Guest Post: 4 Healthy Living Tips for Seniors by Marie Villeza


health for seniors

Image via Pixabay

Healthy living as a young or middle-aged person looks quite different from staying healthy as an elderly person. While transitioning into new habits that’ll keep you healthy in your senior years can be a big change, it doesn’t have to be a difficult one. A few changes here and there are all it takes for you to live your life to its healthiest and fullest when you’re enjoying your golden years.

  1. Stay Active: Engaging in light to moderate exercise regularly can work wonders for your health. Light stretching, walking, and swimming are all great ways to get your body moving in a safe way.

Balance physical activity with a wholesome diet to keep your weight at a healthy level. Doing so will help you sleep, feel, and function better as you go about your day-to-day life.

  1. Keep Up with Checkups and Screenings: Keeping up with all your medical engagements can be a lot to handle, so it’s a good idea to use a calendar or planner to keep track of appointments, screenings, and checkups.

Hearing, vision, and dental checkups play a big role in keeping you safe and healthy. Immunizations and other preventative medicine are also great ways for seniors to make sure their immune systems are working as effectively as possible.

Talk openly with your doctor about your medical needs and don’t be afraid to ask all the questions you need to understand your health situation.

  1. Indulge in Your Favorite Pastimes: A fun way for seniors to beat the blues is to engage themselves fully in their favorite hobbies and activities.

Focusing on goals and self-improvement through your personal interests has numerous mental and physical health benefits[1]. Spend a bit of time on your hobbies each day and you’ll benefit from a stronger immune system, strengthened cognitive function, and reduced stress.

  1. Consider a Service Dog: We all know that service dogs[2] are great for the hearing or vision impaired, but did you know that they also make wonderful companions for seniors?

Service dogs can assist with daily tasks like getting up in the morning and even bringing you your medication (in bite-proof containers, of course). Plus, spending time with one can help improve your mood and ward off feelings of anxiety and depression. Service dogs can even improve your social life by encouraging more time outside the home[3].

While staying healthy as a senior may require a few lifestyle changes on your part, it’s simple to build these new habits one at a time. Take gradual steps to stay active, involved in your medical situation, and focused on your hobbies and you’ll be enjoying the benefits of a healthy lifestyle in no time.


Marie Villeza was inspired to start after she watched her son teach her father how to play Angry Birds™ on his smartphone. In that moment, she realized the importance of bringing the generations together so they can usher each other into the future, breaking down walls of fear and time. She is based in California and in her free time, she enjoys gardening, hiking, and taking part in her monthly book club.


[1] The Japanese have a term for this; ikigai means ‘reason for being’ and it’s been associated with longevity over and above any other factors. See and

[2] Also known as Assistance Dogs. Here’s a link to some UK contacts

[3] For less mobile individuals and those with dementia, trials of a robotic seal that responds to touch are showing benefits and perhaps reflect that human need for responsive contact and giving.

Facial Disfigurement: a study using the virtual world, Second Life

Facial scar on avatar

We found differences among the coping styles identified by participants’ responses on the BICSI and their behaviours in-world. … The discrepancies between the BICSI scores and behaviours in-world suggest future research directions evaluating the longstanding problem of divergent expressed and reported attitudes.


This is a first for Ether Books: ‘Facial Disfigurement in Second Life‘ is a research paper detailing a study in which participants responded to the application of a facial scar to their avatar. A free download for smartphones.


Being Human: getting round the ‘them and us’ of clinical practice

English: Hôtel Dieu in Paris, about ad 1500. T...

Last week I popped into the optician’s to make an appointment for a routine eye test and I was asked if I was a patient there. Well, was I? A patient? Not before I stepped over the threshold, I thought, and I wasn’t ill. There were goods on sale, it looked like a shop and I wasn’t entirely convinced that I could be a patient in a shop. Maybe that sounds a little touchy – what’s wrong with being a patient if you’re receiving health care? Well the word, for a start. It implies passivity and dependence and not an awful lot of control, and frankly, that is pretty much how clinicians have wanted their clientele over the years. There has been a shift in recent times but there are occasions when it seems the words are just rhetoric. Listen to almost any health care clinician – although I must say that doctors are the worst offenders in my experience – talking generically about health issues. As soon as they begin to discuss the population – us – there are no people, we have all suddenly become patients.

Tom Main, way back in 1957 in his seminal collection of essays, The Ailment, highlighted the need clinicians seemed to have for separation. Staff are, by definition, healthy and patients are not, which raises the question of how patients can ever be healthy if everyone is automatically a patient just by dint of not being a doctor. That the reverse also applies so that doctors cannot be patients is most likely evidenced by a traditional denial of health problems, and the historically ridiculous working hours that were regarded as ‘character building’. A receptionist at my local surgery once called me ‘Miss’ because, she whispered, ‘we don’t like patients to know doctors get ill’. A clear indication that the culture did not, and perhaps still does not, allow for a matrix.

I am banging on about this today because two articles in the latest issue of Clinical Psychology & People with Learning Disabilities (intellectual disability) exemplify a humanisation of the relationship between health professionals and those we work with. Mark Haydon-Laurelut, a systemic psychotherapist with Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and Portsmouth university, describes a process called reflexive self awareness in which staff can begin to understand and make sense of ‘the part they are playing in the social construction of the lives of those they support.’ In other words, how does the way we think of someone or understand them, the stereotypes or historical references we have applied, affect our actions when they ‘do’ something? Mark gets people to consider the meaning of actions for all the participants – for instance throwing a cushion at someone. He asks everyone to think about the relationship that exists, whether this was an aggressive act, a joke, and attempt at communication by a person with limited language. The discussion centres around questions about meaning and what is being ‘made’ by a given action, evidence – what there is to support beliefs about intention, and ideas for actions based on conclusions. It is a process that humanises all parties by equalising their participation in a micro-relationship that can be set up in an instant, and it enquires, it does not blame. Such a contrast with current public toxicities; perhaps there is something organisations can learn from this.

The second article is by Brian Leaning, a clinical psychologist in Ealing. It’s called The Funnel: a brief narrative and it is indeed brief. But that page-and-a-bit captures a completely shared humanity. Brian describes his encounters with a woman who refuses to see psychologists, nurses, psychiatrists and, one gets the impression, anyone at all who might be wearing a badge. She and Brian have exchanges in the street that would make traditional therapists implode with the weight of their countertransference issues, and eventually they get to meet. He attached a funnel to her notes to remind everyone of the awfulness of this woman’s past experience and which, I suggest, builds a platform that shows what happens when people get lost in the terminologies of health care.

These two articles demonstrate the value of re-considering the clinical relationship; allowing it to breathe and become as consensual as legislation requires but traditional psychologies barely allow. The sooner, I think, that we all abandon the language of dependency and separation and think of health care as a collaborative effort with joint provider-recipient responsibilities, the sooner the nightmare of blame, covered-up errors, media witch hunts, and tickbox target paralysis will come to an end.

Wired for Health

This post was due up last week, then the news about Samantha Backler came through. She deserved her time in the spotlight.

On March 17th, an extraordinary event took place at the Lighthouse in Brighton’s North Laines. The R&D department at Sussex Partnership has been developing ideas for projects – research and clinical practice – that seeks digital solutions to health care problems. Second Life is already a research environment for some of us, and more projects are either underway or at the work-up stage. We are also keen to capitalise on social media for communication with staff and service users, and to make use of apps for community support. For clinicians, the ideas come from practice. We can see the problems up close and we know what we need to do to address them We’re not that tech savvy though. We are not developers or designers. On the other hand, the tech savvy digital community doesn’t necessarily know what kinds of products we need, or how to access a user group to trial prototypes. From a very understated meeting with Phil Jones of Wired Sussex at which we speculated about a meeting of clinicians, academics, and entrepreneurial developers, came Wired for Health. Phil took that basic idea and produced an event that exceeded all expectations. No, I’m not going to be cool about it, this was very very exciting! Chaired by John Worth (Worth Digital)and Lynn Smith (NHS South East Coast), presentations from the health and business communities preceded a superb networking session from which we pretty much had to be evicted as no one wanted to stop talking when time was up. We heard from Sarah Pearson (Health Psychologist), about the difference between what people say they do and what they actually do (e.g. belieiving they watch very little live TV and, in fact, watching over 60% live TV), which has implications for self report about health issues. We also heard from Ribot, a small company that has developed a phone app to assist people with dexterity problems (the Threedom phone). In fact, this was the occasion of its formal launch, so the glasses of wine that were waiting upstairs could easily have been deployed ahead of time for a rollicking good crack over the bows! Dave Taylor (Imperial College) and I presented a live look at the medical training environment and our Brighton simulation, used for the study with people with learning disabilities. This being a digitally capable venue, there was no trouble getting a good broadband connection and even Second Life behaved itself, so that the audience got a good look at the potential of virtual worlds in health care and research.

Upstairs in the foyer of the Lighthouse, Jo Roberts (Wired Sussex) had set up media nooks for particular interests. Virtual worlds, social networking (and yes, we’re on twitter), and webs and apps. Somewhere, I saw small food items being passed around but was never able to shut up long enough to take advantage. If you can measure success in terms of the croakiness of your voice the day after, this was off the scale. Mine was a husky growl for two days as a result of all the talking.

And the outcome? Wired Sussex is preparing a report for their funding body. Productive relationships were begun and are bearing fruit. Ribot is in touch with a posse of service users whose dexterity is challenged by motor, anatomical, and brain injury factors. We, R&D, can begin to hope for some major steps forward in our digital research and product development capability.

Thank you John, Phil, Lynn, and Jo.

Photos by Wired Sussex