New York City — The dusty stereotype of grandparents spending their 70s and 80s in a nursing home is fading fast, replaced by stories of skydiving seniors and engaged elders contributing to their communities.
Today’s seniors are considerably healthier and more active than their grandparents, and they are remaining in their own homes far longer than generations past.
Of course, healthy eating and daily activity are keys to independent living into advanced age, but researchers also point to less obvious, equally important indicators. These include maintaining a sense of purpose, using the health care system effectively, adapting the home environment and, perhaps most importantly, staying socially active with family, friends, and the community.
“In our experience, the combination of healthy lifestyle choices and social engagement is critical to people extending their independent living years,” says Dr Philip Painter, chief medical officer forHumana at Home, Humana’s chronic disease management program that helps nearly 1 million people deal with diabetes, congestive heart failure, and other conditions.
Aging at home means thinking beyond medications and medical procedures, utilizing the health care system effectively and taking advantage of the tools it offers, Painter adds.
As value becomes more important in our health care system, primary care physicians are acting as quarterbacks of their patients’ health, overseeing and coordinating all aspects of care, including resources for social engagement and unexpected medication side effects.
Some medications, for example, affect appetite and nutrient absorption. Loneliness and grief can also play a role in malnourishment, leading to additional health issues, which is why it’s important to keep in touch with your doctor and let him or her act as an overall health counselor.
The health plans people choose also help with successful aging at home. Some plans, for example, include exercise and/or wellness programs.
It’s also a good idea to consult experts, often found through local senior service agencies, on making homes safer by reducing tripping hazards such as rugs and cords, installing grab bars and hand rails, where needed, and improving lighting.
Besides the advanced emergency alert systems that some health companies employ, others like Humana are testing new technologies to help people more safely transition from hospital to home after a surgery and prevent unnecessary readmissions. By being open-minded to the vast array of telehealth tools, you can stay connected and in your home longer.
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Featured image courtesy: The Hindu Business Line