As the baby-boomers become senior citizens, the topic of ageing and how to do it well preoccupies individuals and health officials alike.
In Australia there are 3.5 million seniors, or those over the age of sixty-five years. Young or old we are all ageing, some faster than others and as it appears happier than others.
Research tells us that maintaining a healthy diet and staying physically active may reduce the risk of developing cognitive decline.
The old saying ‘you are what you eat’ wasn’t too far off with research suggesting that dementia and depression are affected by the quality of our diets across the life course. Global studies have shown people who follow healthier diets are less likely to experience depression. For example, cutting down on highly-processed snack and takeaway food products, rich in tasty fat and sugar and replacing it for fruit, vegetables and other nutritious, unprocessed foods.
Healthy eating does not mean cutting out of pleasurable foods altogether, it’s about maintaining a balance. Eating in moderation and portion control may be what the doctor ordered. If you’re not sure how much is too much, you may want to speak to a doctor or dietitian to make sure you’re taking in healthy food appropriate to your personal circumstances.
This may sound tiring but physical activity does not strictly mean you need to go to the gym and sweat your heart out. Light activities such as taking short walks around the neighborhood, gardening, housework, stretching, or yoga are among other alternatives for you to consider to keep you active.
There are a number of benefits to staying physically active which include: higher energy levels, controlling body weight, combating disease, and improving mood. Who doesn’t want these things?
According to the World Health Organisation, the lack thereof exercise or physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality. One in 3 adults are not active enough.
Good news: Those who exercise on a regular basis are proven to live a healthier longer life. According to WHO, “older adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity”.
When older adults cannot do the recommended amount of physical activity due to health conditions, they should be as physically active as their abilities and conditions allow.
Video: Watch 87 year old ‘Charlie’s’ Story and his tips on ageing well.
Studies report, seniors that stay socially engaged or constantly communicating with others are proven to have more active minds and healthy behaviours. Through regular conversations seniors are opening their minds and constructing their thoughts, making them think through their ideas. Social engagement is an important factor in eliminating feelings of loneliness and worthlessness.
Smoking cigarettes and or drinking alcohol excessively may release feel good endorphins at the time, however it’s been widely studied that both activities is a cause of harm to your long-term health. Not only is it an expensive, it’s proven to contribute to a number of poorer health outcomes, such as chronic diseases and some cancers. Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death and disease in Australia. This fact aside, for many it’s often difficult to put an end to this addictive behaviour.
You can check Cancer Council Australia for help on controlling these harmful behaviours.
Maintaining an active brain is shown to minimise the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Reading and getting involved with new learning activities such as dancing, learning a language or engaging in problem solving quizzes are among some of the recommendations to keep your brain cells functioning. Research shows that keeping our brains active help new brain cells survive; and helping to retain memory no matter what age we are.
From the moment we are born we all begin the ageing process, but how well we age and the health conditions we develop over time can make us speed up this process if we don’t take the necessary precautions to promote a healthy lifestyle. By adapting our lifestyle or being more cautious and conscious about our health decisions, the better and more youthful we will hopefully feel as we age.
According to psychologists a positive mind produces positive attitude and better health outcomes. Positivity may not be something all prescribe to, for some it maybe disregarded and viewed as something too good to be true. However studies have reported that positive-thinking benefits include reduced death from cardiovascular disease; increased life span; lower rates of depression; greater resistance to common colds; increased coping skills to life’s hardships and other forms of stressors, and better physical and psychological well being.
There are so many reasons to view ageing as a positive element to our existence rather than it being a natural consequence of living. Keeping a positive attitude towards ageing is enables people to maintain a sense of control and quality of life as they face another part of the life cycle. Good news is, it’s never too late to age well.