As we transition fully into Autumn, it’s crucial to remember that Fall is also the beginning of cold and flu season. And while most of us rightly aspire to keep up the festivities and fun that comes with the change of seasons, unfortunately, our immune system doesn’t always cooperate. This is especially true for seniors and older adults. The fact is that our immune systems slow down and weaken as we age, making us more susceptible to illness overall – particularly to pneumonia, influenza, and bronchitis. So while it’s important for all of us to take proactive steps towards maintaining our health, it’s especially critical for seniors to do everything they can to bolster their ability to fight off illness. Here are 5 simple steps that seniors can take towards a stronger immune system:
- Stay hydrated: Dehydration can weaken our ability to fight off illness, and seniors are at particular risk – both because of lower water composition in their bodies, and the fact that many are on meds that can cause this side effect. If mom or dad doesn’t like drinking plain water, remind them of the other options available – like hot liquids (broth, herbal tea), popsicles, watermelon, sports drinks, smoothies, and Ensure.
- Get regular exercise: With seniors more active than ever before, there are lots of options for getting up and moving – whether it’s through a local senior center, library, neighborhood walking group, or gym. Appropriate fitness goals vary greatly among seniors, depending on overall health and mobility issues – so make sure Dad consults with his physician before taking on any exercise regimen. The Centers for Disease Control have excellent guidelines that are helpful for general reference.
- Don’t skip that flu shot! Did you know one of the leading causes of death in people ages 65 results from respiratory infections and pneumonia? Seniors need the immune boost that comes from the flu shot and pneumonia vaccine, and need to be re-immunized every year. Read more about senior vaccine guidelines here on the CDC website.
- Eat healthy: While it’s so important for seniors to eat a diet rich in vitamins and minerals, it can be challenging for some to fix themselves nutrient-rich meals on a regular basis. Make sure mom has plenty of nuts, fruits, and veggies to snack on when she’s not up to cooking a full meal, along with protein-rich foods that are easy to serve, like hard-boiled eggs and tuna. You also might look into supplementing mom’s dining options with help from meal-delivery services geared for seniors, like Silver Cuisine or Magic Kitchen.
- Wash those hands: This one’s a no-brainer, but it’s amazing how many of us forget the basic step of regular hand washing. Make it easy for Dad by placing bottles of hand sanitizer in the kitchen, bathroom, car, and next to his favorite chair.
For more helpful tips on keeping seniors healthy, head to Daily Caring.