Many older adults have taken care of someone else their entire lives: first, their young children; then, an aging parent; eventually their grandchildren; possibly along the way, an ailing spouse or friend. These seniors may never have stopped to consider the importance of self-care — or if they had, they probably didn’t have a lot of time to practice self-care techniques.
But as research increasingly shows, frequent senior self-care contributes to less stress, and contributes to better physical, mental and emotional health and well-being. Research also suggests self-care in seniors promotes positive health outcomes, such as fostering resilience, living longer and becoming better equipped to manage stress.
What Self-Care Is
While many people may view self-care as a form of selfish indulgence, the act of caring for yourself is actually an important part of your good health and well-being. Self-care is defined as the practice of taking an active role in protecting your own well-being, health and happiness, especially during periods of stress.
There’s a good reason why the World Health Organization has declared that overall health is not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, but a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being. It’s because wellness is holistic, or about the whole being. And one way of looking at holistic health is, according to experts:
- Presence of positive emotions and moods
- Absence of negative emotions like depression or anxiety
- Satisfaction with life
- Fulfillment and positive functioning
- Physical, emotional, psychological, economic and social well-being
- Development and activity
- Life satisfaction
Think of self-care like this: During preflight instructions, airline flight attendants tell passengers in the case of an emergency they should put their own oxygen mask on first, even before helping someone else. That’s because otherwise the passenger will run out of oxygen and be unable to help others. That’s self-care: Putting yourself first is an unselfish act and a priority, because if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t help anyone else.
Now that you know what self-care is, here are 12 great ways you as a senior can start practicing it right now.
Twelve Self-Care Tips for Seniors
- Live healthier. Try to eat more healthy foods, get enough sleep, exercise regularly and cut down on alcohol.
- Be proactive with your physical health. Schedule your regular medical, eye and dental checkups — preventive measures help catch any small issues before they become bigger problems.
- Be proactive about your emotional health, too. It’s common for older adults to struggle with anxiety or depression. Even if you’re feeling pretty positive about life, it’s always a good thing to have a good friend to talk and share life with. Having a minister or counselor to talk with regularly can also be a big source of support.
- See friends regularly to build your sense of belonging. Consider joining a support group to make new friends.
- Try to do something you enjoy every day. That might mean dancing, watching a favorite TV show, working in the garden, painting or reading.
- Find ways to relax, like meditation, yoga, getting a massage or just taking a warm bubble bath.
- Get outside. The great outdoors has many health benefits, so make it a habit to go out for a walk in the woods if you can. Even a regular walk in a park can offer remarkable health benefits for your mind, body and soul.
- Do something you loved to do as a kid. Make a mess with finger paints, blow bubbles or challenge friends to play Monopoly or checkers. Or buy ice cream and toppings and invite everyone over for an old-fashioned ice cream social.
- Do something you’ve always wanted to do. Bake a soufflé, build a bird condo or learn to knit. If you’re not sure how, take a class or look for a local group dedicated to the activity.
- Watch or listen to comedy. You can find all kinds of comedy and comedians via video, podcast or website. Or get a laugh by suggesting you and your friends go to an open-mic night at a local comedy club.
- Therapeutic massage. A massage can relieve muscle tension, stimulate the body’s natural painkillers and boost your immune system. It can also help you feel less anxious and more relaxed.
- Take a nature break. Even if you don’t go outside, just looking at nature calms our nerves and relieves mental fatigue. In one study, people with views of nature were happier with their lives than people with no view of nature.
One Great Self-Care Tip for Seniors: Find a Senior Living Community
If you’d like to focus more on your overall health and well-being, we can help you find a senior living community where you can thrive: mind, body and soul. Connect with other vibrant older adults, find opportunities to stay social and physically active, and enjoy a maintenance-free, joy-filled lifestyle. To get started, find a community near you.
Where You Live Matters is powered by the American Seniors Housing Association (ASHA), a respected voice in the senior housing industry. ASHA primarily focuses on legislative and regulatory advocacy, research, and educational opportunities and networking for senior living executives, so they can better understand the needs of older adults across the country.