The primary need with aging is to be well, to maintain or, more importantly, to improve one's ability to function optimally. As you get older, this need translates into the ability to care for yourself – even with simple daily tasks like taking a shower or bath without assistance, or preparing your own meals.
When you take charge of your health, you have the ability to improve your health and reduce general health risks as you age. Do not wait for your doctor to advise you to change your lifestyle; instead, take control and initiative! Your doctor, dietician, and physiotherapist may be able to help you figure out how.
Do lifestyle changes make a difference?
Traditionally, the belief that ‘lifestyle changes later in life do not matter' assumed that adopting a healthy lifestyle in an aging adult would have no impact on quality of life.
There is now ample evidence that lifestyle changes such as a regular exercise training program, moderate alcohol consumption, cessation of cigarette smoking, remaining socially active in the community where you live, and remaining mentally active lead not only to added years of life but – more importantly – to life to years or increased quality of life for a variety of reasons.
These proposed lifestyle changes are also beneficial in the management and prevention of chronic diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes mellitus. The one certainty is that continuing to live an unhealthy lifestyle will result in faster deterioration of functional abilities and increased reliance on support services.
Which aspects of one's lifestyle must be taken into account?
Realistically, the lifestyle changes suggested by your family doctor may sound familiar – eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, quit smoking, lose weight, and drink moderately.
However, in the elderly, these changes must be more comprehensive and take into account very specific adaptations that take into account your personal functional status, chronic diseases, and social circumstances. To be “well,” you must pay attention to all aspects of your “being” – physical, mental, psychological, emotional, and spiritual.
Changes in lifestyle that will make a difference
- It's never too late to give up smoking!
- Establish a consistent daily routine, including wake-up times, meal times, and bedtimes.
- A nutritious diet
A healthy diet includes plenty of vegetables, salads, and fruits, all of which can contribute to better physical, mental, and overall health. Other factors, such as ill-fitting dentures that make chewing difficult, or a loss of the important senses of smell and taste that decrease the desire to eat, may have an impact on unhealthy dietary practices in the elderly. Underlying depression has a significant impact.
So, once again, a multidisciplinary approach involving your family doctor, a dentist, a dietician, and a psychologist is critical. Remember to eat one healthy meal per day and to take a vitamin/mineral supplement on a daily basis.
Alcohol consumption in moderation
Moderate alcohol consumption may even be beneficial to one's health. In this context, "moderate" refers to one glass of wine, one 375ml bottle of beer, or one 44ml tot of distilled liquor – try not to consume alcohol more than five days per week. So, to begin, assess how "moderate" your alcohol consumption is!
Exercise on a regular basis
Extensive research has been conducted on the benefits of exercise. Exercise for the elderly includes a variety of activities such as endurance exercise, muscle strengthening by lifting weights, which improves muscle mass and reduces the risk of developing osteoporosis. Stretching exercises can help improve mobility and flexibility in general.
These exercises can help you improve your balance and reduce your risk of falling, which will help you avoid all of the unpleasant and serious injuries that come with falls in the elderly. Even if you begin regular exercise later in life, the evidence suggests that it contributes to improved physical, mental, and cognitive functioning, as well as wellbeing and contact with life! Begin with 10 minutes per day and work your way up to 30 minutes per day.
Walking to the café every day to get your newspaper, gardening, regular sports like golf, tennis, and bowls, Yoga or Pilates, or swimming are all examples of exercise. The social interaction that comes with joining exercise groups is already beneficial to one's well-being. Don't forget about dancing as a fun form of exercise. Set fitness goals for yourself and test yourself against them on a regular basis.
Get enough rest
You will be able to function better during the day after a good night's sleep. Avoiding coffee, nicotine, and alcohol before bed, limiting fluid intake in the evening, limiting naps during the day to 30 minutes, getting more exercise, and spending time outside in the late afternoon are all examples of good sleep hygiene.
Participate in social activities actively
One of the most difficult obstacles to overcome in aging people is the prevention of loneliness and social isolation. Being socially active keeps boredom, which is so common in the elderly, at bay. Schedule regular visits with family and friends, and take part in organized social activities in your community. According to studies, the cognitive vitality of elderly people who remain socially active in their communities is preserved.
Do something to help those in need
Make a difference in the lives of those in need if you are blessed with good health. Actively identify them, call, visit, take them out, and simply be there for them. It will not only give you a lot of personal satisfaction, but it will also improve your health.
How important is it for me to interact with my family doctor?
Interaction with your family doctor, who is your partner on the path to optimal health, is essential. However, other members of your healthcare team, such as your dentist, physiotherapist, dietician, optometrist, audiologist, and caregiver or companion, are now playing an important role.