5 Common Pitfalls of Ageing & How to Avoid Them
by Catherine Morris | September 23, 2020, updated about 2 months ago
Ageing is unavoidable. The body you inhabit at 20 will be different when you’re 70, but that doesn't mean you can't keep it in top condition.
You'd maintain a beloved sports car by keeping the engine well-oiled, and the exterior well polished, because you know that’s what’ll keep it going faster, for longer. As we get older, we encounter health pitfalls of all kinds. We acquire bad dietary habits or become more sedentary, or both—and that’s what’s going to slow you down in the long run.
1. Slowing Down
As our bodies age we tend to become more protective of them. Worrying about over stretching a muscle or worse, breaking a bone is entirely understandable. You’ll be more prone to have these concerns if you’re older, but the truth is that building flexibility and strength in a gradual, safe, and supervised environment will make those kinds of accidents unlikely.
A resilient body is a body that's used to movement. You want a resilient body. As you enter your later years you should be thinking about maintaining core strength, improving balance, and focusing on flexibility. If you've had health issues in the past and are now afraid to exert yourself too much, don't worry—there's almost always some form of exercise that will suit your abilities and physical limits. Those individuals who are wheelchair bound due to rheumatoid arthritis, those who have just suffered a heart attack, and those who’ve never put much emphasis on exercise in the past—all of these people are able to add more movement into their lives, particularly if they have the support of a knowledgeable professional. Of course, check with your medical team before embarking on any new fitness routine, and enlist the help of a trainer or other fitness professional with experience in senior health.
An excellent option for those with joint complaints, is swimming. Swimming offers seniors a chance to build strength and stamina without putting stress on the joints. Yoga keeps joints supple and improves balance. You might also consider taking a dance class—dance not only improves balance and gait in seniors (reducing the risk of falls), it also has an anti-ageing effect on the brain.
2. Not Challenging Yourself Mentally
Being part of your body, the brain ages alongside the rest of you, and just like our muscles, it needs to stay active to stay healthy.
Learning new physical hobbies like dancing helps, but it might also be a good time to take up something creative. Learning a musical instrument lights up a number of areas of the brain, which keeps it looking younger and more alert.
Lingering over a tricky crossword, or a difficult Sudoku, staves off memory loss and keeps you sharp in old age, says one study. Dementia patients report fewer forgetful episodes when they do regular crosswords and other word puzzles.
3. Staying Home
Loneliness among seniors is a growing problem, and it’s a killer. Social isolation is linked to heart disease, stroke, depression, dementia, and hypertension.
Joining community groups can help—particularly when those groups combine companionship with physical or mental activity. Examples include walking groups, painting classes, singing in a choir, and signing up for senior's yoga—whatever you're into, your local community centre or gym is likely to have a class for that. Of course, given Covid-19, you may want to sharpen your mind and build community at the same time by participating in online group classes, and chats.
If depression or loneliness strikes, it may be best to book a session with a therapist or counsellor. This can be done online, over the phone, or in-person depending on your comfort and technological know-how.
4. Giving Up on Healthy Eating
It's tempting to kick back and reach for the comfort food once you hit 60. You might stop cooking— something that happens when kids move out of the house and the imperative to feed a family in an economic fashion no longer exists, or you don't have the energy or the same passion for it.
Good nutrition is important at every stage of life. There's absolutely nothing wrong with indulging occasionally and enjoying your food, but it might be time to reevaluate your needs. Pay attention to the nutritional deficiencies that may crop up as you age, not least because nutrient deficiencies are linked to many age-related conditions such as Alzheimer's, dementia, and some cancers.
Some of the most common nutrient deficiencies among seniors include—
- Calcium—Essential for bone health
- Vitamin D—Important for immunity
- Magnesium—Helps in sleep quality
- B vitamins—Required for energy
A nutritionist or dietitian can help you identify where your nutritional deficiencies are, and then create a meal plan to address any problems that you may identify. Although it's ideal to get what you need from whole foods, sometimes supplementing can help.
5. Not Planning for the Inevitable
It's an uncomfortable topic, but the reality is that we should all be thinking about what comes next. Making a clear end-of-life plan can give you and your family peace of mind. You planned your career, your children, your purchase of a home, and hopefully you’ll plan for your twilight years, or devastating accidents, as well.
Senior advocates can help the elderly and their families navigate issues that may arise later in life. This involves drawing up treatment plans for any health concerns that may arise, ironing out possible future legal wrinkles like power of attorney and wills, financial planning, and preparing for the unexpected.
The reality is that we are all going to die, and sometimes that can involve a long illness or an abrupt emergency. Anyone with dependent family members or significant assets can help those left behind by providing clear instructions to follow in the midst of a difficult time, when it’s tough to think straight—be you in your 20s, 30s, 40s, or… you get it.
End of life doulas also provide a service to help both dying persons and their families through the end-of-life process—giving advice, companionship, comfort and helping to plan a remembrance service when the time comes.
Wellness and self-care isn’t just for the young, it’s for every responsible adult. We owe it to ourselves and our loved ones to think about the future, no matter which decade we’re living.
As one of our practitioners, Adrian Allotey says “We live unto our last breath.”
Our extensive network of Which Doctor practitioners is ready to help seniors and the elderly at every stage. Whether you're looking for a naturopath, nutritionist, physiotherapist, counsellor, life coach or end of life doula, reach out and connect with us today.
Catherine Morris is an award-winning journalist with a bad case of wanderlust and a passion for all things health and wellness. Originally from Northern Ireland, she worked as a news and feature writer for media outlets in the UK, South Africa, France and the Caribbean before settling in Canada. Catherine now lives in Alberta with her husband and rescue mutt and spends her time happily exploring the great outdoors with both.