Family LIfe

Seven Ways to Keep our Parents Young
by Stephan and Lisa LaCount, www.activeadultliving.com

What are some things we can do to help keep our parents young? Here are seven ideas to explore, which may slow down the ageing process and help keep your folks sharp and young at heart for years to come . . .

Physical activities are a great way to help keep everyone younger. Even if your parent is housebound or confined to a wheelchair, there are ways to get exercise. My mother-in-law is in her early 80's and still does her Jane Fonda workout tape every morning right in the privacy of her bedroom. My father-in-law is less motivated to do structured exercises, but he does join mom for a daily brisk power walk through a local indoor shopping mall. If your parent has trouble with back, hips or legs then water aerobic exercise may be just the key.

Mental exercise is important too! Nowadays, many community colleges and universities offer the opportunity to 'audit' classes (that is, to take the class for personal enrichment and not to earn a grade). Are your folks homebodies and not so social? My mum loves to do crossword puzzles and prides herself on her mental acuity, while my step dad enjoys seemingly endless hours surfing the Internet.

Having a proper diet goes hand in hand with the ability to enjoy physical and mental activities. My mum has always been very docile and became very overweight. She's always been passionate about buffet restaurants and gave in to too much food and too many calories. Unfortunately it led to type II diabetes; she still loves the buffets but through self-control and determination she shed 80 pounds and went down 10 dress sizes. My husband and I have tried on several occasions to encourage her to write The Buffet Lover's Diet book (but she's content just to do her crossword puzzles). The bottom line on diet is that a person needs a balance of carbohydrates, proteins and fats, and calorie intake commensurate with their activity level. Of course, vitamins and minerals will likely be recommended by their physician to supplement their diet, and plenty of water every day is crucial, too.

Social interaction is wonderful to help them connect with others of similar age and/or interests. Here again, even the housebound can now enjoy social interaction with online chat rooms or blogging. If they are able to get out and about, many seniors find great satisfaction in volunteerism, which provides social interaction as well as a sense of worth.

Having a soul mate is a richly fulfilling experience. If your parents are no longer together or one has pre-deceased the other, it's never too late to find love and/or companionship. Even if there's resistance to finding a soul mate, pets make wonderful companions.

Environment is an unfortunate necessity to consider these days. Adding years of life or improving one's quality of life must take into consideration how to effectively deal with such 21st century realities as pollution, additives, preservatives, toxins, and even stresses such as terrorism and living in an inflationary world on a fixed income. Obviously, anything that you can do to relieve or diminish your parents exposure to any or all of the environmental factors will certainly add quality, and likely, years of life.

Spirituality and the practice of faith is definitely a way to add years to one's life. There are certainly numerous benefits in turning over your cares and worries to a higher power through prayer or meditation. Additionally, the very gathering together with others of your faith to worship provides a forum for social interaction.

Authors:
Stephan and Lisa LaCount are the authors of an exhaustive resource, 1001 Active Lifestyle Communities, which is available through bookstores for or it may be ordered online at the website www.ActiveAdultLiving.com.

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