Old age comes to us all eventually, but the idea of aging is one most people tend to avoid thinking about too much. If you’re approaching retirement or starting to feel the effects of aging, it won’t help to ignore the inevitable. It can be particularly worrying if you have any pre-existing health condition, as you’ll feel like you’re entering your senior years with a disadvantage. However, being old doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t be healthy and make the most of these special years. The important thing is to know how to take care of yourself, so you have the best chance of enjoying a long and fruitful retirement.
When you’re younger, you can party all night and still make it into work the next day because your body is naturally resilient. You recover more quickly, and the warnings about the effects of an unhealthy lifestyle may not make much of an impression because you generally feel fine. As you begin to age, your body becomes less resilient, and it takes longer to recover from illness or excess. You need to accept that if you don’t adopt a healthier lifestyle, your health will start to suffer, and your old age won’t be as comfortable as you would wish. It’s never too late to make changes in your life, and even into very old age, your body will still be working hard to repair tissues and keep you fit, so if you haven’t led the healthiest lifestyle up to now, you can still benefit from making changes.
Healthy Living Habits
The advice on how to live the healthiest life possible does alter over time as research uncovers new evidence about nutrition and health, but there are some golden rules which remain pretty much constant:
- Eat a varied, balanced diet: There’s plenty of good advice online about the best types of foods to eat, and the micronutrients that you may need to have more of as you age. The basis of a healthy diet is plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, good quality protein, eating a wide variety of different foods, and not overdoing the fat, sugar, and salt. It can present challenges, for example, drinking fruit juice may not be a good idea if you have Crohn’s disease, and eating wholewheat foods would be inadvisable if you have Coeliac disease. If you’re affected by conditions that limit your ability to eat certain kinds of foods, look for advice offered by support organizations specializing in your situation.
- Drink plenty of fluids: Dehydration is a common problem in older people, who frequently drink less than they need. Water is the best drink, so do try to have at least a few glasses of plain water every day. Not drinking enough is a factor in prostate problems in older men, and can lead to as well as aggravate urinary tract infections, which are a common problem in older women.
- Keep exercising: Keeping your body fit and strong depends on you using it as much as possible. Unless you’ve been advised by a doctor to take bed rest, you’re much better off getting up and about and being as active as possible. Not only will it keep your muscles, joints, and organs stronger and healthier, but it’s essential in reducing the effects of many chronic illnesses.
- Avoid tobacco, alcohol, and narcotics: If you have a smoking, drinking, or drug habit, the effects will become increasingly hard to live with as you get older. You won’t feel as fit and will struggle to be active, and you could well start to experience the more severe side effects of chronic substance use, such as emphysema, liver disease, and cancer. No matter how old you are, you’ll still improve your health and reduce your chances of getting seriously ill if you quit these bad habits.
Studies have shown that older people are far happier and healthier if they can stay in their own homes as they age. It’s not always possible of course, and if you’re severely affected by an illness like Alzheimer’s disease or you need round the clock nursing care, you may have to take up residence in a care facility. It is becoming easier to stay at home for longer though, and there are many ways you can extend your time at home. There are tools and aids to help with a wide variety of physical problems, such as grabbing sticks to pick things off the ground when you can’t bend over very easily, and gadgets to help you open jar lids. You can have a stairlift if you struggle with the stairs, special shower facilities, and fully adjustable hospital-style beds in the comfort of your own home. If you need help with some aspects of your care, then there are excellent home help services you can call on. For example, this company provides vetted and highly-qualified care staff who can come to your home and help with anything from personal care to cooking and shopping.
Keeping your mind healthy and alert is just as important as looking after your body. Many chronic conditions have mental health effects such as depression, and older people who are lonely, inactive, or struggling to manage can become depressed as well. It’s important to do everything you can to involve yourself in social groups and have good personal relationships with other people, so you get the support and stimulation you need. Look for activities in your area that interest you, and make an effort to meet up with other people regularly. Staying mentally agile by reading, doing crosswords or other puzzles, or learning something new are all effective ways of keeping your brain fit and well. If you feel low or think you may have depression, get some help from your doctor and talk to support agencies.
If you’re worried about managing your health as you get older, you’re not alone. Many other people are feeling the same way, but there are plenty of actions you can take to help yourself enjoy a happy and rewarding old age.