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What Is a Holistic Approach to Senior Wellness, and What Are Its Benefits?

Senior women walking to yoga together

If you want to be in good physical shape, you eat healthy foods at every meal and exercise regularly.

But what about the rest of you? 

There’s also your emotional, intellectual, social, environmental, vocational and spiritual health to consider. Along with physical health, they make up seven dimensions of wellness — and for seniors, focusing holistically on your wellness plays a big role in successful aging.

The good news is, no matter your age or the shape you might be in, it’s never too late to start a senior wellness program. The better news is, taking even small steps toward improving your overall wellness can reduce pain and stress, improve your mental outlook, lower your risk of developing certain health conditions, and possibly increase your life span.

Many senior independent living communities place an emphasis on holistic living for their residents, because they understand the connection between overall wellness and aging well. Let’s take a closer look at these seven dimensions, so you can understand why your own senior wellness program ought to incorporate them all.

7 dimensions of wellness

Experts say adopting a holistic approach to senior wellness teaches you how to use the connection between your body, brain and mind to heal, cope, become more resilient, and improve your overall outlook on life. And when one dimension is out of whack, the other dimensions are affected.

Here are the definitions for each dimension of wellness, along with some strategies you can integrate into your own senior wellness program

Physical — This includes exercise, proper nutrition and healthy sleeping. It also involves keeping up with annual doctors’ checkups, and avoiding harmful habits like drinking excessive amounts of alcohol or smoking cigarettes.

How to maintain better physical health: Sleep at least 6-8 hours a night; get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week; eat more fresh food options, instead of processed food, including 5-10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

Emotional — Our feelings are the lens through which we view the world, and our ability to be aware of and direct our feelings helps create balance. This is about more than managing anger, depression or anxiety. It’s about your ability to handle stressful or unexpected situations when they arise. Being able to cope with challenges and behave in respectful ways signal emotional well-being.

How to maintain better emotional health: Practice mindfulness, use relaxation strategies that work for you, learn how to express feelings and emotions effectively, practice positive self-talk, seek therapy or some form of counseling.

Intellectual — This is all about keeping your brain happy and active, and keeping the pathways in your brain sharp as you age. The brain is a vital organ, and you need to exercise it — the old expression “use it or lose it” certainly applies here. Choose activities that are intellectually stimulating, and that challenge your memory and concentration.

How to maintain better intellectual health: Learn a new language, start or join a book club, do crossword puzzles or similar brain games, or start sketching or painting. If you’ve got the opportunity, enroll in a continuing education class at your local college or university, learn an instrument, or visit local museums.

SocialMaintaining our social connections is good for us physically and emotionally. Studies have shown that social isolation and loneliness put older adults at increased risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and even death. 

How to maintain better social health: Get involved with local committees or civic groups, volunteer, strengthen your connections with family members, join a club or pursue a hobby with a club, or adopt a pet (you’d be surprised how many people you meet when you walk a dog). 

Environmental — This area of wellness looks at the effect your surroundings have on your well-being. Do you have access to spaces that give you a sense of peace and wellness? Are you able to access nature and green spaces? It’s all about doing what you can to stay in harmony with the natural world.

How to maintain better environmental health: Walk or jog on a nature trail outside whenever possible, instead of inside on a treadmill; bike or walk instead of drive; engage in as much outdoor activity as possible.

Vocational — You may be retired from your career, but that doesn’t mean you can’t continue to enjoy your profession. This dimension of wellness involves using your skills and talents to gain purpose, happiness and a fulfilled life. 

How to maintain better vocational health: Mentor others in your career field, volunteer in career fields where you have experience or in which you’d like to make contributions, consider reentering your career field part time to stay connected to your profession.

Spiritual —This dimension doesn’t necessarily require believing in a higher power. It really lines up with having personal values and beliefs and acting compassionately in accordance with those values. Personal values and beliefs may change throughout the course of a lifetime, taking shape through the influence of relationships, events, and personal experiences. To strengthen this dimension only asks that we seek meaning and purpose in our everyday lives.

How to maintain better spiritual health:  Join a synagogue, church or similar house of worship according to your faith; participate in faith-based activities; meditate; practice mindful exercise such as yoga or tai chi; grow your relationships with others by being present and spending quality time together; get more in touch with the natural world around you.  

Consider a senior living community like Village Shalom

Choosing a senior living community can be one of the all-around best ways to improve or maintain all seven dimensions of wellness. Holistic senior wellness is at the heart of Village Shalom’s mission “to nurture the physical, emotional, social and spiritual well-being of every individual whom we are privileged to serve.”

Learn more about Village Shalom and the ways you could thrive here. Simply contact us to learn more.