Retirement means an opportunity for older adults to leave the grind of work and finally enjoy some free time, but it also creates a tough question to crack: How are you going to fill up all those free hours?
An unstructured day can be relaxing from time to time, but seniors that develop a daily routine enjoy numerous physical, psychological, and social benefits. Read on to learn about positive routines to develop and how they lead to happier, healthier golden years.
Make a routine, not a schedule
Schedules are tight time tables that can lead to anxiety if you begin to fall behind. Rather than strictly blocking out time to complete tasks, it is best to build a routine of activities you will do in a particular order.
By removing tight timelines, you allow yourself breathing room should you being having a more difficult day than usual, or if a particular task is slowing you down. This approach lowers anxiety and makes it less likely you will skip an activity to stay on schedule.
Routines lead to fewer forgotten tasks
We all have important daily tasks we need to complete, like daily grooming and bathing, hygiene tasks, eating meals, tidying the home, managing medication, completing errands, and enjoying social time or activities with others.
By building a regular routine that covers these daily tasks, you create a sense of predictability that makes it harder to forget any one task on a given day.
Building around your rhythms
Some people feel more energetic and motivated in the morning, while others feel most focused in the afternoon or evening.
When thinking about how to plan your days, consider your personal health and the rhythms of your body.
For example: If you typically feel stiff first thing in the morning, consider doing lighter activities and plan a walk or other physical activity for later in the day, If you tend to get tired and have less patience for conversation in the evening, consider blocking out social activities in the morning or afternoon.
You have the best sense of your body’s rhythms, so be sure to listen to them when considering a new daily routine.
What to include in your routine:
When considering your daily routine, try to write down all the activities you need to do daily and activities you want to do more frequently. This list may look like the following:
Need to do:
- Hygiene tasks (brushing/flossing, trimming nails, shaving)
- Meal preparation/eating
- Tidying the house
- Taking medication
Want to do:
- Going for a walk/light exercise
- Visiting friends or having guests
- Hobbies, art projects, watching shows you enjoy
Once you have a full list of things to fill your day, take some time to consider when you feel at your best and when you feel least enthusiastic, and work out in what order you will take on these projects.
When working through this process, be flexible and understand that your first approach may not work perfectly, so tweaking things after a few days of testing can be very important. Also, listen to your body when working through a new routine. Do not over tax yourself to get everything done, and consider building in some rest time after a particularly challenging activity if you feel you need it.
Why make a routine?
Making a routine is one of the easiest ways to ensure you make the most out of every day, but there are countless other benefits that come with the process.
Routines create better personal awareness
One of the biggest benefits to having a daily routine built around your personal rhythms is that it allows you to catch changes faster than someone with an unstructured day.
If you know you typically get hungry for lunch around 1pm, but find yourself leaving more food on the plate, you can flag this change in appetite and bring it up during your next doctor’s appointment. The same principle goes for other changes worth noting to your medical team, like feeling sleepy before your normal bedtime, changes in balance and flexibility, or changes in mood.
Catching these changes early means you and your care providers stay more up to date on your overall health and allow you to head off any growing concerns.
Routines lower stress
A structured day can greatly lower your overall stress level, as you can design your plan to match your changing energy levels throughout the day. They also lower the chance that you will put off a task you don’t love, but know you need to complete.
Building a daily routine gives you a better sense of control, can lower encounters with anxiety-inducing uncertainty, and can be extremely calming, especially if you are undergoing or worry you may undergo cognitive changes like Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Routines lead to better sleep
Developing a regular sleep pattern is critical to promoting mental and physical health, and having a routine has been found to help fight insomnia in older adults.
By eating, exercising, and taking medication at the same time every day, you are giving your body predictable inputs and making it easier to predict when you will be ready for bed. Reducing time spent staring at the ceiling or falling asleep unexpectedly.
Routines allow for better social engagement
Having a predictable routine can also encourage older adults to stay more socially active, which can have long-term positive impacts on their cognitive health.
A good routine means you know when you will be at your most social, and working a regular social activity like visiting family or friends, dropping in at a community center, or taking part in a hobby with others can ensure you remain engaged with the world around you.
Furthermore, a good routine means you will rarely be behind on a particular task like housekeeping, meaning your home will be in great shape to host visitors!
How home health care helps
Home health caregivers can play a critical role in helping older adults manage their routine, assisting with daily tasks that may become more difficult with time, like hygiene, meal prep, bathing, medication management, transportation, and errands.
With the help of a home caregiver, older adults can get a helping hand with the activities that they find most difficult or time-consuming, freeing up their day for the activities they actually enjoy.
At SelectCare, our team works with clients and their families to build healthy, sustainable routines and match clients with caregivers who have the right mix of skills and personality to make a lasting difference.