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 –

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.

“What Do You DO?”

people at partyOne of my pet peeves is when I am at an event and someone asks me what I “do”. It drives me nuts, as if the only thing defining who I am is what activity I engage in which enables me to keep a roof over my head and pay bills. It’s not like I am ashamed of what I do for a living. In fact it’s quite the contrary. But I don’t like throwing around the fact that I am a physician because it sets up erroneous preconceived notions about my personality, lifestyle, and income. It is only after I have been speaking to someone for a while and have been given an opportunity to mention fitness that I come alive and truly enjoy the conversation. I do NOT enjoy talking about my medical career. People do not seem to understand that not every physician works in a hospital, works full time, makes oodles of money, and enjoys talking about medicine 24/7.

Another thing I cannot stand about revealing my main career is that people seem to think nothing of asking for a curbside consult. Let’s say you are a certified public accountant. Would it bother you if I asked you a couple of tax questions just to make sure I am filing my tax receipts properly? Oh, it WOULD bother you? Well, I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t ask me to look at your sore elbow, or the rash on your left cheek (sometimes it’s even the nether cheek which is affected…NO, I don’t want to see it!), or your inflamed adenoids. When I am at an event, I am OFF DUTY, just like you are. So please don’t ask.

I know that some people love talking about what they do. If it stems from a true passion for what they do, that’s fantastic. However, there are plenty of situations in which I find myself conversing with someone who thinks that social conventions require everyone to discuss what they do for a living, no matter how unfulfilling or uninteresting the discussion is. I would honestly rather find out something interesting about a person, such as an unusual hobby, than to hear someone describe a work environment which holds zero interest for me.

I wish conversations were more heavily weighted towards truly learning about what makes a person tick instead of sizing someone up on the basis of how they make a living!