Aug 13, 2020
Each one of us aspires to live a long and healthy life. The environment we live in influences our behaviour, and exposure to risk. Thus a need arises for quality health and support. Every one of us can experience healthy ageing. Healthy Aging is developing the environments and opportunities that enable people to be and do what they value throughout their lives.
WHO defines Healthy ageing ‘as the process of developing and maintaining the functional ability that enables wellbeing in older age’. Functional ability is made up of the inner capacity of the individual, relevant environmental conditions, and the interaction between them. The inner capacity is influenced by factors like mental and physical behaviours, genes, age-related changes, and genetics. The Environment includes housing, community, transportation, attitudes, values, social facilities, assistive technologies, and the support system.
Elderly is an incredibly valuable resource for society and to continue being an active person in the society, elderly too without age discrimination should participate/engage and or get opportunities in activities boosting their physical, social and mental wellbeing. The decade from 2020 to 2030 is described by the United Nations as a 'Decade of healthy aging'. Older people are the main focus of this plan and also an aim to bring together civil society, governments, interdisciplinary professionals, international agencies, media, and private sectors to improve the lives of older people, their families, and communities. Through this article, I would like to mention the 8R’s as tips for healthy aging.
1. Regular exercise and physical activity: Exercising regularly and involving oneself in physical activities like walking with the pet, gardening, using stairs, and brisk walking increases stamina and improves health. Exercises help to prevent falls, reduces the risk of bone stiffening, and free movement of muscles. It can be an effective treatment for diseases like arthritis, heart ailments, diabetes, etc.
2. Routine checkups: Ageing itself is a challenge to be healthy, leading to increased doctor’s visits and need to care. With proper health check-up packages, physicians can detect the early signs of disease and help maintain the baseline and promote healthier aging. Other than the routine tests we undergo, depending on the gender there are additional tests that one needs to check. It’s also necessary that like the way we check our physical and functional health, due importance should also be given to our cognitive and emotional health.
3. Relax: Engaging in the activities of one’s interests can be relaxing. Sticking to the sleep schedule helps the elderly with insomnia. Some simple tips to be followed include avoid caffeine in the evening, keep the bedroom dark, turn off the cell phone, avoid naps more than 20 minutes during daytime, etc. Deep breathing and meditation can help ease stress, pain, and increase flexibility. Keeping a gratitude journal strengthens emotional resilience.
4. Rich nutritious diet: Many health issues are connected to overweight or obesity but being thinner is not healthier either. Dietary patterns influence the BMI, thus diet must include fibre-rich foods, low-fat dairy products, fruits, vegetables, and lean meat products. Supplements strictly prescribed by doctors like calcium, vitamin B6, B12, and D can be included. Intake of enough liquids is necessary not to get dehydrated.
5. Recreational activities: Well-planned recreations such as listening to music of interest, involving in art and craft, visiting old friends, playing board games, volunteering work, and engaging in old hobbies helps elderly utilize their leisure time, and improve their physical and psychological wellbeing.
6. Restrain from alcohol, smoking, and other addictions: Recent studies have shown that midlife and late-life smokers had a greater risk of developing dementia. Tobacco harmed daily functioning. (Michel et al, 2016). The positive effect of light to moderate alcohol consumption on longevity was completely rejected by a 6 year follow up Pianoro study. Systematic review and meta-analysis of longitudinal studies on alcohol consumption and healthy ageing revealed equivocal results. (Daskalopoulou, et al, 2018). However, it needs more research in this area.
7. Research on healthy ageing: Practitioners, professionals, and researchers must consider research addressing topics on the current needs of elderly, future challenges, and determinants of healthy ageing and interventions to improve healthy ageing trajectories. Studies can also emphasize on research priorities and gaps to improve health equity. Thus contributing to and learn from such a knowledge base.
8. Reverse approach: ‘We will not hold their hands; they will hold our hands’. One should not underestimate the elderly power only due to their age. The knowledge, skills, and experience they have should not be devalued. Important here is they should not be placed in the receiving end. They are an asset and guide for preserving the cultural and folk traditions, old values, and rituals.
I would also like to inform the readers that the Manipal Academy of Higher Education (MAHE) in May 2020 has launched the Centre for Studies on Healthy Ageing (CSHA) aiming to promote health and participation in old age. The centre also encourages young groups to age healthy and be independent.