After climbing a flight of stairs, Alex is out of breathe, his joints and muscles ache so bad one would think he just crossed the finish line of an 800 meter race. He stretches himself to an upright position and he hears the popping sound of crackling bones and muscles, the one he is getting used to hearing these days. “just few years ago I could run up these stairs without even thinking about it” he says to himself. Now standing in front of the mirror he looks at his reflection, he wonders when he developed so many grey hairs, or when his skin became so wrinkled. Alex keeps on staring at the frail reflection of himself in the mirror, he notices his favourite and once fitted shirt now hangs loosely on his shoulders, he suddenly realises he has also lost a bit of weight. After a few minutes jolting back to reality, he remembers that he came up to his room to get something, but… what was it? he can’t quite remember, this has also become a regular occurrence, first his keys, toothbrush, mobile phone then names of distant family relatives… So is this is what old age is all about, whew!
What is Ageing?
Ageing is the inevitable, irreversible process of growing old or developing the appearance and characteristics of old age. It is characterised by a variety of physiological, emotional and psychological changes. Of all the inevitable and naturally occurring phenomenons in life, ageing is often accepted with mixed feelings. On one side, joy and gratitude for life and the many years spent living (After all, some people died at birth, in their early teenage years, in their prime 20’s and others in their 30s and 40s, just when their presence mattered the most). On the other hand, many are apprehensive about the age related decline in overall physical and mental health; muscle weakness, tiredness, drastic weight loss (due to sarcopenia – loss of muscle mass), onset of chronic disease such as diabetes, hypertension and other cardiac diseases, certain cancers, waist pain, leg pain and the list is somewhat endless. These are features of poor ageing and aren’t a natural part of growing old or something to put up with.
Causes of Poor ageing
Ageing is associated with a natural decline in a range of physiological processes and is accepted as the faith of the ageing individual, however the ageing process can be a great experience. Poor ageing is often due to a variety of modifiable reasons including but not limited to the following;
- Physical inactivity
- Poor Diet
- Cigarette and other harmful substance use
- Prolonged exposure to certain harmful substances (asbestos, exhaust fumes, e.t.c.)
- Idleness / Loneliness and loss of social interaction / Neglect
Tips for Healthy Ageing
Keep Active (Exercise):
Engaging in walks, and other forms of mild physical activity for 30 minutes at least 3 times a week is recommended in healthy ageing. Regular exercise can improve cardiorespiratory fitness, muscle strength and mobility. It also reduces arthritis-related pain, improves sleep, prevent falls and fractures, and improves low mood and memory. In fact, taking regular exercise is one of the best things you can do to remain independent.
Aim to eat at least five portions of fruit and vegetables daily, so that you’re getting plenty of nutrients and vitamins. Drink lots of water, and avoid fizzy and drinks high in sugar content. Poor food choices greatly increases the risk for obesity, chronic diseases and disabilities. Insufficient intake of nutrients and vitamins such as calcium and vitamin D is associated with a loss of bone density and results in painful and debilitating bone fractures, especially in older women.
Stress management / Relaxation / Hobbies / Companionship:
It is never too late to take up a new hobby and find new ways to relax. Avoid being alone by yourself as this can speed up cognitive decline. You can engage in conversations, invite friends and visit friends or family members as a form of social interaction. Keep your mind busy by reading books, learning new things and new technology as this will help to stimulate your brain function. Try do something every day.
It is essential to have at least 8 hours sleep. A good night’s sleep helps improve concentration and memory formation, facilitates the repair of any cell damage that occurred during the day, and refreshes your immune system. Inadequate sleep increases the risk of depression, attention and memory problems, and chronic diseases.
Quit Cigarette smoking & Reduce alcohol intake:
Smoking accelerates the rate of decline of bone density, muscular strength and respiratory function. Alcohol increases risk of developing malnutrition and liver, gastric and pancreatic diseases. Also, Older people also have greater risks for alcohol-related falls and injuriesMental Activities / Social interaction
Regular Health checks:
Check your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels regularly. Also see your doctor regularly for routine check up and if you notice any worrisome changes. Remember be open even about sensitive issues, doctors are trained to help you.
- Choosing comfortable footwear can go a long way in caring for your feet. Avoid wearing high heeled shoes (females), some people might need insoles to help balance and support underneath their feet.
- Avoid straining your eyes reading or driving in the dark. See you optician regularly if you use glasses to rule out serious problems like glaucoma and cataract.
- To care for your mouth and teeth, avoid eating sugary based foods; brush teeth at least twice daily with fluoride toothpaste.
- Keep your home safe from things that cause trips, slips and falls (wires, slippery bathroom floors)
- Talk to someone about the changes you are experiencing. Ageing is not a journey you have to go on alone!
Finally Be Positive! At this stage of life, it is permissible to say most individuals have almost seen it all, heard it all, and experienced it all. Memories are filled with happiness, laughter and fulfillments and often times, they are filled with sadness, and regrets about an unfulfilled life, unaccomplished dreams and visions. This is however not a time to dwell on such. Being positive is a very important aspect of ageing gracefully. Be thankful! based on the popular saying says ‘When there is life, there is hope”. You are never too old to dream, to live, and to conquer.
Stay alive, Keep healthy
Founder: The heart Engine