisted living, and about promoting assisted living facilities. However, it goes without saying that staying out of an assisted living facility is really the goal. My parents and mother-in-law are shining examples of how to stay healthy and happy in your ‘golden years.’
Nobody really wants to live in an assisted living facility. I would venture to say that given the choice, we would prefer to live with family, a spouse, or friends, or even alone in an independent environment, taking care of ourselves and enjoying all of our personal freedoms that our able bodies and minds allow us to do when they are working properly.
Of course, I do realize that as we age, and really, at any age, our physical and mental forms can break down due to disease, injury, bad genes, and any number of other reasons beyond our control, lessening our functions to where we do need help – which is where assisted living often comes in. I feel glad, and extremely fortunate that we live in a country that offers such a wide variety of assisted living and other long-term care options.
Many assisted living facilities offer exercise classes, healthy meals, and mind/body instruction (meditation, yoga etc), so adopting or continuing a healthy lifestyle even after entering a care environment is now more accessible than ever.
Here are the things that I believe have contributed to my parents’ (entering their 70’s) and my mother-in-law’s (age Mom and Dad enjoying life79) excellent health, happiness and ability to stay out of a managed care or assisted living environment (so far):
1) Exercise – My parents both exercise, and they have ever since I can remember. My dad was a runner when he was younger, and now he does a lot of walking, stationary machines, and even yoga! Another great low-impact exercise both of my parents do is water aerobics. They both take a class at their local recreation center a few times a week. My mother-in-law – just slowing her down is a challenge – she is buzzing around everywhere all day long, so I am sure she clocks several miles a day. She also does deliberate walks every morning, as well as yoga classes at her local “Y.” I believe that since they have all made exercise a priority in their lives, their bodies (and minds) have greatly benefited.
2) They’re no saints – I say this in the best way possible. My parents both drink, but in moderation. As long as I can remember, my parents have enjoyed having a drink with dinner, or when they are celebrating something. I do believe that drinking in moderation can help to reduce stress. I have also read this to be true in a number of health books and journals, and that moderate drinking can even help your heart. Again, all of them say that moderation is the key.
On the food front…just this past weekend, my parents were visiting and “splurged” at the restaurant – each ordering a big, greasy cheeseburger with a plate of french fries. Again, this was a treat, and not the norm for them. Most any day of the week they are eating veggies, oatmeal, lean meats, and lots of whole grains.
Grandma Irene in her gardenMy dad and mother-in-law also both used to smoke – but they both quit in their 40’s. I think it goes without saying quitting has contributed to their good health.
3) Staying unflinchingly positive – My parents, especially my dad all avoid negativity and worthless personal conflicts. I almost consider my dad to be Zen-like in his demeanor and actions – always positive, and always seeking out the positive in himself and others. My mother has had to struggle with this in her life somewhat – being always upbeat and happy like my dad – but her persistence has paid off. She is now always quick with a laugh, or a smile. They avoid people who are constant complainers, drama kings and queens, and “emotional vampires” as my dad appropriately calls them.
I believe that this constant effort towards positivity shows in their beings, souls, physical and mental health, and has greatly contributed to their longevity and happiness.
I heard something recently that really made a lot of sense with me. After leaving the presence of someone else – do you feel better for spending time with them, or worse? I think many people don’t ask themselves this question enough.
4) Keeping the mind active – I think everyone, especially seniors have heard time and time again how important it is to keep your mind active to keep it healthy. Just like any other part of your body, the brain is something that needs to be exercised – kind of the “use it or lose it” philosophy that I fully agree with. Many Alzheimer’s experts believe that actively doing things that challenge the mind and brain can help delay or prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Simply choosing to learn something new every day can help – a new game, puzzle, word, or task – all worthwhile.
My mother is a Bridge nut – she plays this mentally challenging card game every week. Now, with the internet – she plays almost daily online. She even “dropped in” on an online game with Bill Gates once (yes, **the** Bill Gates – he has a unique “handle” when he plays Bridge, and only in certain online groups). My dad plays Sudoko, and is constantly reading new books, and learning new things. He has been considering switching from a PC to a Mac recently, just for the exercise of learning something new. My mother-in-law – just trying to keep up with her and all of her projects is enough to keep me busy!
There IS something to it – I am convinced. I know that there is the argument that “my dad is 98 years old and doesn’t’ do any of this stuff..yadda yadda. However, for most people I absolutely believe – and with plenty of evidence backing – that where you are in life with your health and happiness is the sum of you decisions, actions, and attitude up until that point. Sure, there are the curve balls – accidents, genes, and bad luck – but if we can use most of our precious time doing the things that really matter in life, more than likely a long life will happen – and happen on our own terms.
Copyright © by Harriet Hodgson
– by the staff at Assisted Living Directory