7 Immune System Booster Tips for Seniors

The immune system is the body’s first line of defense against viruses and infections, but the aging process can weaken the immune system. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, this became an increased concern for the caregivers of older or immunocompromised adults, as the risk of more severe symptoms and outcomes was much higher in these populations. According to the CDC, seniors have a higher risk of developing flu complications resulting in hospitalization or, in some cases, death. In fact, between 70-90% of seasonal flu-related deaths and between 50-70% of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations occur in adults age 65 and older.

This higher level of risk reveals the importance of taking the steps to strengthen you and your loved one’s immune systems. Improving physical health and immunity can help fend off the common cold and flu and reduce the risk of developing serious complications like pneumonia. Here’s a look at a few of the ways you can boost your immune system and help increase your body’s natural defenses.

1. Keeping Vaccinations Up to Date Helps Your Immune System

Vaccinations help to protect you against certain illnesses, such as the seasonal flu, COVID-19, shingles, tetanus, pertussis (commonly known as whopping cough), and others. It’s important to meet with your loved one’s primary healthcare provider to ensure all their regular vaccinations are up to date and find out if there are other vaccinations they may recommend. Additionally, as the caregiver of an aging loved one, it’s important that you also stay up to date on your vaccines, ensuring your entire household is prioritizing immune system health and wellness

2. Follow a Balanced, Nutrient-Rich Diet for Immune Health

Eating a healthy diet rich in essential nutrients is one of the best ways to maintain a strong immune system. To maintain a balanced diet, consider the following: 

  • Eat lots of fruits and vegetables – These foods are rich in nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin D, beta carotene, and other essential vitamins and minerals.
  • Have a good source of protein in each meal – Foods like yogurt, milk, or lean meats are great sources of protein that will help fuel your body.
  • Try to avoid high-sugar foods and beveragesSugar can curb the immune cells that fight against bad bacteria, weakening your immune system.
  • Look into food services for additional support – If you struggle with preparing meals or grocery shopping for healthy ingredients, there are several food services for the elderly that offer balanced meals, some of which can be delivered straight to your door.
  • Consider a daily multivitamin – If your loved one often struggles with maintaining a healthy diet, a daily multivitamin can ensure they get the recommended daily allowance of all the essential vitamins and minerals that will keep them healthy.

Careforth Care Tip: While most people can take a multivitamin without concern, you should always talk to your healthcare provider first. It’s also a good idea to ask your healthcare provider about whether you’re deficient in any specific nutrients or should be taking any additional supplements.

3. Prioritize Your Sleep Schedule

Sleep deprivation can hinder the body’s production of cytokines, a type of protein that targets inflammation and infection. Not only does a lack of sleep hinder the immune system, but it leaves you feeling foggy and sluggish – not the best recipe for coping with a sore throat or a case of the sniffles. To maintain a healthy sleep schedule, consistency is key, so going to bed and waking up at the same times each day can help make a habit of good sleep.

4. Reducing Stress Can Boost Your Immune System

While avoiding every stressor in life is impossible, seniors who find positive outlets and stress-reducing activities may benefit from a stronger immune system. That’s because stress wreaks havoc on the body’s natural defenses by releasing a stress hormone called corticosteroid. This hormone suppresses the immune system by lowering the number of lymphocytes, or white blood cells, that fight against invading viruses and bacteria, in the body. Find a stress-busting activity you enjoy, such as meditation, a relaxing stroll outside, or a creative outlet such as painting, reading, or listening to music.

5. Exercise Regularly

It’s important for older adults to remain as physically active as possible. While you may not be as fit as you used to be, regular physical activity such as taking a walk, practicing yoga, swimming, or bicycling can reduce the release of stress hormones while also reducing your risk of developing chronic conditions like heart disease. Regular exercise can boost immune system regulation and effectiveness, not to mention, it can help improve one’s strength and mental wellbeing.

6. Stay Well-Hydrated

Although it’s one of the easiest ways to boost immunity, most people don’t drink enough water each day, no matter their age. For seniors, staying hydrated is an important part of maintaining a strong immune system. Hydration helps to keep mucous membranes moist, especially during the dry winter months, which helps to prevent viruses and bacteria from entering the body. And, drinking plenty of water supports blood flow, supplying your organs and tissues with the oxygen they need to function at their best.

7. Wash Your Hands – And Use Precautions Around Those Who Are Sick

The best way to avoid falling ill is to avoid others who are sick. However, it’s not always possible to avoid encountering someone who’s sick, and washing your hands can be one of your greatest defenses against germs.

Always wash your hands after being around anyone who is ill, especially before touching your face, particularly your eyes, mouth, or nose. Other precautions, such as wiping down your counters and table with an antibacterial solution, can help to prevent illnesses from spreading to others in the home. Face masks are also a great way to prevent spreading germs from yourself onto others and are recommended by the CDC.

Boosting Your Immune System

For older adults, maintaining a healthy immune system isn’t just important for avoiding a miserable cold – it can help avoid hospitalization and could even save your loved one’s life. Following these tips can help maintain a strong, healthy immune system. It can also lower your and your loved one’s risk of developing potentially serious complications from common colds and infections and improve overall health and wellbeing.

At Careforth, we strive to support caregivers at every turn. Visit the How We Help page on our site to learn more about how Careforth supports caregivers or contact us for more information.

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