It may be true that the holidays are a great time to gather, celebrate and enjoy family and friends, but it can be a stressful time too, especially if you are a senior. It is important for your mental health and well-being to keep healthy eating habits in mind at home and during holiday travel.
As we age, the hustle and bustle of the holidays can take its toll. Sometimes gatherings, shopping, and family demands can be a source of stress. Additionally, holiday meals make it very hard to stick with a particular diet. This means holiday health for seniors can be a real challenge.
Social workers say one issue that crops up every holiday season is that many people simply don’t realize an elderly relative has limits. Some seniors may not express to their family and friends that they have slowed down, so it is always a good idea to offer older people options in term of what to do. It’s important not to assume they have slowed down either, especially when it comes to senior holiday travel. Many seniors could be insulted if you assume they can’t handle travel when they actually can.
Tips to help seniors enjoy the holidays
There are many ways to make small adjustments to the holidays to accommodate seniors – changes that won’t disrupt celebrations for everyone else. Take a look at the holiday tips for seniors below to see how you can help make the season a little merrier for the people you care about.
- Make healthy choices – if you know you are having a big dinner, plan to make a light lunch.
- Stay hydrated – seniors in particular need to drink a lot of fluids. Not enough could lead to hospitalization.
- Plan ahead – if older family members tire easily or are overwhelmed by over-stimulation, limit activities or have a quiet place where they can go lay down and rest.
- Eliminate obstacles – if a gathering is held with a person who has memory or physical impairment, don’t rearrange the furniture. It can be confusing and hazardous.
- Follow dietary restrictions – some seniors have restrictions, so keep healthy options like fresh fruit and vegetables on hand.
- Alcohol in moderation – drinking can impair function, as well as interfere with certain medications that seniors might be taking.
- Rest after travel – after reaching your destination, offer a rest period, such as watching TV or taking a nap.
- Be inclusive – there are lots of little tasks to be done during the holidays, don’t assume seniors aren’t interested in helping out.
- Get outside – it is important to get exposure to sunlight. Seasonal affective disorder takes place when sunlight is reduced during the days of winter.
Holiday travel tips for seniors
Holiday travel can be a lot of fun no matter what age you are; however, careful planning can help a senior’s holiday travel go a lot smoother.
Before going anywhere, it is always a good idea to check in with a doctor. He or she will decide if a senior is healthy enough to travel. This will also give the senior a chance to get prescriptions ready to bring along on the trip.
Once cleared to travel, consider the following holiday tips for seniors:
- Streamline plans – air travel can be exhausting, especially if you have a layover. A direct flight might be more comfortable.
- Avoid line-ups – thanks to technology, today we don’t have to spend as much time in lines. If possible, get into an early boarding group and print out your boarding pass online at your home. Check luggage with curbside check-in at the airport.
- Pack light – over-packing leads to unnecessary weight and burden.
- Carry-on wisely – Make sure necessary medications and documents are in your carry-on bag and not in your suitcase.
- Drink fluids – traveling by plane or car can easily lead to dehydration so drink water when you can.
- Wash hands – public airports and transportation centers are filled with people who can spread germs, so wash hands frequently to reduce the risk of getting sick.
Healthy eating tips for elderly during the holidays
Metabolism slows as we get older, which makes it more difficult to control weight gain. Excess weight increases our risk of high cholesterol, diabetes and other health-related problems.
It’s important for seniors to continue healthy eating habits during the holiday season. This doesn’t mean they can’t have the occasional treat, it just means they should use caution, such as switching to a smaller plate.
Here are a few healthy eating tips seniors can consider:
- Make substitutions – go low fat or fat free. Try whole-wheat rolls instead of white; try simple yams, instead of candied yams.
- Skip salt – extra salt can lead to high blood pressure.
- Pace yourself – eating too fast can lead to over-eating.
- Stick to dietary restrictions – going off a diet during the holidays could spell disaster.
- Drink water – during the holiday rush it is easy to get dehydrated.
- Walk – go for a walk after a meal. Sitting around can turn carbs into fat storage instead of energy.
Elderly mental health during the holidays
Despite what some people think, depression is not a normal part of aging. Like all people, seniors can experience mental health issues, such as periods of sadness, but constant depression is not normal.
If a senior is experiencing bouts of tears, ongoing sadness, lack of sleep or constant sleep, or is experiencing significant changes in weight, this could be depression. When you see these signs in an elderly loved one you should contact a doctor.
During the holiday season, including seniors in activities can be good for their mental health – it makes them feel useful and wanted. Just talking with seniors gives them an uplifting feeling. It is important not to pressure them to do things they aren’t interested in or aren’t feeling up to doing. For example, finances tend to be tighter for seniors so shopping for gifts may not be one of their favorite chores.
The holidays are often thought of as a time for children and their families to have fun, but seniors can revel in the excitement and joy of the season as well; the only difference is that they may have to make some adjustments when it comes to eating, traveling and pacing themselves so they don’t pay the price later on. Family support goes a long way in helping make the holiday season bright and healthy for seniors.
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