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Staying healthy, both physically and mentally, has become all the more challenging during the COVID-19 pandemic. Activities that should be good for you — working out at the gym or connecting with family and friends at a celebration — are fraught with risks, especially for older adults.
September is Healthy Aging Month. Commit to a wellness plan that is workable even as the days get shorter, the temperatures colder, and the threat of another coronavirus surge becomes more likely.
Even if you’re retired, maintain a daily schedule. This is especially important when it comes to sleep. Aim to get 7 to 9 hours a night, and be consistent with the times you go to bed and wake. To help you keep to your sleep plan, you can use a smartphone or virtual assistant like Alexa and Google Home to set your bedtime and wakeup time. Not getting enough quality sleep can lead to mental and physical health problems.
“Staying active helps older adults ward off and reverse physical diminishment once thought inevitable with aging,” said NewBridge Services CEO Michelle Borden.
The National Institute on Aging recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity. Do a mix of cardio exercise, stretching and resistance training. Harvard Medical School offers a video series demonstrating exercises that help seniors improve balance.
Eat healthy meals that include a variety of foods to ensure you get needed nutrients. Enjoy lean proteins, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products or non-dairy alternatives, The National Institute on Aging offers plenty of tips here.
A key factor in healthy aging is connecting with others. The risk of getting infected by the coronavirus is low when you gather outdoors in small groups. (Wear masks if you cannot keep a six-foot distance.) Indoors, everyone should wear a mask, and windows should be opened. “Virtual visits are risk-free, so it’s worth learning to use video conferencing apps, or simply give someone a call,” Borden said.
Speaking of video apps, they allow you to connect to virtual exercise and relaxation classes and courses on an array of topics. Have someone who is tech-savvy show you how to use Google Meet and Zoom or watch a how-to video on YouTube.
The United Way of Northern New Jersey offers a free assistive technology program for unpaid caregivers in Morris and Warren counties. The program, tailored to each user, provides assistive technology such as virtual assistants and video cameras. Staff also offer virtual tech support to install and use the equipment. Caregivers can apply by contacting Stephanie Samuel at Stephanie.Samuel@UnitedWayNNJ.org or (973) 993-1160, ext. 115.
Vision Loss Alliance of New Jersey, one of the state’s longest-serving nonprofits for adults with vision loss, is offering free virtual wellness and technology classes. Technology tutorials, organizational skills, home safety, meditation, and fitness are among the offerings. There’s also an online support group for friends and family members of people with vision loss. Check out the choices and register here.
NewBridge Services dedicated its Summer 2020 newsletter to helping seniors stay active and engaged during the pandemic. If you feel lonely or overwhelmed, call the Institute on Aging’s Friendship Line at (800) 971-0016. It is both a crisis intervention hotline and a warmline for non-emergency emotional support calls. NewBridge Services’ licensed clinicians are conducting telehealth counseling sessions; call (973) 316-9333 to schedule an appointment. NewBridge accepts most insurances.
NewBridge supports more than 200 seniors in Morris County, providing them support to remain independent in their homes through its NewBridge Senior Assistance for Independent Living (SAIL) program. NewBridge also runs a free program called Tame the Pain that teaches Morris County seniors about the risks of prescription opioid use and effective opioid-free pain management options.