Aging baby boomer parents who neglect their health and fitness don’t just harm themselves. Their lifestyles also affect their adult children, who eventually could end up caring for them – both financially and physically – as their health declines.
Of course, that’s not the only reason those adult children might feel concerned. They also may like having mom and dad around, and want that to continue for years to come.
So they have a vested interest in encouraging their parents to get fit and stay fit.
But young adults who cringe at their parents’ eating and exercise habits may be reluctant to broach the subject. How can they start such a conversation? And what are some suggestions for healthy living their parents are likely to put into practice?
One thing that might be tempting, but probably won’t work, is a harsh lecture, says Jaime Brenkus, a nationally recognized fitness expert and fitness coach for Evergreen Wellness®, which provides videos and articles to help older adults enjoy healthier lives.
“You don’t need to give them a sermon,” he says. “But you should remind them of how important exercise and healthy eating are, and how much you care about having them around for you and for the grandchildren.”
There is plenty of nutrition and exercise advice that can help older people, but Brenkus says a few starter tips include:
Encourage them to drink more water. This may sound basic, but not everyone drinks as much water as they should – even though this is a healthy habit that’s simple to accomplish. A CDC study, for example, revealed that 43 percent of adults drink fewer than four cups of water a day and seven percent don’t drink any glasses of water at all. (Presumably, they get their fluids from other beverages that have water in them.) Baby boomers grew up drinking a lot of soda and Kool-Aid. Later, they graduated to coffee and alcoholic beverages. Many of them have adapted to today’s bottled-water culture, but for some those old habits may die hard and water isn’t always their first choice when thirst beckons.
Recommend they try strength training. The most effective way to increase metabolism and to help reverse the aging process is stimulating muscles by lifting challenging weights to increase lean muscle mass, Brenkus says. “More strength will make daily life easier for them,” he says. “It will give them better balance and they will be less likely to fall. It also can strengthen the heart, and it makes them look and feel younger.”
Make sure they socialize. This isn’t directly related to exercise, but studies have shown that people who are active socially are healthier and live longer lives. Socializing, for example, helps reduce the stress that can contribute to a number of health problems. If socializing is combined with exercise (playing tennis, taking regular walks with a friend), then that’s all the better.
“Helping your parents adopt a healthier lifestyle is about encouraging them to change their habits for eating, cooking, shopping and fitness,” Brenkus says. “And even more importantly, it’s about helping them to change their thinking habits.
“Maybe sometime in the past they tried a diet or fitness regimen and they failed at it. That doesn’t mean they can’t try again – and this time with you as their cheerleader.”