Indiana and Michigan winters are known for being cold and snowy. The rough weather can take a toll on the immune system, especially for older adults. Then there are concerns about the viruses that reappear or worsen during the winter months, such as influenza, RSV, and COVID-19. While they can be annoying and uncomfortable at any age, these viruses can be especially dangerous for seniors.
At this time each year, we try to share a few tips to help seniors and their family members pump up their immunity. It’s important because a healthy immune system is vital for everything from warding off disease to protecting you against infections.
Tips to Help Seniors and Caregivers Boost Their Immune System
A few ways you can give your immune system the boost it needs before the worst of winter arrives include:
- Adopting a healthy diet: When the days are frigid and gray, many of us seek comfort. We might spend more time on the couch curled up watching television or with a book. Our need for comfort often includes overindulging in foods that are high in carbs and sugar. While you might get a short-term boost from those types of snacks and meals, they will leave you feeling more tired and sluggish in the long run. Winter might be a great time to explore a new way of eating. One diet that receives the highest marks from experts year after year is the Mediterranean Diet. Rich in lean protein and fresh fruits and vegetables, it’s believed to help guard against heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and some forms of cancer. The Mediterranean lifestyle also places high value on hydration, whether it’s drinking water or eating fruits and vegetables known for being hydrating.
- Being active: Winter weather often forces people to spend more time indoors. Doing so makes it much too easy to slip into unhealthy habits, such as watching too much television and skipping exercise. That combination is bad for your body’s natural immunity. A sedentary lifestyle increases the risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, depression, and high blood pressure. Fortunately, there are many options for exercising indoors during winter Tech products, such as an Apple Watch or a Fitbit, can remind you it’s time to get up and move. Tai Chi, Pilates, cycling on a recumbent bike, using resistance bands, and practicing chair yoga can be done in the privacy of your own home.
- Protecting mental health: When the winter winds blow, people often feel melancholy and sad. Others experience higher amounts of stress and anxiety. Each of these can negatively impact your body’s immunity. Another health matter to be aware of is seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It can lead to a serious case of depression. That’s why it’s important to have a plan in place for nurturing the spirit. A few options to explore are meditation, arts and crafts projects, journaling, or music therapy.
- Sleeping well: Insomnia and other sleep problems increase with age. It can be the result of a lack of exercise, a medication, sleep apnea, and more. If you are struggling to get a good night’s rest, talk to your physician. They might have some suggestions for you to try, including referring you for a sleep study to help identify the root cause and potential treatment options.
- Updating vaccines: If you haven’t seen your primary care physician this year, schedule an appointment for a physical. That will provide you with an opportunity to check in with your doctor about which vaccines you need. From an annual flu shot to the new RSV vaccine, there are good tools for protecting against common viruses. If you do come down with the flu or COVID-19, for example, being vaccinated helps you avoid hospitalization.
Try Respite Care at Heritage This Winter
If the idea of you or a senior loved one spending winter months at home alone causes stress, you might want to consider a respite stay at Heritage. You can be our guest for a few weeks or months. During your short-term stay, you’ll enjoy the same amenities and services as our long-term residents.
From opportunities to socialize to well-balanced meals, it’s a great way to make the winter a little less cold and lonely. Call a Heritage community near you to learn more!