Promoting Wellness in Older Patients

Encouraging Exercise and Physical Activity

Exercise has proven benefits for older people. It reduces risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, obesity, colon cancer, and breast cancer. It also decreases the risk of falls and fall-related injuries.

Older woman doing water aerobicsLike the rest of us, older people may know that exercise is good for their health, but they may not have the motivation or encouragement to do it. You can guide your patients by asking about their daily activities and whether they engage in any kind of regular exercise or physical activity.

There are several ways to encourage older patients to exercise:

  • Whenever appropriate, let them know that regular physical activity—including endurance, muscle-strengthening, balance, and flexibility exercises—is essential for healthy aging.
  • Help patients set realistic goals and develop an exercise plan.
  • Write an exercise prescription, and make it specific, including type, frequency, intensity, and time; follow up to check progress and re-evaluate goals over time.
  • Refer patients to community resources, such as mall-walking groups and senior center fitness classes.

Strategies to Improve Nutrition in Older Adults

Older patients may develop poor eating habits for many reasons. These can range from a decreased sense of smell and taste to teeth problems or depression. Older people may also have difficulty getting to a supermarket or standing long enough to cook a meal. And, although energy needs may decrease with age, the need for certain vitamins and minerals, including calcium, vitamin D, and vitamins B6 and B12, increases after age 50.

Try these strategies to encourage healthy diets:

  • Emphasize that good nutrition can have an impact on well-being and independence.
  • If needed, suggest liquid nutrition supplements, but emphasize the benefits of solid foods.
  • If needed, suggest multivitamins that fulfill 100 percent of the recommended daily amounts of vitamins and minerals for older people, but not megadoses.
  • Offer a referral to a nutrition services program, such as Meals on Wheels. Programs in your area are provided by the local Area Agency on Aging or Tribal Senior Services. Contact the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 for your Area Agency on Aging.
  • Suggest NIA’s information on healthy eating for older adults.

For More Information About Wellness for Older Patients

Department of Agriculture                                         
Food and Nutrition Information Center          
301-504-5414
[email protected]
www.nal.usda.gov/fnic

This content is provided by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health. NIA scientists and other experts review this content to ensure that it is accurate, authoritative, and up to date.

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