Scientific research has yet to find a way to slow the normal biological ageing process. However, most of the problems older adults face are not due to natural ageing but to other processes such as losing physical fitness, chronic health conditions, and social pressures such as ageism, which can lead to social isolation and decreased self-esteem.
The good news is that we can do something about these processes. We can maintain our fitness by exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and getting enough good-quality sleep. We can reduce our risk of developing some diseases by making healthy lifestyle choices, such as not smoking, drinking less alcohol, eliminating sugar and highly processed foods from our diet, and getting regular exercise.
We can challenge ageism by speaking up when we see it happening and by educating others about the harmful effects of ageism, such as depression, isolation, and a lowered immune system.
We can age well and live long, healthy, and fulfilling lives by taking the following five positive steps to address these processes.
1: Challenging Ageism
Ageism is discrimination or prejudice against someone based on their age. It can happen to people of all ages, but it is mainly targeted towards and more harmful to older adults. Ageism can lead to many mental health issues, such as social isolation, decreased self-esteem, and poor health.
There are many things we can do to challenge ageism. We can speak up when we see or hear ageism. Let people know that it is not acceptable to discriminate against someone based on their age. You can also educate yourself about ageism. The more you know about it, the better equipped you will be to challenge it.
Many support organizations in the UK are working to combat ageism. For example, Age UK is a leading charity for older people, providing a wide range of services, including advice and information, support groups, and advocacy. The Centre for Ageing Better is an independent charity working to create a society where everyone can enjoy a long and healthy life.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is the independent body that promotes and protects equality and human rights in the UK. They focus on age discrimination and work to challenge and change attitudes and practices that discriminate against older people.
You can also participate in the Live Longer Better course offered by us, which is based on a lifetime of experience and scientific research and will encourage you to re-examine how you look at ageing. You will finish the course with a new-found positive outlook on this process!
2: Creating a Fun Fitness Plan to Stay Active
Staying active is important for people of all ages, but it is especially important for older adults. Exercise can help to improve your physical health, mental health, and overall well-being.
Making fitness fun is a great way to help you stick with it. When you enjoy your fitness routines, you are more likely to be motivated to do them regularly. Here are some tips for making fitness fun:
- Find activities that you enjoy. There are many different ways to be active, so find activities that you enjoy, and that fit your interests and lifestyle. If you don't like running, don't force yourself to do it. There are plenty of other activities that you can enjoy, such as swimming, biking, dancing, or hiking.
- Vary your routine. If you do the same workout every day, it will eventually get boring. To keep things interesting, vary your routine by trying new activities or changing the intensity and duration of your workouts.
- Set realistic goals. Don't try to do too much too soon. Start with small goals that you can quickly achieve, and gradually increase the difficulty and duration of your workouts as you get fitter.
- Find a workout buddy. Working out with a friend can help you stay motivated and accountable.
- Make it a social activity. If you enjoy being around people, try taking fitness classes or joining a sports team. This can make your workouts more enjoyable.
3: Reduce the Risk of Disease as You age
You can do many things to reduce the risk of disease as you age. Science has shown that many health conditions are linked to poor diet and unhealthy lifestyle habits. For example, smoking has long been linked to cancer, heart disease and strokes, so if you smoke, the best thing you can do for your health in your older age is to give up this bad habit.
Excessive drinking can also lead to several health issues, including liver disease, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and strokes, and mental health problems such as depression. Alcohol can impair your judgment and coordination, making it more likely that you can fall and hurt yourself.
Eating a healthy diet that includes plenty of protein, iron and calcium from meat, eggs, fish, and dairy is an excellent way to stay healthy in older age. Avoiding highly processed foods high in sugar and inflammatory vegetable and seed oils will also help boost your health. Try to avoid anything that comes out of a packet with a list of unpronounceable ingredients. Instead, stick with fresh, natural one-ingredient foods.
4: Get plenty of sleep
Getting enough sleep is essential for everyone but vital for older adults. As we age, our sleep patterns naturally change. We tend to go to sleep and wake up earlier, and we may also experience more sleep disruptions. However, getting enough sleep is still essential for older adults to maintain their physical and mental health.
Here are some of the benefits of getting enough sleep for older adults:
- Improved cognitive function: Older adults who get enough sleep may have better memory, concentration, and decision-making skills.
- Reduced risk of chronic diseases: Sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased risk of chronic conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
- Improved mood: Older adults who get enough sleep may be less likely to experience depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders.
- Reduced risk of falls: Sleep deprivation can impair coordination and balance, increasing the risk of falls.
- Increased energy: Sleep helps to restore energy levels, giving you more energy throughout the day.
- Improved quality of life: Older adults who get enough sleep may feel more alert, active, and engaged in life.
The amount of sleep that older adults need is around 7-8 hours per night. Talk to your doctor if you are an older adult and are not getting enough sleep. There may be an underlying medical condition that is causing your sleep problems.
5: Keep Your Brain Active by Learning New Skills
Learning new skills can help to keep your brain active and healthy. It can also help to reduce your risk of dementia. There are many enjoyable things you can do to occupy your mind and keep it busy, for example:
- Take a class. Many classes are available for older adults, such as computer, language, or art classes.
- Read books or magazines. Reading can help to improve your vocabulary and cognitive skills.
- Volunteer. Volunteering can help you to learn new skills and to meet new people.
- Travel. Travelling can help you to learn about new cultures and to challenge your mind.
- Play games. Puzzles, brain games, and other games can help to keep your brain active.
Making small changes to your lifestyle can positively impact your health and well-being as you grow older. So don't be afraid to start small and make changes you can stick with.
Ageing is a natural process, but it doesn't mean you must give up on your health and well-being. Following these tips allows you to age well and live a long and healthy life.
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