Quitting Smoking for Seniors: Is it Ever Too Late?
Senior's Guide | January 11, 2021
In the month of January, folks often resolve to begin something new, to break bad habits, or to make changes to better their life. The decision to stop smoking is a popular New Year’s resolution; but for some, it may feel like a lost cause – especially when it comes to quitting smoking for seniors.
So is it too late? The answer is unequivocally this: it is never too late to quit smoking. Studies show that there are immediate health benefits including decreased blood pressure and heart rate, lowered carbon monoxide levels, and increased blood circulation. Benefits to the lungs and breathing begin just a few days into smoking cessation. Those gains only continue to increase the longer the body has to heal itself.
Quitting smoking for seniors especially may seem overwhelming – particularly for those who have been smoking for decades. But if you are well prepared, it is possible.
Have a Plan
Speak to a medical professional and / or therapist who has experience in smoking cessation. Ask if nicotine replacements, such as nicotine patches or gum, or medications for nicotine withdrawal would be appropriate. Decide if you will quit immediately, or to begin reducing the number of cigarettes you smoke each day.
Calculate the amount of money that you spend on smoking. Plan to reward yourself by using that savings for something you enjoy after quitting.
Before you give up smoking, figure out your reasons, and write them down. Keep the list handy, and add to it each time you think of another reason you want to give up smoking. Do you want to breathe better, or protect your health or the health of those around you? Do you want to save money, or reduce your risk of long-term illness? Post your list in a highly visible spot, and read it often. If your reasons for quitting smoking include a desire to be there for someone, such as grandchildren or other family members, hang their pictures with your list.
Seek out accountability. Quitting smoking for seniors (and for anyone!) is easier when there are others involved. Tell your friends and family that you plan to quit, and let them know how they can best support you. Quitting is difficult, and having the support of those who truly care about you will go a long way in helping you to meet your goal.
Decide what day you will quit, and begin to cut down on the number of cigarettes you smoke each day in preparation for quitting.
Put Your Plan Into Place
After smoking your last cigarette before the day you quit, throw away any items related to smoking (ashtrays, lighters, cigarettes, etc.) Check in your car, your purse or briefcase, in drawers or jacket pockets – any place you may have left a cigarette. Crush them before throwing them out to remove any temptation.
Be aware of your smoking patterns (after you eat, when you wake up, etc.) and replace that routine. For example, if you normally smoke a cigarette after breakfast, replace it with a brisk walk, a hands-on hobby, or another healthy habit. Plan to replace the physical act of smoking by having something on hand to put into your mouth, such as gum, mints, or cut-up fresh veggies.
Consider group therapy for smoking cessation, or at least a friend or former smoker who will support you when you have cravings. As stated before, quitting smoking for seniors, and for any smoker, is easier with support.
Do not allow others to smoke in your home or car. Spend your time with non-smokers, so that you will not be tempted to ask for a smoke. Stay away from places where you frequently smoked before, or even where smoking is allowed. Remember that drinking alcohol may lower your reserve to not smoke, so minimize alcohol intake.
Prepare for Challenges
People often smoke in stressful situations. Be sure to plan for an alternative method of dealing with stress (such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga) so that when the inevitable stress happens, you will be less tempted to smoke.
If you give in and smoke, renew your resolve and start again from the beginning. Even if it takes more than one try to quit, your body will still benefit.
When it gets difficult, remember the benefits of quitting smoking for seniors. Consider the reward of higher energy levels, fewer colds and sinus issues, and the reduced stress of health risks caused by smoking. Indeed, it is never too late to quit! Your loved ones and your body will thank you.
Kari Smith is a frequent contributor to Seniors Guide, helping to keep those in the senior industry informed and up-to-date. She's a Virginia native whose love of writing began as a songwriter recording her own music. In addition to teaching music and performing in the Richmond area, Kari also enjoys riding horses and farming.