The holidays can often be a time of both celebration and chaos, and this tends to be especially true for older adults. Keeping up with family members and friends can be exhausting, but paying particular attention to lifestyle habits may be able to support you during this busy season.
So, are you ready to make both physical and mental health a priority this time of year? These senior holiday health tips are sure to help you do just that!
How the Holidays Can Impact Senior Health
For many seniors, the holidays are a time of light and joy. However, they can also be a source of stress, and a rising number of festivities and commitments can make it challenging to cope—especially if you’ve lost a loved one recently. Interrupted routines may make it hard to fit healthy eating, regular exercise, and quality sleep into a busier-than-usual schedule.
However, there are ways to ensure you’ll feel happy and healthy during the holidays. A little planning and preparation can go a long way, particularly when managing your own expectations or setting expectations with family and friends for the holiday season.
Adopting Senior Holiday Health Tips
Like other times of the year, focusing on eating well, exercising regularly, and maintaining proper sleep hygiene can encourage better health. For seniors, there’s no better time than the holidays to ensure optimal health since activities and festivities are often increased. Focusing on wellness during winter can do wonders for your physical and mental health, may improve your mood or immunity, and can set you up nicely for the new year.
Wondering how to stay healthy during the holiday as an aging adult? Look no further than these fundamentals, setting the groundwork for better living.
Holiday Nutrition & Hydration
Understanding the basics of balanced eating can help you enjoy rich holiday meals without overindulging. Celebrate the holidays by truly savoring your favorite flavors, but also keep proper portion sizes in mind.
Remember that restrictive eating patterns—not to be confused with dietary restrictions (like food allergies)—can backfire. Instead of focusing on what you’re limiting, like sweets, pile on the fruits, vegetables, and other nutrient-rich picks.
Another healthy eating tip for the holidays is to tune into hunger cues. This means listening to your body and its signals, such as when you feel hungry or full. Doing so can guide your eating habits and help you be more mindful about what you’re eating and how much you’re eating.
In addition to eating well, be sure you’re drinking plenty of water each day. Although individual needs may differ, the “8×8 rule” (drinking at least eight 8 oz glasses of water daily) is a great place to start. Another easy way to keep staying hydrated top of mind is by having water easily accessible, such as placing a large water bottle on a side table by your favorite chair.
Although exercising in chilly temps may seem intimidating initially, there are ways to do so safely. Bundling up and wearing sturdy shoes can help to keep you safe and warm, as can inviting friends or family to come along on outdoor adventures (like walks or skiing).
At-home workouts, such as chair exercises, are also an option—even small amounts of movement each day can significantly benefit health. Chores and simple tasks like holding a shopping bag when running errands can also contribute to your daily movement goals.
For example, staying active can help you keep up with younger family members, such as children or grandchildren, during holiday activities (and beyond). Regular exercise may also help to reduce stress and “avoid the holiday blues.”
Sleep is another crucial element of health. Unfortunately, getting good sleep can get tougher with age, making paying attention to health habits even more important.
With shifting routines during the holiday season, try to emphasize sleeping and waking around the same time each day. This practice can profoundly affect your health, helping to stabilize several aspects of health, from blood sugar to mood.
Additionally, looking at your sleep hygiene (sleep habits and environment) can help promote a good night’s sleep. Even when traveling, you can keep blue light exposure to a minimum, wear a sleep mask, and control caffeine intake.
As alluded to above, the holidays can be a stressful time of hustle and bustle. If you’re used to a relatively slow pace of life, this can feel alarming and put your body in a “survival mode” as you attempt to accomplish your holiday to-do list. It can also contribute to “holiday blues” and seasonal stress.
For a stress-free holiday season, taking a moment each day to turn inward and slow down is essential. If you’re staying with relatives (or even if you aren’t), it’s okay to express that you need time to recharge. It may sound counterintuitive, but focusing on self-care around the holidays can make your time with others more fulfilling.
Some additional tips for stress management during the holidays include:
- Expressing expectations with families and friends (such as how to approach gift-giving)
- Open communication with loved ones
- Participating in holiday activities or winter hobbies you genuinely enjoy
- Taking time to grieve if you’ve lost a loved one
Final Tips For a Healthy Holiday
Don’t forget to ask about accommodations if you plan to visit family and friends for festivities. For example, sleeping on the first floor may be helpful so you don’t have to navigate stairs or steps in a less familiar environment.
For peace of mind, address health considerations and medical needs ahead of time, especially if you’re traveling. Plan ahead with your doctor if you’ll be gone more than a few days or weeks to ensure you have all the necessary medications and refills.
Additionally, keep emergency and regular medications nearby in a purse or bag, or keep them easily accessible at home (if you’re staying home for the holidays).
Senior Holiday Health Tips: Lasting Takeaways
Seniors can stay healthy during the holidays by practicing mindful methods for a balanced lifestyle. Focusing on savoring favorite flavors and healthy foods, sneaking in small exercise moments, and getting good sleep can make the holidays more fulfilling.
Also, set up expectations and accommodations with friends and family beforehand. Taking time for yourself can make a big difference in mood and health!
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tips for Better Sleep. CDC. Published September 2022.
National Institute on Aging. A Good Night’s Sleep. Nia.nih.gov. Published November 2020.
National Institute on Aging. Five Tips for Exercising Safely During Cold Weather. Nia.nih.gov.
Pacheco D. Sleep and Blood Glucose Levels. Sleep Foundation. Published October 2023.