As our Elder relatives and friends experience aging and the changing life circumstances that come with getting older, it’s important to remember that they remain the same person they always have been. Their interests, their personality, their relationships with family and friends, all have been built over their lives and continue to be important in their elder years. As we visit and socialize with our elders, it’s important to keep an eye out for some things that may change or may adjust due to the changes associated with age. Below are some of the common things to look out for.
Sleeping arrangements and habits
As we get older, our sleeping habits change. We may need less sleep during the night, or we may need an additional nap during the day to get all the sleep we need. Besides just the hours spent sleeping, where we sleep is also important. Is your elder relative still sleeping in their bedroom? Have they instead been sleeping on the couch or in a guestroom? Although it could be something as minor as wanting a “change of scenery,” a change in sleeping patterns can indicate more serious issues such as depression or mobility problems.
Although many of us don’t eat the way we did when we were teenagers as we get older (an entire pizza to ourselves, anyone?), our eating habits are still important. Elders often must change their eating habits to compensate for changing health or dental conditions, but appetite is still important to look out for. Are your elder relatives and friends getting enough nutrition? Are they skipping meals? Are they overeating? Eating habits is a big indicator of overall mood and health, and it’s important to be aware.
Most of us have very different social groups in adulthood than we did in high school, but overall, our social lives generally settle as we get older. Even outside the definition of “friendships,” our coworkers, neighbors, and associates form an important part of our social network. Having a healthy social life is very important for overall health and mental wellness. As we age into elderhood, it can be more difficult to keep up with and maintain social relationships, especially with limited mobility or changes in living arrangements. While visiting elder relatives and friends, check in with them and pay attention to how much socializing they may do during the week. Are they calling friends? Participating in group activities? Or have they become sullen and withdrawn? These social dynamics can be important indicators of long-term wellness.
Although aging may prevent us from participating in some of the more intense hobbies we may have loved in our younger years (riding motorcycles, skydiving, group sports), maintaining an interest in activities and hobbies outside of our work and our chores is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. For elder persons, it can be difficult to replace a long-term hobby that they may have participated in when they were younger. But the key factor is participating in something. Having an active and healthy hobby can do wonders for long-term health and happiness. When visiting elder relatives, see what their “hobby lifestyle” is like. Are they doing crosswords or puzzles? Playing bingo or cards?
The above four personal habits are just some of the important things to look out for when visiting elder relatives and friends. Most importantly, it is critical to keep an eye out for changes in lifestyle or socialization, even minor, as they can be important indicators of a more serious underlying problem such as depression or a physical issue (i.e.: not going to bingo because “I get out of breath walking down the hall.”) Keeping an active, social lifestyle is important for elder persons long-term health and happiness, and as their friends and relatives we want to do all we can to ensure that.
For further reading, check out some of our blogs at SeniorSteps.org/blog, or contact us at any time for a free consultation!