Source from the Lexington Minuteman, written by Jack Cross/President of Home Instead Senior Care, Lexington Massachusetts
1. Visit your local senior center. If you have not been to your local senior center, you do not know what you are missing. The folks there are not, as my 83-year-old mother used to say, “just a bunch of old people.” The senior centers are alive with all sorts of activities including games, crafts, lectures, exercise classes, educational courses, special interest clubs, entertainment, travel, parties and dances and hot lunches. Involved seniors are alive and vibrant and in reasonably good health.
2. Plan to eat regular nourishing meals. If you have lost interest in eating because you live alone or do not want to make the effort, get out of your rut! Plan to eat at least one nourishing meal a day — not junk food or fast food, but a real meal.
Too many seniors lose interest in eating because they are alone and don’t want to bother fixing a meal just for themselves. If this is the cause of your reluctance, occasionally invite a neighbor or friend to join you or plan to watch a special TV show while you dine. Prepare more food than you need for one meal and eat it over two or three days.
3. Increase your social contacts. You can make new friends at the senior center and church or reach out to your neighbors and host a tea party. The increased social and mental stimulation will be good for you. If you live alone and do not have a lot of family nearby, resolve to increase your social contacts for your own mental well being. Try to make at least one new friend this year.
4. Consider getting help if necessary. If you live alone and do not have family that you see regularly and are finding it difficult to get out to shop, houseclean, do laundry, or get to appointments, consider contacting an agency to provide you with a companion or home-helper for a few hours each week.
A companion can keep you company, help you to get out, cook a meal, houseclean, shop, run errands and provide transportation to appointments and events.
5. Make a scrapbook about your life. Do you remember the TV show “This Is Your Life?” Each show featured in detail the life of some person. The format involved flipping through a scrapbook.
Pretend you’re getting ready to be on that show. You’ll need a scrapbook to tell your life story; where were you born, who was in your family, what happened to you as a child, when and whom you married, etc. Include pictures and other mementos. You have a great story to tell and your family and friends would love to experience it with you through your scrapbook.
If a scrapbook does not excite you, consider writing a journal. By the way, you can probably learn how to design a sophisticated scrapbook or write a journal at the senior center.
6. Clean house. Go through your residence to identify items you no longer want, need or will never use again. Arrange to give them to family, friends or charity. Find someone who would like that item you have been saving for 50 years in case you ever need it again. Bite the bullet and get rid of it.
7. Get your papers/affairs in order. Do you have your important documents and information (insurance, social security number, mortgage/deed/lease, investments, savings accounts, auto registration, will, Medicare/Medicaid info, etc.) together in a safe place? Does anyone else know where to find them? Get them together in one location, make a list of them and let someone know where to find them.
8. Learn how to use the Internet. Even if you do not have a computer, you can learn how to use the Internet. This skill will open up a whole new world of interesting information and communication possibilities to you.
Ask a family member, especially grandkids, to teach you. It’s easy and you can use the computers at the library, senior center or friends or relatives. Email on the Internet will provide you with an easy, fun way to stay in touch with family and friends.
Want a recipe? Look it up on the Internet. Want to purchase a special, obscure item? Can’t get to the store to purchase an item? Find it and purchase it on the Internet. You do not need to understand how a computer works or other technical stuff. All you need to know is the Internet and e-mail.
9. Schedule regular exercise. As you age, even a little regular exercise will help you feel better, maintain muscle tone, improve balance and keep those joints loose.
Walking is great exercise. Plan on a daily walk. Walk with a friend or engage a companion to walk with you. Senior centers offer exercise classes. If you don’t want to go out and can afford a treadmill, purchase one for your residence and set it up in front of a TV.
10. Consider a personal emergency response system. If you live alone, you should seriously consider one of these devices that can immediately summon help if you need it. Contact your local hospital for information on where to acquire one of these systems. You will be provided with a small device that you can wear around your neck or on your wrist. If you have difficulty, you can press a button on the device and help will be on its way immediately.
11. Engage your mind. It is important to keep both body and mind fit. Regular mental stimulation will help you stay sharp, reduce memory loss, and some say, prevent or delay Alzheimer’s disease. Start a new hobby (senior center can help); teach your hobby to another, perhaps a grandchild, join a book club or books-on-tape club.