The quality of life among seniors is directly correlated to several lifestyle habits, which are simple to adopt, but which have a considerable impact. Despite the variety of situations (in a residence, at home, in an EHPAD), there are essential habits that can be easily implemented. Of course, if in doubt, we recommend that you consult your doctor. Only he or she will be able to provide you with advice tailored to your situation. We present this advice below.
First of all, let’s talk about sleep. It is an essential parameter of quality of life, especially for the elderly. There are many articles on this subject, some of which sometimes contradict each other, but there are nevertheless some recognised principles. According to most recent studies, the average necessary sleep duration for an average adult is between 7 and 9 hours of sleep. Why such a wide range? This is due to the differences in each person, their morphology, their health, and sometimes their age. Generally speaking, the duration tends to be higher at the beginning and end of life. For a child or teenager, a sleep duration in the high range (8-9 hours) is preferred. The same applies to seniors (from about 60 years of age). However, for active adults (approximately 18 to 60 years old), a sleep duration of 7-8 hours seems more appropriate. Therefore, we recommend that seniors sleep in the commonly accepted range of 7-9 hours. Why not less? Most studies on the subject agree that there is a correlation between reduced sleep duration and the risk of cardiovascular accidents. Other minor but nonetheless significant impacts have also been identified: unstable moods, irritability, difficulty concentrating or lack of appetite. Conversely, why not allow yourself to sleep more than 9 hours? Although this may seem surprising, numerous studies have highlighted the various risks to which we are exposed if we sleep too long. Curiously enough, the same effects as a too short night’s sleep can be found in the case of a too long night’s sleep: increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, difficulties in concentrating, falling asleep unexpectedly… In short, you can sleep peacefully between 7 and 9 hours a day. Not only will you have more free time if you are used to sleeping more than 9 hours, but you will also enjoy better health.
There is another important element when it comes to quality of life. This is physical activity. It is not the intention here to provide a complete explanation of the various sports programmes that can be carried out as a senior citizen, but rather to briefly present the various good habits to be adopted in this area. First and foremost, it is essential to engage in physical activity on a daily basis. This is an essential point: just like a good night’s sleep, good physical activity should be part of every day. But is it possible to go hiking, biking, running every day of the month, 365 days a year? We agree that it would be difficult. So we recommend an activity that is simple, quick and can be done almost anywhere: walking. If you don’t have a lot of time to devote to a sporting activity during the day, go for a walk of a few hundred metres. At the very least, we recommend walking for 30 minutes. This activity has multiple benefits, both physically and mentally. On a physical level, you will maintain your muscles, your joints, especially in the legs, as well as your back and your figure in general (it will be easier to stand up straight). On a mental level, you will enjoy a breath of fresh air (depending on your geographical location of course!) and will have time to relax, unwind and even meditate. Also, you will be in full communion with your immediate environment (city, countryside), which you can take advantage of to meet people, observe animals, or simply discover new places. If you want to vary your physical activities during the week, here are some other equally beneficial suggestions: cycling (30 min to 1 hour is sufficient), running (depending on your state of health, 30 min to 1 hour), or even walking on a different scale: hiking (up to 10 km per day seems to be a good limit). In short, make physical activity a daily part of your day, through walking for example.
What does the term mental activity mean? Quite simply, like a good night’s sleep or physical activity, it is a matter of integrating into your day a time devoted to the mind, to your cognitive and mental capacities. The aim here is to maintain or even develop these capacities, just like the muscles and your body in the context of physical activity. Here again, you don’t need to have a lot of time. 30 minutes to 1 hour is enough time for sufficient exercise. There are several options for doing this. Firstly, reading, which requires little equipment and has the advantage of being particularly entertaining, even interesting. You can read a variety of books: from technical books on a particular subject to biographies, novels, poetry or even the good old newspaper. We recommend that you vary the media and subjects to make the most of these different types of writing. Secondly, you can indulge in a slightly more recreational exercise: games. Among the most common are arrow games (very useful for maintaining logic and a good vocabulary), Sudoku (increasingly fashionable and excellent for logic), or games that you can play with others, such as Scrabble (a classic). Finally, a third way of maintaining your cognitive skills in an original and social way: start a discussion with a classmate, friend or family member on a general theme. For example, a historical, geographical, literary, cultural, musical or scientific issue. If you are not afraid of generating a lively or even confrontational discussion, you can risk tackling more divisive subjects such as religion, politics or social issues.
This last suggestion links to the last part of this article, which is about sociability. It is an essential parameter of quality of life, which should also be integrated into your daily routine. Although our characters differ, some individuals being more solitary than others, it is almost universally recognised that sociability is an essential component of human life. We are ‘political animals’, as Aristotle put it, in that we live best in the context of the city, in contact with our fellow human beings. Despite our sometimes fierce nature, it is in this way and only in this way that we can develop our potential and achieve our natural end. Once these philosophical considerations are out of the way, let’s get to the point: reach out to others, make friends and nurture your relationships. Whatever your environment (at home, in a residence, in an EHPAD), take advantage of the opportunities you have to spend time with others, whether physically (always preferable) or at a distance (by telephone, or by video-conference, as is increasingly the case in recent years). This is an essential ingredient to incorporate into your day for an optimal quality of life, as with the other parameters mentioned above.