9 Steps To Aging Well

To us, aging well involves comprehending our bodies through a scientific perspective.

1. Physical & Social Activity

Keep physically active – any exercise can help improve balance, keep you mobile, and improve your mood. Ensure the activity is suitable for your level of mobility.

Find an activity you like, and that encourages you to continue. You may exercise in a group or favour a more individual exercise like swimming.

Start slowly. A few minutes a day puts you on track toward building a healthy routine. Gradually increase the time and intensity to prevent injury.

Walking is a fantastic way to start exercising. Exercise does not have to mean strenuous activity, and walking is one of the most suitable ways to stay fit. Best of all, it doesn’t require equipment or experience, and you can do it anywhere.

Do exercises with a friend or family member(s). Motivation can be maintained by supporting and encouraging each other. Engaging in physical activity can provide not only physical benefits but also social ones through interaction with others.

There are many beautiful parks and open spaces in Ruislip and Harrow, the Church Field Gardens Park in Ruislip, Harrow Recreation Ground, and many others. Check out our other blog on our website, ‘5 Great Places for Outdoor Walks in Ruislip & Harrow’ where we walk you through the spaces that Ruislip and Harrow have to offer; these would also be the perfect spaces to exercise in.

Keep Socially Active – interact with family and friends so you do not become isolated

Stay in communication with friends and family members regularly, which helps us maintain thinking skills as we age.

It’s common for social networks to wither away as we grow older. There are steps we can take to improve the quality of our relationships.

Join clubs, classes, or social groups to meet new people. Focus on interactions or activities that you enjoy.

If you have lost past connections, take small steps to start rebuilding/rekindling these relationships. Social media is the perfect way to reconnect with people you have lost touch with over the years.

Computer-based communication can help expand your social circle and maintain existing contacts.

Consider caring for a pet; caring for a cat, dog, or bird can help structure the day and catalyse social interaction. In many ways, caring for a pet can also improve the quality of your mental health.

You can visit many places with your family and friends in the Ruislip & Harrow areas; refer to our blogs on our website ‘Local Cafes You Must Visit in Harrow & Eastcote’ and ‘3 Historical Outings in Ruislip & Harrow’.

2. Diet

Health Balanced Diet – vary your food so you eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.

What is a balanced diet for older people?

Emerging research suggests that older people would benefit significantly from making protein a bigger slice of their dietary pie, and that means that one or both other pieces in your pie will have to shrink a bit. My “balanced diet” prescription for healthy older adults is for protein to make up about a quarter of your calories, with fat taking up another quarter and carbohydrates held to about half.

There’s no need to break out the slide rule and atomic scales. Check out our blog on our website ‘Healthy eating in old age’ where we go into more detail about staying nourished and healthy as you age.

3. Medication

Take medication as directed – follow medical advice and set reminders so your medication is taken promptly.

Medicines are intended to enable us to live longer and healthier, but taking medications incorrectly or combining drugs and supplements can be risky. More senior adults often have numerous medical conditions and may take multiple medicines, which puts them at additional risk for adverse side effects.

It is essential to consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new prescriptions., OTC medicine or supplements, ensure your provider knows anything else you are taking. Discuss any allergies or issues you have experienced with other drugs. These may include rashes, trouble with breathing, indigestion, dizziness, or mood changes. Be sure that your doctor and pharmacist have an up-to-date list of any of your allergies so they don’t offer you a treatment that contains something that could potentially cause an allergic reaction.

When initiating a new medication, write down the name, the dose, and why it’s being prescribed. Also, make a note of any instructions for how to take medicine. The details are included on the bottle or prescription label for most medicines.

Before you start new medication, your doctor or pharmacist should provide essential information and answer any questions.

Ask your doctor:

• Why am I taking this medication?
• What medical condition does this medicine treat?
• When should I expect the medication to start working? How will I know if it’s working?
• What side effects might I have, if any? What actions do I take if I experience severe side effects?
• Will this medication cause problems if I take other prescriptions, OTC medicines, or supplements?
• What should I do if I wish to stop taking this medicine? Is it safe to stop suddenly?
• Will I need a refill? Should I book a follow-up appointment or test before refilling?

Questions to ask your pharmacist:

• While taking this medication, is it safe for me to drive?
• Should I consume the medicine with food or not? Is there anything I should be cautious of when taking this medicine?
• How much do I need to take?
• How many times a day should I take it? What time(s)? If the bottle advises “four times a day,” does that represent four times in 24 hours or only when I am awake?
• What does “as needed” mean?
• If I have forgotten to take my medicine, what should I do?

Here is some advice to help you take your medicines safely:

Follow instructions. Read all medicine labels carefully and be sure to follow instructions. Please don’t take a larger dose of medicine, thinking it will help you more. This could be extremely dangerous and even deadly.

Take medicine on time. Some individuals use meals or bedtime as reminders to take their medicine. Others use charts, calendars, or weekly pill boxes. You can set timers and note reminders. Medication reminder apps for smartphones have become more popular; these apps can assist you in recalling when and how to take your pills.

Turn on a light. Don’t take medicine in the dark or an unclear setting; you might make an error.

Report problems. Call your doctor immediately if you have concerns with your medication(s). There may be an alternative you can take.

Inform your doctor about Alcohol, tobacco, and drug use. Alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs can influence how sufficiently your medicines work. Be frank with your doctor about how much you use.

Ask your loved ones for help. Take a friend or relative to your doctor’s appointments to help you understand or remember your doctor’s advice.

Check before stopping. Take prescription medicine until it’s ended, or your doctor advises you to stop. Some medicines are to be taken only “as needed.”

Don’t share. Do not take medicines prescribed for another individual or share yours with someone else.

4. Alcohol consumption

Limit Alcohol Consumption – limit your intake and enjoy the odd drink on special occasions. Your liver will thank you for it!

According to psychiatrists, individuals over 65 should limit their daily alcohol intake to a maximum of 1.5 units. This is equivalent to a little over half of a pint of beer or a small glass of wine.

As we age, our bodies change. On the exterior, we notice lines, wrinkles, and extra weight. Our skin isn’t as strong or elastic as it used to be. Inside we:

• Lose muscle.
• Accumulate fat.
• Break down Alcohol more slowly.

This means that we become more susceptible to the effects and consequences of Alcohol, and we also react more gradually and tend to lose our sense of balance. So, even if we consume the same amount of Alcohol as we age, it will likely impact us more than younger people.

Are there any risks to ‘sensible’ drinking?

Just because we consume within limits does not mean that it is safe. Remarkably little research has been done on older people, so we may think these limitations apply to everyone. Certain specific issues need to be addressed:

• Health problems can make us more susceptible to Alcohol.
• Balance declines with age – even a slight amount of Alcohol can make you more unstable and more likely to fall.

Alcohol can:
• Add to the effect of some medications, e.g., painkillers or sleeping tablets.
• Reduce the effect of others, e.g., medication to thin the blood (warfarin) – this can heighten the chances of bleeding or the formation of clots or blockages in your bloodstream.

Review whether drinking with your health problems or medication is safe with your doctor.

Alcohol can damage nearly every part of the body:

• The stomach lining, which can lead to ulcers or bleeding.
• The liver, which can lead to cirrhosis and liver failure.
• Heart muscle which can lead to Heart failure, produces a build-up of fluid in the lungs, making you breathless.
• Cancer of the mouth, stomach, and liver
• Malnutrition, Alcohol has plenty of calories for energy but none of the protein, fats, or vitamins you need to keep your body in good repair.
• Sense of balance which can lead to falls and accidents (even with ‘sensible’ drinking)
• Blackouts or fits
• Stroke
• Poor sleep leads to daytime tiredness.

Not everyone who drinks too much will develop health difficulties, but the more you drink, the more likely you will.

5. Smoking

Quitting smoking will help lower your cholesterol, blood pressure, and heart rate, among other benefits. You will smell better too!

No matter your age or how long you’ve been smoking, this information is relevant.; quitting smoking at any time improves your health and could add years to your life. When you quit, you will breathe more easily, have more energy, and save money. Additionally, you will:

• Lessen your risk of cancer, heart attack, stroke, and lung disease.
• Maintain better blood circulation.
• Enhance your sense of taste and smell.
• Stop smelling like smoke!
• Set a healthful example for your family and friends.

Many advise that the first step to quitting smoking is to decide to quit and pick a definite date to stop. Plan to deal with the circumstances that trigger your craving to smoke. You may be required to try different approaches to find the best. For example, you might:

• Consult with your doctor.
• Read self-help information.
• Attend individual or group counselling.
• Ask a friend for support.
• Consider what you can do with the money you spend on cigarettes.
• Go for a walk, try a new activity or hobby you enjoy.
• Take medicine to help with nicotine withdrawal symptoms, which your doctor can advise and prescribe.

Some individuals are concerned about gaining weight when they stop. If that worries you, prepare to exercise and be physically engaged when you quit—it may distract you from your craving and is essential for healthy aging.

Breaking the addiction

You may need support to manage your body’s nicotine craving when you stop smoking. Nicotine substitute products aid some smokers in quitting, and you can buy gum, patches, or lozenges over the counter.

There are even prescription medications that may help you to quit. A nicotine nasal spray or inhaler can lessen withdrawal symptoms; other medications may also assist with withdrawal symptoms. Speak with your doctor regarding which medicines might be best for you.

The great news is that subsequently, after you stop smoking, even in your 60s, 70s, or beyond:

• Your heart rate and blood pressure will fall to more normal levels.
• Your nerve endings start to regenerate so you can taste and smell better.
• Your heart, lungs, and circulatory system will begin to function better.
• You will feel out of breath less frequently.
• The likelihood of you having a heart attack or stroke will drop.
• Your breathing will improve.
• Your chance of getting cancer will lessen.

You may need several tries before you quit smoking for good. If you have a cigarette, you are not a failure, and you can try again and succeed. It’s always possible to get advantages from quitting smoking!

6. Sleep

Get good quality sleep – seven to eight hours of sleep is recommended.

How does aging affect sleep?

Aging affects everyone differently. While more senior adults might have no noteworthy disruptions in their sleep, others report getting less sleep and having poorer sleep quality. Here are some common sleep disturbances in older adults.

Shifting sleep schedule: As you age, the body’s circadian rhythms move ahead in time. This shift is called a phase advance. Numerous older adults encounter this.

Disruptions at night: Research has also shown that as people age, they usually experience changes in their sleep architecture.

Sleep architecture: This term refers to how people cycle through the varied stages of sleep. As people age, they tend to spend less time in the deeper stages of sleep and more time in the lighter stages. This can lead to older adults waking up more frequently at night and experiencing less restful sleep due to the fragmented nature of their sleep.
Daytime napping: According to research, approximately 25% of older adults take naps, while only around 8% of younger adults do. This information comes from a trusted source, the National Library of Medicine’s Biotech Information, part of the National Centre for Biotechnology Information. Although some experts believe that a brief nap during the day can be helpful, most agree that taking longer naps or napping later in the day can negatively impact one’s ability to fall asleep at night and cause sleep disturbances.

Older people may have a more challenging time adjusting to sudden changes in their sleep schedule, such as during daylight saving time or when experiencing jet lag. This is due to alterations in how the body regulates circadian rhythms, resulting in longer recovery times.

Is it true that older people require less sleep?

Contrary to popular belief, older individuals do not require less sleep than younger ones. It is common for many older adults to have difficulty getting enough sleep, and it is recommended by health experts that adults get a minimum of seven hours of sleep every night. Fortunately, research has revealed specific measures that older people can take to enhance their sleep. These measures typically involve adopting healthy sleep habits and improving sleep hygiene.

Exercise: Reports show that older people who exercise regularly fall asleep quicker, sleep longer, and overall say, they have better sleep quality. Exercise is one of the beneficial things older people can do for their health.

Minimise bedroom distractions: Televisions, smartphones, and glowing lights can make sleeping more challenging. Keep the television in a different room and try not to sleep with it on. Move devices out of the bedroom and reserve the bedroom for only sleeping.

Avoid substances that prevent sleep: Substances like Alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, and even big meals can make sleep more challenging. Think about quitting smoking, decreasing caffeine intake, and having dinner at least four hours before bedtime.

Keep a recurring sleep schedule: Aging can make it more difficult to regain lost sleep. Avoid rash changes in sleep schedules. This means going to bed, waking up every day simultaneously, and being careful about sleeping too long or too close to bedtime.

Develop a bedtime routine: Discover activities that enable you to unwind before bed. Many older individuals enjoy a warm bath, reading, or quiet time before bed.

7. Dental hygiene

Practice Good Dental Hygiene – protect your teeth and gums.

As you age, it’s essential to prioritize your oral health. While you may be more prone to dental issues, it doesn’t mean you’re destined to have them. You can maintain optimal oral health by following basic dental practices, like caring for your mouth, gums, and teeth.

To ensure optimal dental health, seniors can follow these helpful tips:

Brush and Floss Daily: To maintain good oral hygiene, brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste for at least 2 minutes twice daily is crucial. Flossing between your teeth daily will help remove any stuck food particles. If you do not have teeth, gently cleaning your gums with a soft cloth can help remove plaque.

Use an Antibacterial Mouthwash: To keep harmful bacteria at bay and prevent plaque build-up, after brushing or flossing your teeth, it’s recommended to rinse your mouth with an antibacterial mouthwash.

Control Sugar Intake: It is recommended to avoid consuming sweets, fizzy drinks, sports drinks, preserved dried fruits, and starchy snacks. After finishing sugary foods or beverages, brushing your teeth and rinsing your mouth with water are recommended to remove sugar.

Drink More Water: Drinking more water is vital for preventing tooth decay. Water helps wash away harmful bacteria and sugar and balances the acid levels in your mouth. It’s better to avoid sugary drinks, fruit juices, and sports drinks because they can raise acid levels and lead to enamel damage, cavities, and even tooth loss.

Proper Denture Care: Dentures can be a great long-term option for older individuals with missing teeth. However, it is essential to take adequate care of them. Follow your dentist’s instructions and notify them immediately if any issues arise. It would be best to visit your dentist once a year to ensure your dentures fit well and are in good shape.

Watch Out for Any Dental Side Effects of Medication: Some medical conditions and medications, such as dry mouth, may cause dental health issues. A dry mouth may be a common dental problem, but it can harm your general oral health as it causes plaque to adhere to the surface of your teeth quickly, increasing your risk of tooth decay and gum disease. If you are on medication, keep tabs on the changes in your oral health. Contact your dentist as soon as possible if you observe new dental problems.

Visit Your Dentist Regularly: Consulting with your trusted dentist can also provide insight into the risks associated with aging and help prevent dental health issues, allowing you to maintain healthy teeth for a lifetime.

8. Asking for help

Ask for help – don’t be stubborn! We all need help at times.

As we age, it is common to feel physically older while still feeling emotionally youthful and capable. If you have always lived independently, you might feel upset by the suggestion of needing assistance.

Preserving your independence is important when we care for you at Home Instead, we encourage you to undertake aspects of your daily routine if you want to. It is an integral part of the person-centred care that we provide.

Just because someone comes to your home to support you with certain aspects doesn’t mean you must become passive in the care you provide to yourself. At Home Instead, Ruislip & Harrow, we strongly encourage our clients to actively participate in their care and ensure your care plan includes your preferences.

We can alleviate your worries by finding ways to keep you involved in daily activities, such as cooking or maintaining hobbies and interests that you may have.

Get in touch with us today to book your free consultation. Call us on 01895 624230.

9. Self Neglect

Self-neglect is a significant international public health issue.

Self-neglect is a behavioural condition in which someone neglects to attend to their primary needs, such as feeding, appropriate clothing, personal hygiene, or tending to any medical conditions they have. More generally, any lack of self-care regarding emotional health, hygiene, and living conditions can be considered self-neglect. Diogenes syndrome is the term known for extreme self-neglect.

Without good personal hygiene, sores can develop, and minor wounds could easily become infected. Existing health problems may be worsened due to inadequate attention being paid to them by the individual. Negligence of personal hygiene may mean the person suffers social hardships and isolation.

Self-neglect can lead to the individual experiencing a general decline in attempts to sustain a healthy lifestyle.

Cognitive causes of self-neglect could also lead to the person refusing offers of help from medical or adult social services.

Self-neglect can result from brain injury, dementia, or mental illness. It can result from any psychological or physical condition influencing the person’s physical abilities, energy levels, attention, motivation, or organizational skills.

A decline in motivation can again be a side effect of psychiatric medications. Those who require them are at a much higher risk of self-neglect than what might be caused by mental illness alone.

Treatment may involve addressing the underlying issue that led to the person’s self-neglect, such as depression, dementia, or any physical conditions that make it challenging to take care of themselves.

The person may be observed so that any unusual decline in their health or degree of self-care can be seen and addressed.

To maintain the patient’s freedom and autonomy, treatment may entail carers attending to the individual’s feeding, cleaning, and clothing needs at home. Self-neglect may suggest that a person needs sheltered accommodation or residential care therapy combined with other illnesses.

They would have more opportunities for social engagement, which would further help their condition.