Healthy aging – “Optimizing opportunities for good health, so that older people can take an active part in society and enjoy an independent and high quality of life.”
Some see aging as a burden, but it does not necessarily have to be so. Older people can be very valuable for society and enjoy a high quality of life in good health. Elderly are more and more concerned with health aging and there are a few things you can do to contribute to a healthy aging process.
Healthy food and nutrition; Food preferences are often developed at a young age and thus what you eat during your whole life, might affect the way you age. The relation between diet and certain health issues are very clear. For example some cancers as well as diabetes are often associated with nutrition and without a doubt, these diseases influence the way in which you age. The ideal diet is different for everyone and the affect it has on your aging process is also different for everyone. But it is clear that a balanced diet and healthy food are never a bad choice.
Also physical activity participates to healthy aging, obviously. Physical activity has proven to reduce the number of diseases one gets, reduce risk of falling, and also positively affect the mental health. This physical activity may vary for everyone. Some older people are frailer than others and can only engage in walking activities but others easily run a few miles, cycle or swim and some play team sports. The level of activity is not necessarily most important, what is important is that you stay fit in your own way.
Social inclusion can contribute to healthy aging because it reduces the possibility for mental health diseases. It is important to encourage seniors to actively participate in society and to accept them as part of the society. More social interaction and participation leads to a broader network and strong relationships with family, friends and caregivers. Social inclusion can for example reduce loneliness and depression and thus improve mental health.
We have written before that seniors are more demanding as they age, especially for education. Life-long learning is not only a desire for elderly but also contributes to their health. Life-long learning does not only mean employment related learning, it also means learning for personal development and for the enjoyment of it. Life-long learning is related to social inclusion that has been mentioned before to be contributing to better health.
Similar to life-long learning is participation in the work force and voluntary work. Seniors more and more demand this participation to society and it also influences the process of healthy aging. Furthermore, it contributes to social inclusion and this again positively affects mental health. The difficulty with participation in the labor force is the existence of age discrimination; you can read more about age discrimination in one of our previous article.
The living environment of people has a significant role in the aging process. An environment that is age friendly is more likely to stimulate physical activity and social interaction. An age friendly environment is often described as green areas where time can be spend outdoors. These areas should be easy to access and feel safe for the elderly. To make an area age-friendly there are some things to take into consideration such as transport, housing, social services, outdoor areas and public buildings. Making an area age-friendly often only takes minor changes, but can improve quality of life of many.
And then of course healthcare, well-arranged long-term care contributes significantly to a healthy ageing process. All above-mentioned factors that can improve quality of life for the elderly can be stimulated by the care they receive.