by Shirley Brown, Healthy Living Coach
As the Healthy Living Coach for Elder Law of Michigan, it is an honor and a privilege to serve senior citizens and assist them with living a better, healthier lifestyle. Being able to advise seniors on the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables and getting 30 minutes of physical exercise daily is very rewarding. In order to do this, I follow the Eat Smart, Live Strong Program (ESLS) – a program designed to inform seniors of the importance of planning good meals, shopping on a budget, serving reasonable portions, and enjoying their meals. The Eat Smart, Live Strong program helps individuals understand the benefits of eating well and exercising daily, and how to go about it.
Eating well isn’t just a “diet” or “program” that’s here today and gone tomorrow; it is part of a healthy lifestyle that must be adopted now and continued throughout your lifetime. The ESLS program addresses complications that result from not being able to eat a proper diet, such as budget, illnesses, dentures, medication, shopping, physical disabilities, and eating alone. Then, the program breaks down these issues and discusses possible solutions. Eating well is vital for people of all ages. Whatever your age, your daily food choices can make an important difference in your health and in how you look and feel. Eating two cups of vegetables and one and one half cups of fruit, as well as getting 30 minutes of physical exercise every day is recommended by the USDA for people 55 and older.
Eating healthy and exercising daily may also help you reduce high blood pressure, lower high cholesterol, and manage diabetes. Seniors making moderate physical activity a meaningful part of their life can experience significant rewards. If you can’t fit a 30-minute chunk of time into your day, aim at ten-minute intervals of walking, dancing, sweeping, mopping, or chair exercises just keep the body moving. The reality of healthy living is setting realistic goals that one can keep. Eating healthier and exercising moderately can begin by taking small steps, and making one change at a time.
Now that many seniors are living alone they may find it harder to plan and cook meaningful meals and instead cook simple, easy meals that have little (if any) nutritional value. Most seniors know of the importance of eating healthy meals and exercising in order to enhance the quality of a valuable and active long life, but need a boost or reminder to get them motivated.
Eating a well-planned, balanced mix of fruits and vegetables every day has many health benefits. For instance, eating well may reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, bone loss, certain kinds of cancer, and anemia. If you already have one or more of these chronic diseases, eating well and being physically active may help you better manage them. Focus on setting realistic goals, being patient with self improvements, and track your progress.
Shirley Brown is a Healthy Living Coach through the MiCAFE program at Elder Law of Michigan. She has been a member of the Elder Law team since 2011. As the MiCAFE Healthy Living Coach for the Eat Smart and Live Strong Program, Shirley facilitates the development of effective, high-quality nutrition education and physical activity promotion targeting senior citizens that are eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).