Family Advice – When Parents Get Older

Senior and young holding hands

The average age of Americans is increasing year-by-year. Approximately 77 million babies were born in the United States during the boom years of 1946 to 1964. In 2011, the oldest will turn 65, and on average can expect to live to 83. Many will continue well into their 90s.1 Most people continue to retain the habits they developed as children and teenagers. For many Americans, these habits included lack of regular exercise, sedentary activities, and poor nutrition.

As adults, we no longer possess the free pass we had when we were kids. If we continue to eat high-fat and high carbohydrate foods, we’ll gain more and more weight. If we persist in viewing regular exercise as an unnecessary indulgence, we’ll continue to experience high blood pressure, heart disease, and weakened immune systems. Older adults who resist the importance of good nutrition and regular exercise are also missing the thrill and sheer joy of having a vibrantly healthy, high-efficiency body. In contrast, older adults can achieve high levels of fitness, or even satisfactory levels, and feel much more youthful than they have in years.

Young adults who are the children of older adults can set a good example for fitness. Of course, this strategy is the reverse of what we’re used to – our parents setting the example for us. But good examples work both ways, and smart parents may be willing to take a tip from their kids.

The first good example is regular exercise. 2,3 The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends 30 minutes of exercise five times per week. Most Americans do no exercise at all. Get your parents into the routine by inviting them to go for a walk or bringing them to the gym and showing them a few basic exercises. For our parents, the key is to get them started. Keep encouraging them – not as something they “should” do, but rather as something they could bring into their lives as a “choice”. No one wants to do what they “should”. Make it an invitation – make it fun.

Also, begin to set a good example with nutrition. Take your parents out to dinner at a healthy place – talk to them about eating smaller portions, avoiding fried and processed foods, and food combining. Food combining means eating a portion of protein and a portion of carbohydrate at every small meal. For most people, altering their food habits-of-a-lifetime is pretty radical. Help your parents learn how to take small steps in the direction of healthy nutrition, rather than attempting to change everything at once. Again, help them have fun with it. Good nutrition is a choice.

For all of us, it’s important to walk the talk. Our kids – and even our parents sometimes – will mimic what we do. We want our own lifestyle choices to be healthy and life-promoting, so our kids and our parents have a good example to follow. Your chiropractor is an expert in using exercise and nutrition as a means of helping patients restore good health. She will be glad to provide valuable information on both of these topics for you and your whole family.