­­How to Talk to Aging Parents About Their Future: Conversation Starters for Caregivers

How to Talk to Aging Parents About Their Future: Conversation Starters for Caregivers

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Talking with the older adults you love about healthy aging is easier when you know how to start the conversation.

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JUNE 29, 2023   5 MINUTE READ

In many ways, watching your parents reach their senior years is a beautiful thing — after all, it's not a given. But caring for your aging parent or loved one can be challenging. Understandably, many older people have a hard time letting go of their independence. At the same time, they may need a little extra help to manage their health and well-being.

It's important to strike the right note when talking to your older loved one about how to thrive in their golden years. Read on to learn healthy aging tips for seniors and how to initiate conversations around these sometimes sensitive topics.

How to Talk to Older Adults About Exercise

Some people are active in retirement, eager to check off all the items on their bucket lists. Others look forward to finally getting a chance to rest. In either case, many older people experience pain, mobility issues or chronic health problems that cause fatigue or shortness of breath, such as heart and lung diseases, making physical activity more difficult than it once was.

One of the most important reasons to encourage your loved one to exercise is to reduce their chances of osteoporosis (brittle bones). Osteoporosis is a major risk factor for hip, spine and forearm fractures, which can lead to mobility loss. Some research estimates that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men will sustain an osteoporotic fracture after age 50.

Studies show that older people who exercise for an hour or more two to three times per week, including strength training, are most likely to improve bone density. Regular exercise also helps maintain muscle mass and preserve balance, which can help prevent falls. Here are some ways to start a conversation about exercise with your aging parent or loved one:

  • "I read that more than 40% of people over age 50 have low bone mass, and it made me think about my bone health — and yours too. Have you ever had a DEXA scan? It's a special X-ray that checks your bone density."
  • "I'm going to start using weights during commercial breaks while I watch TV to keep my bones healthy. Do you want me to pick some up for you, too?"
  • "I saw that there's a senior exercise class near you, and it looks great. You can even take virtual classes right here at home if you prefer. Can I help you get that set up?"

How to Talk to Older Adults About Nutrition

Eating well can be increasingly difficult as you age. Older adults who live alone may feel that shopping, cooking and cleaning up the kitchen is just too much effort for one person. Others may lose the ability to drive, making grocery shopping inconvenient. Some older adults may also have dental or digestive issues, which can make eating balanced, nutritious meals challenging.

Preventing malnutrition in older adults is key to supporting their overall health and well-being. Older people are particularly at risk for inadequate protein intake, which can contribute to low muscle mass, known as sarcopenia. Adding an oral nutritional supplement like Ensure® COMPLETE with complete, balanced nutrition, 30 grams of high-quality protein, and 25 essential vitamins and minerals can help address nutrition gaps. Here are some ways to get the conversation started:

  • "I noticed you haven't been eating as much lately. I'm wondering if your appetite has changed."
  • "I want to make food shopping as easy as possible for you. Would grocery or meal delivery services take some of the stress out of that chore?"
  • "I know there are times when you just don't feel like cooking. What do you think about keeping some Ensure® on hand for when you want something quick and easy?"

How to Talk to Older Adults About Social and Emotional Wellness

Older people experience repeated loss through the death of family, friends and possibly a spouse or significant other. These repeated losses, often combined with reduced mobility and relocation, can contribute to or exacerbate loneliness. Loneliness can be thought of in two ways: social and emotional. Social loneliness is the lack of a social network, whereas emotional loneliness refers to the absence of a particular person as well as feelings of isolation.

In one study, emotional loneliness was linked to higher rates of heart disease and death among older people living alone. It can help to think of emotional loneliness as the feeling of being alone in a crowded room, disconnected from those around you. Depending on your relationship with your parent or loved one, this may be the hardest topic to surface. Here are some conversation starters that might help:

  • "I know it's probably been hard for you since you moved. I'm wondering if you feel a little isolated in your new location."
  • "I was thinking about how many loved ones you've lost this year. I can't imagine what that must feel like. Do you want to talk about it?"
  • "I know I've been really busy, but I'd like to spend more time with you. What are some activities you'd like to do together?"

When considering how to talk to aging parents about their future, the most important thing to remember is that they deserve their independence, even if they need a little help now and then. You can offer suggestions, but you can't force anyone to change their behavior until they're ready. Leading by example and encouraging your loved one to join you in healthy activities may be the best way to get them to adopt new behaviors that will help them thrive.

5 Symptoms of Menopause and How to Prepare

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Your body is constantly changing over the course of your life. If you were assigned female at birth and have remained thus, perhaps one of the most significant shifts you'll experience as an adult is menopause. Menopause is the phase in a woman's life when she stops menstruating, with onset around the age of 45-55 years. While some may experience relief from a monthly period, menopause can come with symptoms that make this transition challenging.

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Five Ways To Preserve Muscles As You Age

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Did you know that people over the age of 40 may lose up to 8 percent of their muscle mass per decade? And the rate of decline may double after the age of 70.

Advanced muscle loss, or sarcopenia, affects nearly 1 in 3 people over the age 50. Not only are muscles important for everyday physical tasks like picking things up, reaching for something, opening a jar or getting up off a chair, but healthy muscles are essential for organ function, skin health, immunity and your metabolism. In other words, maintaining muscle mass as you age is essential for prolonging a happy and healthy life.

"Muscle loss is the aging factor that's rarely discussed and people accept its signs, such as loss of strength and energy, as a natural part of aging," explains Suzette Pereira, Ph.D., a researcher specializing in muscle health with Abbott. "But muscle health can often tell us how we are going to age, and stay active and independent."

The good news is that with the right steps you can help prevent or slow any muscle loss. While aging is natural, muscle loss doesn't have to be inevitable.

To stay strong as you age, start following the tips below to fuel and keep muscles fit for years to come!

Stay Strong as You Age 

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