'Old age is no place for sissies' – Bette Davies.
Bette Davies was right – things do generally become more challenging as we get older. But not necessarily; more and more people are living active and fulfilling lives well into their 70s, 80s, 90s and beyond.
Look at the latest statistics from the DVLA. More than 4.5 million people in the UK are driving into their 70s, with 100,000 drivers on our roads being aged 90 or over. And they're not doddering around creating hazards on our roads, either: men aged 70+ men have four times fewer accidents than younger men.
So how can you ensure that you – or your mum or dad – are among the growing army of active elderly? Studies by institutions such as Aston University, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and King's College London which have looked into care and wellbeing, rather than just an individual's health, indicate that taking care of yourself – or your loved one – is key; it not only leads to better health outcomes, but also better quality of life, with people who enjoy good care support or who take good care of themselves reporting that they are happier.
It is this ethos that underpins everything that we do at All About Home Care, when we are structuring the support that we provide for our elderly clients in Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge, Sevenoaks, Southborough and the surrounding villages. We believe that a little bit of help in key areas of life can make a big difference to health, wellbeing and happiness.
You'll find loads of advice out there – enough to confuse you and make you feel swamped. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, we've pulled together our insights into the few key things you need to focus on to make a real difference to your own health, wellbeing and happiness, or that of your elderly relative or neighbour.
At All About Home Care, we often talk about two Me's. You won't have heard of them before, but they make it really simple to remember what you should be doing.
The active Me's
Move: Incorporating exercise into your daily routine can keep your core stable and avoid muscle wastage, which minimise the risk of falls in later life. It might not necessarily mean joining a gym, but just doing little and often to keep your joints moving. You could join a walking group or park further away when going to the supermarket. It's also important not to rush things; changes in blood pressure can cause dizziness over time, so take it easy when getting up.
Eat well: Our smell and tastes change over time, which mean foods we used to enjoy might not taste as good. Therefore, try experimenting using herbs and spices rather than just putting more salt into meals. We also produce less saliva later in life so it's important to have a drink at the ready to wash our food down. When you fancy a snack, try fruit or nuts rather than reaching for a biscuit.
Skin: It's vital that we look after our skin because, as we get older, it tends to get thinner and less supple which means we are more vulnerable to cuts and tears; our feet especially deserve extra TLC. Try using moisturisers through the day and always consult a doctor if you start to bruise more.
The supportive Me's
Mind: It's important that we stay social to keep our mind active. You can join a group that relates to one of your interests or hobbies, such as a choir or art group. Or you could set up a lunch club or volunteer at a charity shop – anything that keeps you interacting with other people.
Environment: As we age, changes in our eyes mean we are not as sensitive to light. Making sure we open the curtains during the day to maximise natural light and have high-quality, low-energy lamps for the evenings is a simple thing we can do to see well and avoid accidents around the house.
Sleep well: As we age, our sleep pattern can change. Looking after your mind and environment are likely to help ensure we get a good night's sleep, but it is also key to go to bed and get up at regular times to keep our body clock intact. Another aspect of ageing is often the need to visit the loo during the night. Making sure you drink plenty of fluid earlier in the day (to also reduce the risk of urinary tract infections) and going to the loo before bed can reduce the number of times your sleep is disturbed. You can then awake with the energy and enthusiasm to enjoy every day.
Following these small tips will increase your chances of living a fitter, more fulfilling life as you get older.