The last week in April is National Every Kid Healthy Week. During the week, schools across the nation make an effort to aim a spotlight on health. Teachers and others might talk about concepts such as nutrition, exercise and medicine to help kids of all ages understand the relationship between all these concepts and overall good health.
You might wonder what seniors living in an assisted living community have to do with keeping children and other young people healthy. But if you have grand kids, nieces, nephews or other young people in your life, the answer is potentially: A lot.
Here are some things you can do from your assisted living apartment to help promote healthy lifestyles and encourage kids to make proactive choices as they grow.
Working for your own health is one of the best ways you can encourage children. Younger children especially look up to and mimic the adults in their lives, and if grandma makes it a point to go for a walk every afternoon, children might be more likely to engage in physical activity too.
The same is true for other things that are important for good health. Eating balanced meals and healthy snacks in front of and with your grandchildren helps them see that this is something that's important to you.
You can also let them know that you're going to your doctor for a checkup or taking your medicine because it's important for your body. Obviously, you want to ensure you're approaching such topics in an age-appropriate manner, but saying "These pills help grandpa's body work right, so he has to remember to take them every day" can help kids see that it's important to manage medication right.
Healthy foods aren't always the most accessible, especially for young children. Sometimes the healthiest options look weird, for example. Start encouraging young people to try new foods at an early age and offer them delicious snacks that aren't all founded on ingredients such as sugar and flour.
Certainly you don't have to give up spoiling the children in your life completely. A cookie or piece of candy here and there may provide a healthy balance to the celery and peanut butter you offered as a snack, for example.
But try to avoid being the sugar fairy when it comes to grand kids or other children. It's fun to spoil other people's children, and holidays especially seem to open the door for candy and other treats. However, you don't know how many other people are sending treats or giving candy, and parents could find themselves buried under unhealthy goods that they didn't actually want.
Instead of sending a bag or basket filled with candy, consider asking parents about other options for small gifts that will still delight the children in your life. Younger children might enjoy small toys, puzzles and coloring books; older kids might love receiving a pair of fun and fluffy socks or a gift certificate for a movie. And many times, the young people in your life simply want to spend time with you, so consider planning a day at a local museum or inviting them to your assisted living apartment for a game night.
When the opportunity arises, be willing to talk about health and wellness. You don't have to be the health police, constantly forcing the topic into conversation.
But if your grandkids are visiting and they see one of the assisted living community exercise classes going on, consider explaining what is happening and why it's important for people of all ages to move regularly. Then, ask the kids how they move and what types of active play they most enjoy. If you can access an appropriate outdoor space, chances are they might be delighted to give you a demonstration.
Finally, show interest in activities that encourage balance in the lives of grand kids and other young people. Whether they're the star athlete or they tend to ride the bench, ask them about their sports activities and talk about the parts they love. Or, if they're more of a homebody, talk about the potential for walks in nature or whether they play any video games that require movement.
Ultimately, seniors know that every person has to make their own decisions as they grow. But by setting the stage with an emphasis on healthy activities and eating, you can support grandchildren and other loved ones in learning to make decisions that can positively impact their health in the future. Just remember to stay balanced, allow for some fun and treats and keep things positive. After all, there's a benefit of not being their parent, and you don't want to give that up by becoming the health police.