November and December may be the holiday season, and a time when millions of people in the United States and Canada spend time with family and friends. And it’s not just friends that we’re spending time with: we are also spending time eating food, and lots of it. The Calorie Control Council recently crunched the numbers on the American Thanksgiving holiday, and discovered that the average festive meal came in at over 4,500 calories, and 229 grams of fat.
As a result, by the time the new year arrives, millions of Americans and Canadians have eaten too much and exercised too little.
So during this period of excess, how can administrators and operators of senior living communities keep their residents healthy? Here are three tips:
1. Exercise: Multiple studies have shown a link between physical health and mental health. When people – young and old – exercise their bodies, they tend to make themselves happier and more emotionally well-adjusted. Therefore, exercise is a great way to hit two birds with one stone; that is, exercise can reduce your residents’ risk of injury from falls, as well as depression.
2. Nutrition: Getting enough physical exercise can only have a limited impact if residents are eating poorly, whether it be too much, too little, or simply the wrong composition of foods needed for a working body. Does your community have a registered dietitian on staff (or at corporate headquarters) who dictates or oversees the menu offerings for residents? If not, ensure that someone with relevant qualifications and training is able to ensure your residents are eating well. Healthy residents are happy residents, and happy residents do not want to leave, and will tell their friends and contacts how much they enjoy living at your community.
3. Activities: The third ingredient in a happy person – and senior living community resident – is an active social life that provides a sense of community, purpose and belonging. And although nearly every senior living community offers some level of activities and programming, it is not always easy to encourage residents, especially those who are quiet and less sociable, to become involved in community life.
But keeping residents happy, healthy and engaged is not an impossible task for communities to achieve. It takes foresight, planning and strategy to ensure that residents are getting enough physical exercise, heating nutritious food – and enough of it – and keeping social with activities and programs.