Set Goals to Improve Health in 2016

Yes, New Year’s “resolutions” have proven that they often don’t work. Scientists tell us that is because the goals that we tend to set are too big or unspecific. But goals that are realistic and specific are more likely to succeed.

If improving your overall health is at the top of your goals for the coming year, here are three simple steps to get started:

  1. Get involved in your community. Loneliness is pervasive among senior populations for a myriad of reasons: 18 percent of seniors live alone while 43 percent say they feel lonely. A study late last year from the University of Chicago showed that perceived isolation can increase the risk of premature death by 14 percent.

To combat loneliness—even if you don’t currently feel lonely—get involved in your community through volunteering in an area that is meaningful to you.

  • Miss being around children? A local school or afterschool program may be looking for a tutor.
  • Love animals? Your local animal shelter probably would welcome someone to come play with kittens or socialize dogs.
  • Enjoy helping those less fortunate? Volunteer at a food bank or group home.

The key is to find a volunteer activity that will put you around other people. If you don’t know where to start, AARP offers a database that matches seniors to volunteer opportunities based on interest and location.

  1. Stay physically active. Staying mentally sharp is often cited as the top issue for those 50 and older. Physical exercise is one way to do that, in addition to the other benefits that come with it. A 2013 study at the Center for Brain Health found that aerobic exercise helps improve memory, brain health and physical fitness levels.

A number of senior-oriented exercise programs are out there, Silver Sneakers being among the best known. But consider visiting local gyms, too. In recent years, a number of “boutique” gyms have sprung up around the country, with heavily personalized training and small group classes. If cost is an issue, walking is always a good form of exercise—especially when done with a friend. Of course, begin by checking with your physician before starting any exercise program.

  1. Eat right. As you age, you need fewer calories, but more nutrients—particularly protein, B-vitamins and calcium—according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Eating right can not only improve health, but also improve energy levels, according to the National Institutes on Aging.

Seniors often don’t get enough calories—especially as senses of taste and smell decrease. The National Institutes on Aging recommends 1,600 calories a day for inactive women to 2,000-2,200 for a woman who walks the equivalent of more than three miles per day. For men, it ranges from 2,000 calories per day for the inactive to 2,800 calories for those who walk the equivalent of three miles per day. If you need assistance determining the right calorie balance and ideal nutrition, seek advice from your medical professional or a registered dietitian.

Improving your overall health should not just be a goal for the first few days of the New Year, but one that offers Hope, Health & Wellness throughout 2016 and beyond.

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Eureka Alert, University of Chicago,

Center for Brain Health, University of Texas at Dallas,

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics,

National Institutes on Aging,

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