A Senior’s Guide to Understanding and Overcoming Frailty

It’s natural to slow down a little as you age, but frailty syndrome is something more. It’s also a rising concern as the population grows older.

According to researchers at Johns Hopkins, about 12% of Americans age 65 or older are considered frail. Plus, your risk doubles if you’re 84 or older because the rate rises with age.

Symptoms include feeling exhausted, losing weight, and having difficulty completing everyday tasks like dressing and shopping. You’re also likely to become sick more often and recover more slowly.

On the bright side, many aspects of frailty can be prevented and reversed with simple lifestyle changes. See how you can spot the warning signs for frailty and learn to protect yourself.

Dealing with the Physical Side of Frailty

1. Exercise regularly. Being active is one of the most effective ways to age gracefully. Develop a variety of workouts that will keep you motivated. Incorporate more movement into your daily routine by climbing stairs and gardening.

2. Train for strength. Without exercise, the average 30-year old can start losing up to 5% of their muscle mass every 10 years. Slow down the process by building up your biceps. Lift weights or do pushups.

3. Choose nutritious foods. Avoid dramatic weight loss by figuring out your calorie needs with your doctor or an online tool. Focus on vegetables and other whole foods that provide adequate protein and vitamins. Frequent snacks and high-energy drinks may help if you need to eat more.

4. Enhance your balance. Good balance protects you from falls, and may even sharpen your cognitive skills. Sign up for yoga classes or practice standing on one foot.

5. Adapt your home. Your environment matters too. Check your banisters and outdoor lighting. Put a mat under slippery area rugs. Install safety bars in your bathroom around the tub and toilet.

6. Manage chronic conditions. Keep diabetes and high blood pressure under control. Otherwise, chronic conditions can intensify the effects of frailty.

7. Talk with your doctor. Discuss your individual needs with your health care team. Your physician may be able to recommend lifestyle changes and adjust your medications.

Dealing with the Mental and Social Aspects of Frailty

1. Continue learning. Your brain needs exercise too. Gaining knowledge and mastering new skills sharpen your thinking. Mental stimulation also helps to prevent some forms of dementia. Take astronomy classes or read about world history.

2. Find a hobby. Turn off the TV and do something more rewarding with your leisure time. Play chess or work in your garden.

3. Stay in touch. Connect with your loved ones. Schedule a weekly date to gather with friends for coffee or a Pilate’s class. Visit your family in between holidays. Use video conferences to chat with your grandchildren if they live far away.

4. Make new friends. Many adults find that their social circle starts to shrink in their later years. Reverse the trend by finding new companions. Join a walking club and strike up a conversation with a few members who seem interesting.

5. Eat together. Maybe you skip dinner because you feel lonely at a table for one. Contact your local senior center to see if they host a lunch program. Invite your neighbors to a regular Sunday morning potluck brunch.

6. Think positive. A cheerful attitude reduces the risk of frailty. Optimism and gratitude help you to feel happier and healthier, and make smarter choices.

The golden years can be a happy and fulfilling time for seniors and their families. Stay active, eat well, and connect with family and friends so you can stay fit mentally, physically, and socially.

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