Local Physicians Weigh-In On How to Stay Healthy During Your Golden Years
by MARY TOOTHMAN
Once upon a time, the generally accepted picture of retirement featured hammocks, tennis rackets, sandy beaches, and happy, able-bodied couples smiling adoringly at each other.
And yet, in reality, many seniors find that once they leave the workplace — and age-related health issues set in — retirement isn’t much like they dreamed it would be.
A recent Harvard School of Public Health study revealed that individuals who retire were 40% more likely to suffer from a heart attack compared to those who continued to work. This statistic seems to back up the fact that retirement is ranked 10th on the list of life’s 43 most stressful events.
The good news is retirement doesn’t have to be as stressful and daunting as it may seem. We spoke to two local experts to learn more about what seniors living out their golden years can do to stay physically and mentally healthy.
Julie Sing, Senior Circle Advisor:
“Get involved and make use of the services available,” Sing says.
“I use the phrase, ‘You must keep moving!’ quite often. If you don’t keep using what you have, you will lose it,” she says.
“That applies to both physical and mental capabilities.”
There are many resources available to seniors to help them do that. The Heart of Florida Regional Medical Center and Lake Wales Medical Center both offer a Senior Circle program designed to keep seniors in the community active and healthy. “The program offers various activities such as health talks with physicians, exercise opportunities, and social activities that aim to keep seniors healthy,” she says.
Registration for the program is free.
Retired seniors often really need the types of benefits offered by such programs. “The prospect of retirement can be stressful to some entering their golden years,” Sing emphasized. “Through feedback from some of our Senior Circle members here at the hospital, we have found that whereas some think of all the wonderful things they will be able to do once they retire — they find they are not as busy as they thought they would be and find that they need to schedule more events in their days.”
Like most aspects of daily living, retirement is all about balance. “You want to take time for yourself to relax, but you also want to make sure you stay active through retirement,” Sing says.
Having a plan matters. “It is important for seniors to focus on having planned activities,” she says. “Staying active is a key component in living healthy. Not only is physical exercise important, social activities are just as important. Social activities keep the mind active and give you something to look forward to.”
And you need friends. “Friends can keep your spirits lifted through tough times that are often experienced as we grow older,” Sing says. “Through socialization, you will find other seniors going through the same situations and many will be able to find comfort in each other.”
Dr. Evelyn Rentas, an internal medicine physician with the Heart of Florida Physician Group, provided us with her insight.
“I have seen some patients that have taken retirement in stride, they are happy and at peace with this stage of life. Others, though, express that they have lost their sense of being. For them, their work gave them a sense of accomplishment, belonging, and camaraderie that is suddenly gone.”
She advises patients to be good to themselves. Do something creative, eat well, socialize, exercise (take safety precautions), get enough sleep, maybe join a group – such as those who get together to walk. And stay in touch with family members and friends.
“Due to loss of loved ones, health problems, trouble paying bills, or other reasons, many older adults may feel lonely, sad, low, or stressed,” she says. “You may not feel like doing anything, you may not eat enough, or you may overeat. Being good to yourself may help you improve your ‘get up and go,’ your eating habits, and health.”