Healthy Living Tips for Seniors on a Fixed Income

Please check out this fantastic article, written by Karen Weeks, which is full of tips on how to live healthy and strong as a senior on a fixed income!

by Karen Weeks – Elderwellness.net
karen@elderwellness.net


Image by Xevi Casanovas via Unsplash

As you get older, it’s more important than ever to make your health a priority. Unfortunately for seniors living on fixed incomes, a healthy lifestyle can seem financially impossible. Nutritious ingredients, fitness classes, and other healthy living resources don’t come cheap. When money is limited, it’s hard to find room in your budget.

Forgoing healthy habits may save money in the short-term, but it costs seniors in the long-run. A healthy lifestyle is one of the best ways to prevent chronic illness, and if you don’t take care of yourself, you’re more likely to develop health problems that are costly to manage.

That’s why it’s so important to adopt healthy habits now, no matter your budget. If you’re a senior living on a fixed income, these tips will help you stay healthy without spending a lot.

Eating Well

Learn how to grocery shop on a budget
If you look at the price of packaged organic goods, healthy foods can seem out of reach. Instead of worrying about organics, focus on eating a diet high in vegetables of any (and every!) type. If fresh vegetables are too expensive, frozen vegetables are just as nutritious without the sodium content of canned goods. Dried beans, whole grains, frozen fruit, canned fish, and eggs are more cheap and healthy foods. Avoid frozen meals. While they seem like a good value, most frozen dinners are high in sodium and saturated fat.

Make use of food assistance programs
If you find yourself skipping meals or eating poorly to save money, look into food assistance programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, and Meals on Wheels. Meals on Wheels is an especially helpful resource if you live alone and have trouble leaving your home.

Staying Active

Get cleared for exercise
It’s safe for most older adults to exercise, but it’s still wise to talk to your doctor. Your annual wellness visit is a good time to ask if you should take precautions before starting an exercise program. Keep in mind, however, that Medicare’s annual wellness visit doesn’t include a full physical. You may owe a copay if your doctor recommends bloodwork or other tests to clear you for exercise.

Exercise at home
There’s a lot of exercise seniors can do in the comfort of their homes. Basic strength and balance exercises, important for senior fall prevention, require minimal space and no special equipment. Use these 14 exercises from Philips Lifeline to get started.

Join a senior center
Do you prefer the camaraderie of group exercise? Senior centers offer tons of activities for older adults, including exercise classes like tai chi, yoga, and Zumba. Not only that, but all of a senior center’s services are available free or low-cost. No matter where you live, there’s likely a senior center in your neighborhood.

Getting Help at Home

Apply for the Assisted Living Waiver Program
If you need caregiving but don’t want to move into a nursing facility, consider assisted living. Under the Assisted Living Waiver Program, California seniors receiving Medi-Cal benefits can receive a reduced rate for assisted living. With facilities in California having a median cost of $54,000 annually, that’s a valuable benefit. However, not all facilities participate, so it’s important that seniors understand how to research assisted living facilities. Online search tools are a good place to start looking for a facility that meets your needs, but once you find one you like, you’ll need to check if it participates in the waiver program.

Get a roommate
Unfortunately, not every senior who needs help affording care qualifies for a waiver. If you could use help at home but don’t need nursing home-level care, consider a roommate. A roommate can be a housemate who splits the bills or someone who provides housekeeping and companionship in exchange for reduced rent.

Living on a fixed income forces you to get creative with your money, but it shouldn’t stop you from living well. If you’re having trouble affording the things you need to stay healthy, reach out to your Department of Aging and Adult Services to learn what resources are available to you.

Goals and Intentions

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Every single year since 1996, I have sat down at the end of the year and reviewed my goals list for that year to find out what I was able to accomplish. The end of the year is also a great time to compile a new goals list for the upcoming year. I have been writing out yearly goals for over 20 years, and firmly believe that this habit has been instrumental in helping me to attain some of my biggest aspirations.

These aren’t New Year’s resolutions, they’re intentions, dreams, carrots which I hang in front of me and keep in my line of sight throughout the year. They encompass business strategies, personal goals, career development, finances, home environment, love relationships, friends, family, and health.

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If you aren’t already in the habit of writing out goals for the year, I encourage you to do so. When you define what it is you want in your life, you manifest powerful energy which helps to bring those wishes to fruition. Make sure to write your goals in a notebook or binder, rather than typing them on a computer or smart phone. The mechanical act of putting pen to paper triggers areas of the brain responsible for creativity and thinking, and forces us to slow down and digest what it is we are writing.

At then end of the year, you can scan your list to see what you accomplished and what might need to be modified and put on the next list. In a typical year, I check off about 80% of my goals.

Don’t be afraid to dream big and use your imagination! The sky’s the limit!

I Miss Soul Train

From the time I was a kid, I remember watching Saturday morning cartoons, all the while anticipating the treat which would come after cartoons were over. The Soul Train theme song would play, and I would settle in for an hour of some of the best music around. I continued this pattern through my early 20’s, and would plan my Saturday around Soul Train, carving out time to watch like the faithful fan I always was. At the 45 minute mark, the Soul Train dance line would form, and I would be glued to the television set, watching all the moves, and looking at all the cool outfits. The Dance Line began as a couples line, then by the 1980’s, it morphed into singlets and the occasional group of dancers moving across the dance floor:

The first Soul Train episode aired on October 2, 1971, and the show ran through March of 2006. That’s 35 years and 1,117 soul, dance, R and B, and funk-filled episodes. Thanks to creator and host Don Cornelius, Soul Train brought black culture into America’s homes, broke down barriers, and wowed people like me. Don Cornelius would close out every episode with a sweeping thrown kiss and a wish to the viewers for “love, peace, and SOUUUUUUUULLLL”, a uniting and loving gesture which became a signature for the show.

For those of you who loved Soul Train as much as I did, you’ll get kick out of the following video, in which former Soul Train dancers share their experiences of being on the show:

Here are two video compilations, one which features the top ten female Soul Train dancers, and the other which showcases the top ten male Soul Train dancers:

I don’t want children — stop telling me I’ll change my mind | Christen Reighter

I absolutely love this TED Talk by Christen Reighter, who talks about the resistance she met with when attempting to obtain approval for tubal ligation. There are two statements in particular which struck me:

“I’ve always believed that having children was an extension of womanhood, not the definition.”

“I believe that a woman’s value should never be determined by whether or not she has a child, because that strips her of her entire identity as an adult unto herself.”

The resistance which Ms. Reighter encountered during her consultations for tubal ligation was unfounded in both my opinion as a woman, and also as a physician. It’s astonishing how medical colleagues refused to hear her argument for the ligation, and how her primary doctor kept insisting that she would change her mind at some point. What infuriates me even more was that the doctors abused medical paternalism, infusing their own beliefs about what a woman might be feeling about the idea of motherhood, and essentially stripping this woman of her rights.

Similar to what Christen Reighter believes, I have never bought into the lie that it has been my duty as a woman to have children. I have always bristled when people would try to pressure me to start a family. I have received this pressure from my family and feel that this is appropriate, but I have also been pressured by friends, patients, acquaintances and complete strangers. What is with the intense societal pressure to create progeny?

I have never experienced anything more than a brief and passing curiosity about the idea of having a child, and now that I am post-menopausal, I no longer have to concern myself with it. I don’t feel that I am incomplete or less of a woman because I chose not to have a mini-me. I essentially chose to be childless for a number of reasons, and I had the right to make that decision regardless of what anyone else thought.

Bravo to Christen Reighter for proclaiming her strong beliefs and standing her ground.

A Great TED Talk On Clutter

“Clutter is postponed decisions.” – Barbara Hemphill

I absolutely love this brilliant quote by Barbara Hemphill which Kerry Thomas mentions in this TED Talk video, because it is completely true. No matter what type of clutter plagues you, it may be impeding you in a profound way from living a free and peaceful life.

I hate physical clutter and fight it all the time by conducting purges throughout the year. But physical clutter is only one type of clutter, and Ms. Thomas breaks down the different types into the following:

Physical
Mental
Emotional
Digital
Spiritual

Although I feel that I have a good handle on physical clutter in my environment, the other categories are more challenging. I control digital clutter by going through my email inboxes on a daily basis, consolidating images and deleting old text messages on my phone. I also think I have a decent handle on spiritual clutter because I meditate daily, take meditation and yoga courses, and also practice breathwork. I try to forgive those who upset me, and I also make sure to avoid toxic people.

The areas where I get hung up (and I suspect many others do) is with mental and emotional clutter. Ms. Thomas states that mental clutter consists of fears one might have, and it also could stem from the judgmental words of others, while emotional clutter consists of negative thoughts and behaviors. The thing is, I have fears which keep my mind racing, and I also fall into the trap of negative thinking from time to time, especially when I am in the middle of a crisis. So by no means am I completely free of clutter. However, I constantly strive to clear up anything which is depressing me or slowing me down.

It’s incredibly liberating to get rid of items which are damaged, unused, or worn, and it’s also wonderful to let go of all the mental blockades to happiness and freedom. One thing I always try to remind myself is that worrying about things will never bring about a solution. The only thing worry ends up doing is eroding one’s demeanor and sparking anxiety.

I suggest that you think about the different areas in which clutter might be adversely affecting your life, and adopt behaviors which counteract such clutter.

Rapunzels Are In Vogue

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Super long hair is in fashion these days, so much so that ladies who are unable to grow their hair as long as they want have been sporting extensions to produce the desired long locks. It’s been interesting hearing people comment on my hair, which I had decided to grow out again, because people who haven’t known me for long think it’s a new thing. Well, it’s not. I have always sported extremely long hair past my waist since I was a young child, and at one point in my 20’s, my hair was so long that not only would I sit on the ends, but other people sitting next to me would accidentally pin me down, and I would have to ask them to release my hair.

The longest my hair ever got was in 1991…

I know it sounds strange, but to me, my hair at this point almost seems short,compared to that time in the early 90’s when my hair was at its longest. Here’s where my hair was length-wise in June, and then in August of this year:

My hair in June 2019

By August 2019, my hair was this long, and this was even after a trim!

I still look at images of women with crazy long hair (past the gluteal fold), and find some appeal in it, but I honestly don’t know if it would drive me nuts to carry around such a long span of keratin everywhere. Let’s face it, long hair gets in the way, it’s heavy, it makes the nape of the neck hot during the summer, and caring for long hair requires some extra effort to keep it looking its healthiest. I’m not even sure my hair would reach the same length where I had it in 1991, but I suspect I’d get so sick and tired of the maintenance that I would opt for a shorter, more manageable length.

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I will say that women with very long hair do stand out. Long hair is special, it’s beautiful, and not everyone can rock a Rapunzel-length mane. I think anyone with beautiful, healthy hair who wants to grow it out should do it, even if they later decide that sporting a scarf of hair isn’t for them.

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There is also a fair amount of versatility with long hair. It can be coiled into an elegant updo, crafted into a half-up, half-down hairstyle which is fashionable and pretty, swept up into a ponytail, braided, or left loose and free. In addition, long hair makes a handy shawl or scarf if one is caught in brisk weather without a sweater or coat. Believe me, I have used my hair as insulation from cold air many times over the years!

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Lastly, there is something so romantic about very long hair. Women with uber long hair aren’t afraid to express themselves as women. A sharp contrast to pixie hair styles, long hair evokes tremendous femininity. What’s strange, though, is how oppressed the literary character Rapunzel was. She was held captive by a witch in a tower, and her only hope of escape was to find a rescuer who would have to climb up her incredibly long hair to rescue her. Eventually Rapunzel cuts her hair, which apparently symbolizes cutting ties with a maternal figure. Wow, heavy stuff.

I suspect that I will sport extremely long hair, at least waist-length, for as long as I live. I’ve spent the majority of my life with long hair as part of my signature style, and I don’t plan to change that style by chopping my strands.

Seated Stretches To Energize You

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If you work at a desk job, you probably don’t think much about stretching your body and recharging it, but it’s one of the best things you can do for your body and your spirit.

Though I think it’s always best to step away from your desk to increase circulation, stretch, and reset your mind, I know that isn’t always an option. So here are a few stretches which you can do while sitting at your desk. I challenge you to perform these stretches right now as you read this blog post so you can see how easy and quick they are.

NECK CIRCLES:
Inhale, then exhale while dropping your chin to your chest.
As you slowly inhale, rotate your head to the right, bringing your right ear near your right shoulder and stretching the muscles on the left side of your neck.
Keep rotating until your neck is fully extended and pause, then rotate your head while slowly exhaling so that your left ear is now near your left shoulder and you feel a stretch in the muscles on the right side of your neck.
As your chin reaches your chest, finish your exhalation and pause.
Continue in this manner for 5 complete revolutions, then switch directions and perform 5 complete revolutions. Bring head to neutral and take a deep inhale, then slowly exhale.

SHOULDER SHRUGS
With arms at sides, inhale, then raise both shoulders near ears and hold for a count of 5.
Forcibly exhale through open mouth while quickly dropping shoulders.
Repeat 4 more times.

GRIP AND RELEASE
Make fists with both hands, holding for a count of 10.
Spread fingers out wide, holding for a count of 10.
Repeat sequence 2 more times, then shake hands out for several seconds.

OPEN HEART
With bent elbows, reach behind your lower back and clasp your hands together.
Aim to keep your palms together at all times.
Move the shoulder blades together.
Then straighten the elbows.
See if you can lift your arms up, away from your back.

NOTE: If this move is too difficult for you, hold onto a towel or belt, then pull arms outwards to add tension, then lift your arms.