January 2, 2020

A new year means a fresh start, which presents a wonderful opportunity for older adults to adopt habits that can allow them to become healthier and feel better — not just this year, but “for many more years to come,” as the Health In Aging Foundation explains. 

For older adults and family caregivers, the start of a new year is a great chance to make changes — but it’s important to remember that progress doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, the beginning of the year can be a great chance to sit down with your elderly loved ones and help them set their New Year’s resolutions, or their list of goals and hopes for the year to come. 

Why Set New Year’s Resolutions and Goals?

According to studies, about 40 percent of all Americans make New Year’s resolutions every year. For older adults, setting down a list of goals and plans for the year can be a powerful first step in living the lifestyle they’ve always wanted — whether that means living more independently, making new friends, becoming more physically active, or kicking unhealthy habits such as smoking or drinking. 

Setting resolutions has become a popular ritual for a reason! As U.S. News & World Report notes, “setting resolutions actually has practical value for older people and can impact your overall health positively.” 

Above all else, resolutions can help create a true sense of purpose. As U.S. News explains: 

“Rush University has conducted studies that show people who view life with a sense of purpose are two to four times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s. Purpose gives you discipline. Another Rush study notes that self-disciplined, highly organized people are less susceptible to Alzheimer’s.”

Other studies cited by U.S. News suggest that older adults with a sense of purpose experience better physical health. Setting resolutions can also allow seniors to enter a new year with a more positive outlook, which has been shown to help minimize the risk for developing heart disease and dementia. 

Healthy, Positive New Year’s Resolutions for Seniors

Helping your elderly loved one set down their resolutions can be a crucial first step in empowering them to live a more active, healthy, and enriched life. Looking for some ideas to bring up with your elderly loved ones? Here are a few meaningful, helpful resolutions to consider for the year ahead: 

  • Eat a more balanced diet. Malnutrition is a very serious and common problem for older adults. This year, encourage your senior to eat more regularly, and focus on getting healthy servings of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats. 
  • Get more active. Even just a few minutes of physical activity a day can make a world of difference! Your loved one may focus on going for more walks, joining a senior fitness class, stretching, or simply picking up an active hobby around the house.  
  • Meet new people. From joining a local senior center to volunteering in the community, there is no shortage of fun, fulfilling ways for seniors to make new friends and form the valuable social connections that can help older adults to live more healthily and feel better. 
  • Declutter and organize. Cleaning up can be a great way to help seniors take stock of their things, and lead to valuable conversations. Plus, decluttering and organizing can help make the home a safer, more livable place, allowing your loved one to live more independently. 
  • Make home safer. Falls are among the most serious health concerns facing older adults. Make safety a priority by installing grab bars, adding ramps, removing hazards, and organizing furniture to create a clear pathway around your loved one’s home. 
  • Keep your mind active. Staying mentally sharp is a high priority for many older adults! There are lots of ways to help give seniors’ brains a workout, from trying something new every day, to learning a language, to playing games or taking up arts and crafts projects. 
  • Tell your story. For seniors, a positive New Year’s resolution could be as simple as writing down their thoughts, or helping loved ones build a family tree or get to know their roots. 
  • Check in with your healthcare provider. Encourage your loved one to get their annual physical, or help them prepare a list of questions and concerns to ask their doctor. You may also help them inventory their medications, or make sure they’re current for their yearly vaccinations. 
  • Start planning for the future. While it can be difficult to get started, having discussions about estate planning and long-term care can be incredibly valuable for seniors. This year can be a great opportunity to update their will and other estate planning documents, organize paperwork, and start dealing with the many key considerations that go into long-term care. 
  • Get plenty of rest. Sleep is incredibly important for older adults. If your senior family member is having trouble sleeping, this year could be a great chance to adopt some new sleep habits, or consult with a specialist to get to the bottom of their difficulties. 

Did that list help you feel inspired, or get you thinking about your own set of goals? What would you add to your personal list of New Year’s resolutions for the elderly? 

Keeping Your Resolutions Going All Year Long

While many people around the world set resolutions at the beginning of the year, not everyone actually sees their goals all the way through to completion. After all, it can be difficult to stick to resolutions as the year goes on and life gets in the way. 

Fortunately, there are plenty of steps you can take to help set up your elderly loved one for success, and make sure that their biggest ambitions don’t fall by the wayside in the next twelve months. Here are a few ways to set goals and resolutions that will actually stick throughout the year to come: 

  • Work on resolutions together. The “buddy system” is a powerful thing. Research has shown that people are more likely to work toward their goals if they share their hopes with someone else, who can help keep them accountable. This year, why not make setting resolutions a family activity? Sit down with your senior loved one and come up with a list of goals together. This way, as the year goes on, you can check in with one another and keep track of each others’ progress, setbacks, and accomplishments.
  • Start small. It can be tempting to use the start of a new year to attempt to overhaul your life, or make sweeping changes overnight. While it’s good to dream big, it may be more effective to work on setting manageable goals. Help your loved one set benchmarks, and break their loftiest goals into simple, concrete tasks. For example, if your loved one wants to get more active, they’re more likely to commit to a plan that involves walking a few minutes every other day, rather than one that involves heading to the gym each morning. Help your senior loved one set attainable, practical goals, so they don’t feel overwhelmed or burnt out. 
  • Write down and visualize goals. Did you know that you’re more likely to commit to something if you write it down or say it out loud? This year, help your senior loved one make their resolutions feel more real. Write down a list of goals and tasks, and check in with this document throughout the year. Hold meetings to catch up on one another’s progress, and encourage your loved one to visualize their goals and remain positive. Remember to focus on the upside, and make sure your loved one goes easy on themselves, especially after any difficult days or setbacks. 

Looking for Help In the New Year?

The beginning of a new year is a great opportunity to make some changes, and get a fresh start. For family caregivers and older adults, one of the best ways to start the year may be to reach out for help, in order to get seniors the personalized attention and support they need to age in place. 

Want to discuss any aspect of caring for an elderly loved one? Interested in learning more about companionship and non-medical home care services in the Chicagoland area? Companions for Seniors is here and happy to help!

At Companions for Seniors, our mission is to provide seniors with a higher quality of life, while also offering respite and peace of mind for a family caregiver who might need some support. Our companions help stimulate our clients physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, empowering them to live an active and enriched lifestyle. We’re locally owned in the Chicago area, with clients in the city and suburbs.

If you have any questions about finding the right care for your loved one — or taking better care of yourself as a family caregiver — we’d love to help out. Get in touch online or give us a call at 866-910-9020 to get the conversation started!