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Staying (living) healthy: beyond the options

Published on: 28-06-2023

‘Eat healthy, exercise at least thirty minutes a day, go outside regularly and make sure you get enough sleep.’ Recently, Vilans and our knowledge centres, explored the theme ‘healthy living’ – after all how can you do this as you get older or face limitations?

A quick Google search or a prompt to ChatGPT offers a wealth of options: they’re all valid, a good starting point, but no information on how to put them into practice. Because many people who don’t quite follow the general advice don’t just do so for no reason. They experience barriers, do not believe that the recommended behaviour would (sufficiently) benefit them in their situation, are not convinced that the advice is feasible for them, or do not have what they need to implement it. For instance, because they suffer from physical limitations, or because they are afraid something might go wrong. This is unfortunate, and partly preventable. Below, we list four ways that can really help people improve their health.

Enable self-management: promote health skills

For people with a chronic disease or disability, self-management is far from simple. Especially if they cannot understand health information properly, for instance because they suffer from dementia, are mentally impaired or cannot read or write properly. These people do not benefit from the usual advice, but depend on healthcare professionals and their environment for healthy exercise, nutrition, etc. The best way is to help them develop their health skills so they can take care of their own health and vitality.

2. Offer concrete, accessible and complete information

Take as an example, the exercise poster ‘Healthier Living with Exercise‘ from the Sports & Movement Knowledge Centre. The poster offers:

  • Easy to understand exercises and tips for getting fitter in different ways.
  • For each exercise, there are images of older people performing the exercises. This makes it easy to get an idea what the exercise should look like.
  • Tips that resonate specifically with the target group: elderly people. e.g. Is anyone coming for coffee? Use this opportunity to go around the block together’. This can help convince readers that the advice is applicable to their situation.
  • Clear instructions for using the poster that do not come across as patronising. Are you starting these exercises for the first time? Read the exercise carefully first and do this series once’, for example. Or “You may sweat a little. If you feel you are running out of breath, take a rest’. And “The exercises should not cause pain. If they do, skip this exercise”.

This kind of concrete information can reduce uncertainty or anxiety. It makes people feel that they can judge whether exercise is going well, and they also know what to do if an exercise becomes too difficult.

3. Win back autonomy with Reablement

Along the same lines as tip 1: (re)empower people to take care of themselves once again or do the things they value, enjoy, or get satisfaction from. Firstly, this makes people less dependent on care providers and their environment and gives them more freedom. But in addition, in many cases (re)learning activities puts the brakes on deterioration of physical limitations or motor functions. Win-win.

Curious? Read more about the philosophy behind Reablement, or delve further into the application of Reablement methods in practice and what it can deliver.

4. Know how to find the right, most innovative tools

Take a deep dive (with or on behalf of client, older person, family member or friend with a disability) into the “Tools for Assisted Living” guide Here you can find independent information on a large range of different tools for people with disabilities. For example to keep moving, doing sports or more general relaxation exercises. You can also search by disability. Who knows, you might come across accessories you did not know about, but which can help you stay healthy or become healthier.

Read more (in Dutch): Vilans Tools for Assisted Living Guide

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