Staying healthy is important at any age, yet it takes on added importance for older adults. We are living longer and longer, with the current life expectancy in the UK being over 81 years. Unfortunately, too many of those years are spent in ill health, preventing people from enjoying their hard-earned retirement. Whilst it is true that adopting healthy habits early in life is the best way to lay foundations for a healthy later life, it is never too late to make changes or improvements that can positively impact quality of life and potentially extend life expectancy. Here are 10 of the key things you can do;
1: Stick To A Healthy Balanced Diet
As obvious as it sounds, eating the right foods is still important in later life. A healthy diet should contain a wide variety of foods and be balanced to ensure the right vitamins and other nutrients are present. Older adults should increase their calcium and fibre intake to meet their body’s needs and may benefit from reducing their red meat consumption to 1 or fewer portions a week. It is also a good idea to make a conscious effort to drink more water, as our perception of thirst reduces as we age.
2: Stay Physically Active
Whilst many people slow down as they get older, it is important to stay as physically active as you can. A drastic reduction in our activity levels can quickly reduce our ability to regain earlier fitness levels and can lead to frailty or obesity. It can be as simple as taking regular walks or perhaps finding a new regular activity which contains some moderate physical exertion. If you are struggling to find exercises or activities that are suited to you, or are concerned about potential negative impacts, then seek the advice of your GP.
3: Stay Mentally Active
Staying mentally active is just as important as staying physically active. Our mind needs to be exercised just as much as our muscles do, and can suffer from under use. You may find that you have far more free time as an older adult than you have enjoyed before and filling those hours can be a challenge for some. Using this time to learn something new can be a particularly effective way of keeping the mind active. There is evidence to suggest leaning a new language or how to play a musical instrument can help reduce the risk of dementia. There are plenty of organisations, such as the University of the Third Age, who provide learning opportunities of all kinds to older adults.
4: Ensure You Are Getting Enough Good Sleep
Many older adults complain of reduced sleep quality and duration, which can have a detrimental effect on physical and mental health. Good ways to improve sleep include; trying to avoid daytime naps, sticking to a set bedtime and always getting up at the same time. It is important to treat your bedroom and your bed as a place primarily for sleep, avoiding the use of electronic devices such as television screens where possible. Avoiding caffeinated drinks in the hours before sleep can also be helpful. If you find it difficult to get a good night’s rest you should seek the advice of a medical professional.
5: Maintain your Flexibility
Flexibility is an often-ignored aspect of health that can have a significant impact on quality of life. Once we begin to lose flexibility it can become increasingly difficult to perform day to day tasks. There are many ways to work on maintaining and even improving flexibility, some of the most popular are Yoga and Tai-Chi. These activities can be performed at home and the basics are easy to learn.
6: Quit Smoking And Reduce Alcohol Intake
Some life-long habits can be hard to break, but making the decision to change can still provide rewards in later life. No matter what age you are, quitting smoking can have an immediate positive impact on your health, with your lungs beginning the healing process as little as 20 minutes after your last cigarette. Whilst it has been suggested that some very low-level alcohol consumption could have small health benefits, most people would be better off cutting down.
7: Ensure You Have A Good Support Network
Loneliness is one of the biggest mental health challenges facing many people in later life. Whilst some people are lucky enough to be surrounded by friends and family, it is easy for others to fall out of contact with anyone. If you have a limited social life it is a good idea to seek out clubs or organisations that can offer both support and a way to meet like-minded people.
8: Maintain Your Independence
Whilst having support is important, being able to live independently in your own home helps with many aspects of health in later life. Being in control of your own lifestyle ensures that you can keep your mind active and allows you to decide on your own diet and activity levels. To enable the elderly to remain living independently in their own homes, Helpline provide panic alarms to ensure peace of mind for you and your family.
9: Avoid Falls
Falls in and around the homes are the main cause of accidental injuries for older adults. As our reflexes slow down we become more likely to fall and also more likely to seriously hurt ourselves when we do. Falls often result in a dramatic decline in general health and can also have lasting psychological effects. It is important to pay attention to the way your home is laid out to minimize fall risks. In the case of a fall it is important to get appropriate help as soon as possible to prevent potentially serious consequences. Installing a Helpline pendant alarm is a great way of not only getting help swiftly but also of providing you with peace of mind, which has been shown to lower the chance of suffering a fall.
10: Get Regular Check Ups
Older adults are at higher risk of suffering from some medical conditions, for this reason it is important to be in regular contact with your GP or other medical practitioner. They should also be able to offer further advice on how best to manage any area of your physical and mental health.