New Year's Resolutions for Seniors

Why You Need Them. Suggestions to Start.

new year's resolutions
Yes even as we age resolutions are important. Getty Images

Ah the New Year’s resolution – many people poo-poo them especially as they grow older and set in their ways. But it’s important to have resolutions as you grow older. If nothing else they provide goals and purpose.

Rush University has conducted studies that show people who view life with a sense of purpose are two to four time less likely to develop Alzheimer’s. Purpose gives you discipline. Another Rush study notes that that self-disciplined, highly organized people less susceptible to Alzheimer’s.

Writing down our thoughts and desires can make a big difference in our general outlook on life. It’s a way to enter the year with an upbeat and positive attitude. And yes there are studies to support the benefits of a positive attitude as you age. A Columbia University study showed that people who are enthusiastic and content less likely to develop heart disease while a Swedish study noted that social people who don’t sweat the small stuff are 50% less likely to develop dementia.

Here are some things that both older adults and their family caregivers can vow for the New Year. Yes caregivers too because having mutual resolutions with a loved one also means you can work together to realize them.

1.    Share Your Life Story

Some families know their parents or older loved one’s stories quite well. Many do not. And often times it’s because no one has taken the time to ask them about their lives or encouraged them to keep a journal.

Not only can a journal be read and enjoyed by children or other loved ones in years to come, it will offer them new perspectives on how you lived and what you valued.

Here are 25 great questions to ask older loved ones about their lives courtesy of A Place for Mom. Think about recording your parent or using other means to preserve memories of your loved one for future generations.

A new iPad app called StoryPress helps seniors “turn their everyday stories into treasured audio story books,” with a number of sample stories available on their website.

The process of making a family tree provides an opportunity to reminisce and teach you about the lives of family members you may not have known that much about.  

Make a family time capsule for your descendants to open in the distant future.

Don’t let Alzheimer’s or dementia keep you from spending quality time with your loved one. Memory loss often jams communication, but this roadblock can often be worked around by learning how to talk with a loved one who has dementia.

2.    Make Your Home Safer

According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in three adults over the age of 65 falls each year. Many of these falls are preventable. Telephones should be in each main room, and should be low enough so they can be reached from the floor in case of a fall.

Keep a working flashlight on the nightstand; check the batteries periodically.

Put eye-level decals or reflectors on glass and screen doors.

Remove throw rugs from any high traffic areas.

Replace glass shower doors with unbreakable plastic or shower curtains.

Fix the height of the bed so it is easier to get out of. Following these senior safety guidelines will help you keep key areas such as the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, and outside secure.

3.    Create a Cookbook

A cookbook, even if only an informal binder full of recipes, can be a great gift. Not only does it give our loved ones the chance to make some of the delicious meals you’ve become famous for, but it can also act as an instrument for carrying on family cooking traditions that might otherwise disappear.

4.    Learn to Use Computers

Computers are one of the best ways to keep in touch with younger loved ones. It’s worth considering a tablet computer — such as the iPad — which will provide a more user-friendly experience than the mouse-and-window environment on more traditional PCs. Heck we bought mom one a few years ago. She is 93 and now active on Facebook. Local senior centers and colleges offer classes and web sites such as Skillful Senior can help too.

5.    Plan with Your Parents and For Yourself

Many people avoid conversations around planning for aging. They can’t be avoided forever. Here are some questions to get you started. Use a new year as an opportunity to get must-have documents (i.e. marriage certificates, living wills, military records, etc.) in order. Educate yourself and your loved one about the cost of long-term care and how you pay for it.

6. Set Health Goals

Set up a schedule of doctor visits at the beginning of each year. Get your flu shot. Of course we are hammered in the New Year with resolutions about diet and exercise. Well they become even more important as you age so actually acting on these resolutions is important.

Eating healthier, setting exercise goals. Did you know that a stunning 3.7 million seniors were diagnosed with malnutrition during 2012 according to the American Academy of Family Physicians?

7.    Make New Friends

Senior depression and loneliness is a fact of life. In Blue Zones, pockets of geography where people live long lives, they talk about having a tribe, a group of people you surround yourself with who support healthy behaviors.

Plan more activities with others and in the process you may learn new skills and adopt new hobbies such as cooking for example. Become a regular at the local senior center.

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