Hitting our 60s should mean finally having the time to travel, take up hobbies, get involved in community and interest groups and socialise more with friends and family. And these days we expect to be living independently in our own home as we get older, rather than living with family members or in a nursing home.
The key to making this happen is good health.
Strength, stamina and agility can help us get the best out of our physical activities, strong bones can keep us out of hospital, good diet can help prevent cardiovascular disease, strong teeth help us eat healthily and good mental health helps us make the most of good times and deal with bad times. Even the self-confidence that comes from having good skin, good teeth, a healthy weight and a spring in your step can do wonders for overall positivity and zest for life.
Undoubtedly some aspects of health in our senior years are a direct result of the lifestyle we led in youth or middle-age as former music industry professional, Brian Lawler, knows. In his 20s and 30s, Brian was a roadie and sound technician who spent a lot of time in pubs and clubs with loud music. As Brian got older, his loss of hearing really bugged him.
“In my late 40s I found it harder and harder to pick up conversation, especially at parties and in crowds, but even in restaurants. I coped by talking constantly so I wouldn’t have to listen. My partner eventually complained that I was boring everybody stupid by telling the same stories over and over again!”
It won’t help Brian, but at least these days occupational health and safety programs acknowledge the irreversible damage caused by loud noise, with ear plugs now more commonly worn – although the rising popularity of personal music players often played at loud volume has hearing specialists concerned for future hearing health of younger people.
Fortunately, it may not be too late to do something about other health issues affecting older people, as Brenda Moss discovered.
When she was in her mid-60s, Brenda was all set to go on a coach holiday in north-western Australia, when she realised that she wouldn’t physically be able to do it.
“The tour wasn’t particularly strenuous, but it was the little things, like climbing stairs and carrying a suitcase from the bus to the hotel room that concerned me. And I didn’t want to miss out on views and things that I couldn’t see from the bus window. So I didn’t go.”
Having lived a fairly sedentary life, and now weighing almost 90kg with high blood pressure and sore knees due mainly to excess weight, Brenda decided that losing the weight was her ticket to physical freedom. By making small changes to her diet, she lost more than 15kg, and started walking, swimming and later strength training.
“It’s changed my life and my future”, she says. “At 67 I can do things I couldn’t do in middle age, my knees don’t bother me as much, I’ve ditched the blood pressure medication and I’m even planning to go on a cycling tour in New Zealand.”
Studies of centenarians have revealed key healthy living tips for making the most of your life as you get older. They include:
- Eating a Mediterranean-type diet
- Being physically active
- Engaging in intellectual stimulation
- Having good family ties, a supportive social network and community links
- Avoiding smoking
- Not drinking too much alcohol
It’s never too late or too early to start thinking about changing your habits so I want to know what you plan to do to secure a healthy retirement.
Have you made any changes to help you live a longer, healthier life or do you have health regrets? What are the excesses of your youth and middle age that you would undo (if you could) for a more healthy life in older age? Is there anything you wish you’d done in your younger years to prepare you for better health later on?