Ageing is inevitable, but our quality of life is very much within our control. Of course, it's only natural for our bodies to slow down in later years, but the good news is that there are several health and lifestyle factors we can all address to ensure that we're still able to lead the life we want as we age.
So, what does healthy ageing really mean?
The World Health Organization (WHO) has defined healthy ageing as "a process of maintaining functional ability to enable wellbeing in older age" ¹. 'Functional ability' means being able to¹:
- meet basic needs,
- learn, grow and make decisions,
- be mobile,
- build and maintain relationships, and
- contribute to society
It's an essential checklist to remember. Addressing these physical, mental and environmental factors, along with the social effects of ageing, will allow us to live the kind of life we want as we grow older.
Why should we try?
Life has the potential to become even better as we age! Taking steps towards ageing is all about maintaining independence and remaining fit and healthy enough to be still able to do the things we want to do. Whether it's keeping up with the grandkids, leading an active social life, accomplishing a goal or learning a new skill, maintaining our wellbeing as we get older is crucial for ageing better. After all, age is nothing but a number, right?
Tips for Ageing Well
Prioritise your physical and mental health. By doing so, you can maximise the likelihood of being mobile, fit and independent enough to lead the kind of life you want. Here are a few key ways you can do it²:
Benefits of Exercise and Staying Active
Incorporate daily movement into your routine; this doesn't mean a strenuous workout at the gym! Instead, it could mean walking briskly, gardening, swimming or dancing. Aim for 30 minutes of activity that raises your heart rate 3-5 times a week.² For those with a disability, activities can include resistance band work or walking but consult with your doctor first about the types and amounts of physical activity suitable to your abilities³.
Diet & Nutrition
- Eat a healthy diet with five portions of fruits and vegetables daily to ensure you take the required vitamins and nutrient intake. Eating well will also allow you to maintain a healthy weight—another vital part of ageing well².
The Effects of Alcohol & Benefits of Hydration
- Keep alcohol to a minimum and drink plenty of water. The average adult male should drink around 3.7L of water a day, while adult females should aim for 2.7L of water² ⁴.
Sleep & Stress Management
- Get the required amount of sleep per day. For the average adult, this would be around 7-9 hours² ⁵.
- Keep socially active with friends and family or participate in the local community, which could mean a regular coffee catch-up with a friend or signing up for activities such as a book club or walking group².
Stimulate Your Mind
- Remember your brain health! You can do this by engaging in mentally stimulating activities such as learning a language, doing crosswords or puzzles, reading books or taking up a hobby².
- Look after your physical wellbeing by focusing on critical things such as maintaining a healthy blood pressure level and looking after your oral health, eyesight and hearing. Be sure to have regular check-ups with your GP to ensure you're keeping abreast of any health issues and address them early on².