Although not in the top 10, the state of Illinois ranks number 13 out 50 when it comes to the healthiest states in the U.S. This is a pretty good ranking, but health still declines as we age. 35% of Illinois residents are over the age of 50 (15 years from senior citizen age), which is a pretty big chunk of the population. With an aging population, it’s important to understand how to stay healthy in later life.
Everyone knows how important it is to eat healthy, and eating healthy isn’t as hard as most people think it is. Of course, some people have to be put on special diets due to deficiencies, medical conditions, and other reasons, but the majority of people can benefit from basic healthy eating. This means that you’re eating all essential nutrients (complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, complete proteins, vitamins, and minerals) and drinking enough water. Again, this amount varies per person.
When it comes to those over the age of 65, some may need to increase their calories while others will need to reduce them. Either way, there are some key nutrients that need to be increased. These include:
- Vitamins B6, B12, and D
Calcium and vitamin D (found in fortified dairy products) are essential for bone health, which can be a major concern in later life. Both vitamin B6 and B12 (found in salmon) are needed for blood health, while fiber (found in beans, whole grains, and fruit) helps with digestion, and protein (found in meat, eggs, and dairy) can prevent muscle loss. When seniors increase their intake of these nutrients they decrease their risk of various aged-related illnesses.
Staying Physically and Mentally Active
It’s safe to say that the majority of people know that it’s important to be physically active in order to live a healthy lifestyle, and this is true for those aged 65 and older. Every senior citizen is different, but there are some exercises that are more suited for seniors than others. For example, gardening and fishing are two hobbies enjoyed by seniors (and people of all ages) that also provide some light to moderate physical activity— and provide healthy food to eat as an end result.
Structured exercises suited for seniors include yoga and pilates to increase strength and balance— which is very important in this stage of life— and walking to provide cardiovascular activity. Engaging in these activities with others is also good for a senior’s mental health. Seniors in Illinois can remain both physically and socially active by engaging in outdoor activities, such as walking on hiking trails and playing golf and other low-intensity sports.
Other ways that seniors can stay metally healthy and active include engaging in stimulating activities. Many hobbies that they may already enjoy fall under this category. These include things like baking, crafting, dancing, reading, and writing. Seniors can also benefit from continued learning, pet therapy, self-care, and volunteering.
Why a Healthy Lifestyle is Just as Important in Later Life
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle should start as soon as possible, but it’s never too late to start as long as you can still move. With that being said, lack of movement (or living a sedentary lifestyle) leads to many health problems in later life, and the risk is doubled when paired with unhealthy eating and poor lifestyle habits, such as smoking. Examples of diseases and illnesses that come from an unhealthy lifestyle includes:
- Anxiety and depression
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Osteoporosis (brittle bone disease – see here)
- Stroke (see how to spot a stroke at CDC)
Studies also show (but haven’t necessarily concluded) that lack of exercise may also increase your risk of dementia. All of these health issues can make it difficult to live daily life independently (especially for older individuals), which is why many seniors end up having to live in an assisted living facility.
Although many seniors in Illinois live in an assisted living facility and don’t require round-the-clock care, there are some that live in nursing homes and require full-time care. Unfortunately, these individuals are more likely to experience elder abuse in these facilities because they require a lot of care and they are vulnerable. The good news is that nursing home abuse in Illinois (and everywhere) can be preventable and victims can receive justice.
An unhealthy lifestyle leads to a lower quality of life, especially as we age. A lower quality of life can also lead to mental health issues, which is another reason why it’s important to start living a healthy lifestyle as early as possible.
Last Updated: August 22, 2022