7 Ways to Spend those Senior Moments

By Etta Hornsteiner
March 24th, 2020 Health & Wellness No Comments
person relaxing

Just a few weeks ago, a senior moment meant a brief lapse in memory or a moment of confusion. Today, due to the public safety guidelines concerning covid-19, a senior moment refers to the growing amount of time senior adults have at their disposal. This blog is not about novel coronavirus, per se. If you want up-to-date info on the virus, I recommend you go here, or here. Rather, this blog is about how you can use this unplanned time during covid-19 as a time of discovery rather than despair.

But it’s hard to talk about anything nowadays without covid-19 being a part of the conversation. After all, it is changing the way we work, the way we socialize, the way we greet each other, even the way we worship. The world has gone from being a beehive of activity to a cocoon of contemplation, or anxiety, as people practice “social distancing.” For a growing number of people, life is now truly centered in the home: the home is where we work, rest, entertain ourselves, worship together. For some folks, particularly senior adults, this new way of life also means many moments alone—not seeing the children or the grandkids, not being able to go out to bridge night or to dinner with friends, not being able to attend choir practice.

What can seniors do to redeem this unplanned time during covid-19, to make it a time of discovery rather than of despair. I want to offer seven suggestions. They all turn on this one mindset: There is more to life than covid-19, so live more.

  1. Get yourself ready for spring. Yes, it is officially spring! Cold temperatures are giving way to warmer temperatures. Desolate, hard ground is giving way to lush, green grass. And soon sickness will yield to health. So, find your gardening tools, identify the flowers and trees you will cultivate this season, and get your gardening outfits ready for the opportunities that spring will bring to you. Working outdoors in your garden is a good way to exercise and an effective way to strengthen your immune system with vitamin D, directly from the source. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly and to change your clothing once you return indoors.

unplanned time

  1. Read! Yes, read that tome you’ve always wished you had time to read! Tolstoy’s War and Peace immediately comes to mind. Whatever genre you enjoy, now is a good time to indulge in reading.

woman reading

  1. Watch a movie, or two, or three. Cable companies and movie-streaming operators are aware that the new entertainment spot for families the next few months will be in their homes. Therefore, these companies are likely to offer a wide selection of movies to entertain family members. Look for opportunities to re-watch your favorite movies, to watch some of the classics, or to watch a recent blockbuster. It is important to be intentional about the movie genres you watch. Comedies, for example, would cause you to laugh—“Mrs. Doubtfire,” “When Harry Met Sally”—and laughter is believed to boost the immune system and curtail the release of stress-induced hormones such as cortisol. There is a proverb that says laughter is good for you like a medicine, and we could all use some medicine right now.

man using unplanned time during covid-19 to watch TV

  1. Use technology to connect. A psychologist has correctly recommended that, in this new period, we speak of “physical distancing” and not “social distancing.” Social distancing, he argues, “carries psychological and physical health risks.” Besides, it’s the physical distance that we want to create, not a sense of isolation from our children, grandkids, friends and colleagues. We live in the age of communication and information technologies that allow us to communicate with family and friends, near and far, through many social media platforms. If your family has not already done so, start a family WhatsApp chat, for example, to share pictures and videos and conversations and facetime.

using unplanned time during covid-19 to connect

  1. Write, not just anything, write your thoughts and feelings about this unprecedented event you are living through. I recall that in high school I read with interest about the women’s suffrage movement and the momentous day women voted for the first time in my country. But when I read my mother’s account of that day and saw the struggles and triumph through her eyes, I gained more than historical facts, I recognized courage and sacrifice. Historians will write about the events surrounding covid-19 and your grandchildren will read about it in textbooks. I assure you, however, that their understanding of this time and appreciation of its impact on American life would be far more meaningful through your eyes. So start writing, journaling, today.

older woman writing

  1. Most restaurants are closed to sit-in dining and are offering only take-out or delivery service. You have the time to cook any meal your heart desires. Since you’re going to be less active than usual, you don’t need meals heavy in carbs. And since you’re all about keeping yourself healthy, you don’t need meals rich in sugars and sodium. Focus on building meals that will enhance your immune system, facilitate good digestion, and make you feel good.

focusing on healthy eating during unplanned time during covid-19

Yes, healthy foods can make you feel better. But it is important to know that this relationship is counterintuitive. What do I mean? When the body is feeling stressed or anxious, it wants comfort foods, which tend to be processed foods. The other day, I went into Trader Joe’s and noticed the shelves were almost empty of chips. Granted, many schools are closed, and this perhaps would justify the empty shelves, but let’s not blame it all on young people. Older adults are attracted to these processed foods, which are high in sugar and fats. These foods wreak havoc on the body, even though “In these situations, our brains produce chemicals called neurotransmitters which give us these great feelings of energy, excitement and happiness” according to Robertson’s TedTalk (2017) How Your Belly Controls Your Brain. These processed foods affect us energetically and chemically. Note how you feel after you eat comfort foods. Does your mood change? Pay attention also to your energy level. Do you feel tired or sleepy?

What meals should you cook, then? Bone broth is a good dish to start with. It’s healthy, warming and comforting. It is also important to eat nutrient-dense food at this time.  Examples of these foods are artichoke, globe bell pepper, broccoli, knotweed, Squash,  pattipen squash, zucchini, string bean, acerola cherry,  avocado, currant, sour crab apple, grapefruit, lemon, lime, barley, farro, kamut, oats rye.

Eat close to the earth as much as possible, for it will help you to feel grounded at this time.

  1. Rest not only your body, rest your mind and refresh your spirit. Turn off the news channels. Spend some time, maybe before going to bed, in meditation, in prayer, listening to music, or being silent.

There is more to life than covid-19, so live more. Use this time of physical distancing to prepare your garden for spring; read good literature; watch films that make you laugh; stay connected with loved ones through social media; pen your thoughts for the next generation; cook healthy meals, and rest your whole person.

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