Healthy Lifestyle : A guide to Elderly Care

Your mind and body do change over time and things don’t always work as they should. But much of this can be prevented by following a healthy lifestyle. It is true in that it is never too late to start being healthy but it does help if you have been fit and healthy for most of your life.

However, if you have always been careful about what you eat and taken exercise then this will slow down the rate at which you age. Plus it will ensure that you remain healthy into your later years.

Mental ‘fitness’is as equally important as physical fitness. Our mental functions start to decline as we age which results in short term memory loss, forgetfulness and a lack of concentration. It can be harder to learn new skills and this may lead to a lack of confidence.

But you can keep mentally active by doing crosswords and Su Doku. Diet and exercise also helps as does taking up a hobby, learning new skills or socialising with others.

So what can you do to remain healthy into old age?

Healthy lifestyle tips

Here are a few ways of ensuring a healthy old age:

  • Stop smoking
  • Moderate alcohol consumption
  • Take exercise
  • Healthy diet
  • Stay mentally active
  • Socialise with others
  • Get out in the fresh air
  • Make sure that your home is safe
  • Positive thinking

Stop smoking

If you smoke then give up.

Smoking causes a whole range of diseases which includes heart disease, lung cancer, bronchitis and osteoporosis. These are harmful at any stage in life but even more so in our later years. For example, osteoporosis or ‘thinning of the bones’ is the prime cause of falls in the elderly.

It can be difficult to give up and you may think that you are too old to get any benefit from this but that is not the case. It doesn’t matter how old you are as stopping smoking will improve your life expectancy, not to mention your health!

Giving up smoking will also save you money which is another good to reason to stop.

Moderate alcohol consumption

There is no need to give up alcohol all together and a small tipple won’t do you any harm. A glass of wine or beer can even be beneficial but it’s important not to overdo this especially when you are older.

Excessive alcohol intake can increase the likelihood of a fall, affect memory and concentration and lead to depression. It can also cause osteoporosis and liver damage.

The main reason why this is more of a problem for older people is due to physical changes in the body. These reduce your tolerance to alcohol. Take exercise

This doesn’t have to be strenuous, just something which you enjoy doing and gives your heart a workout.

Medical experts advise us to exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes 5 times a week but many people do less than this. If this sounds a lot then you can break this down into three, 10 minute slots.

For example, you could go for a walk in the morning and then another one in the afternoon.

Try a range of activities until you find the one that you like. These can include walking, swimming, weight training, dancing, cycling and golf. If you have a dog then taking him/her for a walk will help: if fact this can be one of several reasons for getting a pet.

You do lose muscle mass and gain body fat as you age so exercise is important. It can prevent this from happening as well as improving flexibility, boosting your immune system and helping you to sleep. It also improves your mood and feeling of overall wellbeing.

If you have not exercised for a long time then see your GP first. Start off slowly and build up. Remember to warm up and cool down and do some stretching.

Healthy diet

If you have always eaten healthily then this won’t be a problem. But the saying ‘you are what you eat’ does hold true. This is even more of an issue when you are older as your metabolism tends to slow down which leads to an increase of body fat. So try to have a balanced diet in which you eat enough fresh fruit and vegetables, bread, pasta and rice; meat, fish and some dairy products such as milk and eggs. Keep fats or sugary foods to a minimum.

Make sure you get enough fluids. Water is still best but tea and coffee are fine.

A ‘little bit of what you fancy’ such as cake is fine as long as it is in moderation.

Stay mentally active

Forgetfulness and problems with remembering things are a normal part of growing older. Our minds do slow down as a result of ageing but this isn’t the case for everyone. Some people notice a decline in their fifties but others remain mentally sharp into their nineties.

You still have the ability to learn new things and acquire knowledge when older but it may take a little longer to do so. For instance, look at the number of older people who use the Internet or a mobile phone. It may take them a bit longer to learn how to do so but they get there in the end.

Activities like this and others, such as crosswords and quizzes can all give your brain a ‘mental workout’.

Socialise with others

One problem with old age is that of isolation. Many older people live alone and miss out on social interaction which can help to keep them mentally active. It can help to have just a few hours contact a week with another person.

It has been found that having a strong network of family and friends can help to prevent loneliness. This can also keep you feeling positive and engaged with society.

Get out in the fresh air

This may seem obvious but getting outside in the fresh air is important for bone health as well as your general health.

The reason for this is that sunlight produces Vitamin D in our bodies which results in healthy bones. Our bones start to thin as we age especially in women so anything which keeps them strong is vital.

Being outside also makes you feel good.

Make sure that your home is safe

You are prone to trips and falls as you get older as your bones become fragile and your joints become less flexible. Your balance isn’t as good as when you were younger and these all cause unsteadiness and a likelihood of falls.

In order to prevent this from happening it is a good idea to check around your home –or have someone in your family do this for you, to see if anything is likely to cause a fall. This means looking out for loose wiring or rugs, or frayed carpets. Make sure that every room in the house has good lighting and move any furniture which could cause an obstruction. Have someone check your central heating and gas/electric appliances to make sure that they are up to date and safe.

Make sure that your home is well insulated and has draught proofing.

There is a scheme, set up by the government called ‘Warm Front’. This is a series of grants which can be used to pay for central heating and insulation and applies to homeowners and those who rent their property.

This scheme is only available in England but there are similar initiatives in Scotland and Wales.

For more information visit the Directgov website

And for your personal safety, a home alarm system which links to a 24 hour response centre can also help.

Positive thinking

This may sound unusual but a positive attitude can make a difference.

This is easy to say if you are in good health, have an active social life and no money worries: but even if you are not it can help to try and think of a few positive aspects, for example a happy memory of something.

Doing this can improve your mood and boost your immune system.

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