Holistic Wellness for the Elderly
Contributing Author: James Fleming – Vive Health
Do you relish the thought of growing old or do you dread the changes that come with it?
Gray hair, wrinkles, poor eyesight, and physical weakness are common to aging, but with a healthy lifestyle and regular check-ups getting older won’t necessarily equate to sickness or poor quality of life.
People from the age of 65 and above comprise the elderly population, which is projected to rise to 98.2 million in the year 2060 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. From this statistics, 19.7 million will likely live at the ripe age of 85 or older.
Data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that the average life expectancy among the elderly rose to 78.8 years in 2014 compared to 74 years during the 1990s. What this means for you is if you consciously take good care of yourself at 65, then you might reach that life expectancy. You might even blow out your birthday cake candles on your 90th birthday.
Simple Steps to Staying Healthy While Aging
There is no way to stop the body from aging and certain factors beyond your control might impact your health. Still, you hold the key to how long you can enjoy life by taking some simple steps.
- Cut down on vices and excesses like smoking, drinking alcohol or eating foods that can accelerate the decline of your health.
- Maintain an ideal weight for your body type since both severe weight loss and weight gain can lead to serious health issues.
- Get enough physical exercises so that your body remains active.
- Get enough sleep and rest to give your body cells a chance to rejuvenate and strengthen your immune system.
- Do mentally stimulating activities like reading books, doing arts and crafts, or listening to music to keep your mind sharper.
- Avoid stressors, socialize with family and friends, and keep a positive outlook on life.
- Visit your healthcare provider for regular check-ups, screenings, guidance, recommendations, and preventive care.
Common Problem Areas in Older People’s Health
Old age itself is a risk factor for chronic health conditions and lifestyle diseases. Other common risk factors for diseases, therefore, shouldn’t be overlooked.
SKIN. It’s normal for old people to develop wrinkles, sagging skin, spots, and blemishes as the skin loses its elasticity and luster with age. You can, however, slow down the appearance of skin problems with proper skin care.
Protect your skin from damage with regular application of sunscreen, moisturizers or lotion. If you notice unusual or irritating spots, tags, and pigmentation, consider visiting your dermatologist to check for skin cancer.
TEETH. Tooth decay and cavities occur at any age, hence you need to follow proper dental hygiene consistently to avoid tooth loss. A minor oral problem in older people, however, might develop as gum disease that can affect chewing, swallowing or talking.
Don’t ignore this and get a dental check-up as soon as possible.
If you’re taking maintenance or prescription medications, you might be prone to dry mouth, cracked lips, soreness or oral sensitivity. These discomforts can be addressed during regular dental visits.
BONES. The protection that covers the bones eventually thin out due to aging. The bones become fragile and brittle while the joints become susceptible to inflammation. Osteoporosis and arthritis are commonly associated with old age but you can reduce these risks by eating foods rich in calcium and doing regular exercises to boost strength and endurance.
DIGESTIVE SYSTEM. Older people experience constipation more frequently than younger people because of factors like lack of fiber in the diet, long periods of inactivity, and taking certain medications. If you suffer from persistent constipation coupled with bloating, gas and cramps, however, it’s best to have this checked as it might be a symptom of a diverticular disease of the colon where small out-pouchings develop in the weak parts of your intestinal walls.
NERVOUS SYSTEM. Reflexes, memory, and senses like hearing, seeing and tasting are no longer sharp in old age because the brain takes a longer time to react to stimuli and process information. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, approximately 10% of people above 65 years old are at risk of developing Alzheimer’s and this is a pressing concern among caregivers and health workers in the United States. Reduce your risks with physical activity, balanced diet, and regular brain exercises.
HEART. The walls around the heart thicken as fat deposits build up over the years and it causes the heart to enlarge among older people.
This is partly the reason why you experience shortness of breath just by doing simple activities like walking and climbing the stairs.
An enlarged heart with clogged arteries forces the heart to work double time to pump blood in the system. Diet change, weight loss, and prescribed medications can help ease cardiovascular issues but you will also need to regularly monitor your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar levels to catch any signs of heart disease.
Healthy aging is possible if you set your mind and will yourself to commit to it. By following these wellness tips, you might still experience the world in your ‘70s, ‘80s or even ‘90s, while still sharp as a tack.