Do you know what’s most important to seniors and why?
Are we, as caregivers, focusing on what’s most important to our seniors? When speaking with people aged 65 and up, the messages about what is fundamental to them came through loud and clear.
In retirement, the noise of decades of hard labor fades away, giving seniors more space to think about what they want and don’t want. Whether or not their views have evolved, one thing remains constant: they haven’t lowered their standards. Getting older doesn’t mean that we lose our sense of self.
Whether you’re a family member, caregiver, or just interested in learning more about seniors and aging, here are the top things that matter most to seniors.
The Importance of Feeling Valued
As a senior, what does it mean to be valued? It means they still have the same sense of worth as someone half or a quarter of their age. It’s not that as we get older, we lose sight of what matters to us; in fact, we may value them even more.
Four simple ways to show a senior that you value them:
- When caring for an older adult, let them know you still need their help and that they aren’t a burden.
- Show your gratitude by complimenting the various things they do to improve your life or make you happy.
- When your senior speaks, listen to them. Put the phone down, turn off the TV, look them in the eyes as they speak to you, and pay attention.
- If a senior has issues with hearing, don’t yell at them. Speak to them in a courteous tone. They don’t have a problem understanding; they only have difficulty hearing.
The Importance of Maintaining Independence
Healthy aging is much more than just prevention. It’s also about detecting issues and dealing with them before they impair a senior’s overall health and independence.
While some seniors are self-sufficient, others may require assistance with daily tasks. Nobody wants to feel as if they have to be looked after all of the time. It’s tough for people to believe they’re still independent when they depend on others to get dressed or showered.
It’s good to remember that everything we do for someone else removes that skill from them. As caregivers, our responsibility is to assist them while still giving our seniors the ability to care for themselves while including them in decision-making.
Four simple ways to honor a senior’s independence:
- If your loved one prefers to dress themselves, you can help them organize their closet or dresser so that they know where everything is and that it’s easily accessible.
- Approximately 80% of older adults have at least one chronic condition, with 68% having two or more. If medication assistance is required, you will need education on the proper administration of pills, creams/ointments, inhalers, and other medications.
- Seniors want to age in place in their homes, and with the right help, this may be possible. You can get practically any type of help you want in your home, although generally for a cost. Your local Area Agency on Aging provides a list of services that may be able to support your loved one.
- At least 300,000 older adults are admitted to hospitals each year with hip fractures. It’s critical to make sure your loved one’s home is safe and equipped with items that help them preserve their independence and not diminish it. Your senior may wish to discuss their risk of falling, prescriptions, vitamins, and eye exams with their doctor. Your loved one can also improve stability through strength and balance exercises.
The Importance of A Sense of Purpose
Older adults benefit immensely from volunteering and mentoring. Seniors who have a sense of purpose live longer and are more engaged. They can take advantage of volunteering not only because it will make them feel helpful and appreciated but also because they’ll have an opportunity to explore their interests again.
Mentoring is another way for seniors to experience a feeling of purpose. We can all benefit from the knowledge of an older adult who has accumulated decades of experience. They’ve been through some of the most traumatic events imaginable, and learning how they overcame their problems and worries while still prospering in life—is invaluable.
The Importance of Staying Connected
One of the most important things for seniors is to feel connected and engaged with their loved ones. As people age, the importance of family time increases.
Four simple ways you can help seniors stay connected:
- Offer to join technology classes with a senior. 84% of seniors in the United States say technology is critical to their ability to communicate. However, many seniors said they had trouble getting access to new technology and understanding how to use it.
- Teach your loved one how to use social media, messaging, and email to stay in touch with family and friends.
- Set aside time to connect with your loved one, whether in person or over the phone, to help them preserve their independence and avoid feeling socially isolated—which is one of the most common anxieties among seniors.
- Did you know just how much seniors value time spent with family and friends? They place higher importance on relationships with family and friends than anything else—even money. Make time for get-togethers or family meals that allow you to spend quality time with older adults while also allowing them to share stories and create memories you’ll treasure in the future.
The Importance of Mental Clarity
According to studies, seniors who stay engaged and cognitively active have a more delayed mental decline. Keeping the mind engaged helps the brain work at its best.
Memory problems are a significant source of anxiety among older adults. An assessment can help determine whether or not a person is cognitively impaired and, if so, to what degree. More importantly, evaluation can identify treatable causes of impaired brain function, such as medication side effects, thyroid issues, and a variety of other conditions typical in senior citizens.
Many people are hesitant to evaluate their memory problems because they are concerned that they may have Alzheimer’s disease or another kind of dementia. However, doctors can frequently find ways to improve a person’s brain function by detecting and treating an underlying health condition or encouraging brain-healthy activities.
Four simple ways seniors can stay mentally engaged:
- Reading keeps the mind sharp by stimulating cognitive areas. The advantages range from stress reduction and better sleep to improved memory circuitry, sharper decision-making, and potentially even delaying the onset of dementia.
- Doing crossword puzzles encourages word recall and improves problem-solving abilities. This study shows that crossword puzzle participation delayed the onset of accelerated memory deterioration by 2.54 years. The findings reveal that late-life crossword puzzle participation, regardless of education level, was linked to a delay at the beginning of memory loss in people with dementia.
- Learning a new interest, whatever it is, helps to stimulate brain cells and keep the mind sharp. Consider taking up a new hobby requiring fine motor skills, such as cooking, crocheting, painting, quilting, woodworking, gardening, or scrapbooking. These hobbies provide a variety of advantages that can help seniors age in place for many years to come.
- According to a Harvard Medical School report, middle-aged and older students exposed to negative preconceptions about aging and memory perform worse on memory tasks than those exposed to positive messages about memory preservation. Seniors have a better chance of keeping their minds fresh if they believe they can improve and put that idea into practice. This is the power of positive thinking!
The Importance of Getting Enough Physical Activity
For many seniors, staying physically active is a way to maintain their independence and remain healthy. Seniors who exercise regularly have a lower risk of depression and have a higher quality of life. Even more remarkable is that many seniors develop a love of exercise as they get older.
Staying active can help seniors:
- Maintain their cognitive function: Studies show that seniors who exercise regularly experience fewer symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
- Feel happier: The right kind of exercise can release mood-boosting hormones like serotonin and dopamine. In addition, regular exercise is beneficial to a senior’s overall health.
- Reduce their fall risk: Falls cause serious injuries and impair the ability of older adults to function independently. Fall prevention exercises help lower the chance of falling by strengthening key muscles and joints while improving balance. Note: Fear of falling is common, and it’s linked to reduced physical activity—which raises a senior’s risk of falling in the future.
- Nurture social connections: Whether your loved one joins a walking group or an exercise class, physical activity can be an enjoyable social event. Strong social relationships are necessary for older adults to maintain a sense of purpose and avoid loneliness or sadness.
If It’s Important to Seniors, It’s Important to Us
People frequently offer seniors valuable but unsolicited advice on how to conduct their lives. It could be suggestions about how to sleep, eat, or dress. Ultimately, seniors want to be heard. They want to feel as if their opinions are valued and respected. If you’re a caregiver or a loved one, start by asking what’s most important to them. Their answers will allow you to make the most of your time with them while also ensuring that they feel genuinely valued.
After all, we want to give our cherished seniors everything we can. Even the longest life is yet so brief—it’s an honor and privilege to age.