In a culture that prizes youthfulness it is easy to understand why many of us are wary about growing old. Your lifestyle and how you feel about the ageing process generally will influence how well you will mature physically and mentally.
Resolve to feel better NOW
Psychologist on behalf of Healthspan Dr Megan Arroll says, ‘Although we’re living longer and generally healthier lives, the fact that only 38% of Brits say they expect to be healthy in later life is a reflection of our current beliefs around health.
Making changes can feel like a tremendous mountain to climb – plus constant health scare stories and fear-mongering in the news can lead to us feeling why should we bother. By changing our mindset we increase our chances of maintaining a healthy body and mind throughout our lifespan.
A key to this is boosting our belief that we can influence our health – try using phrases such as ‘I am an exerciser” and “I am a healthy eater” rather than future-focused statements, e.g. “I will exercise”. Research shows that positioning our internal health narratives in the present will help nudge us into action, protecting our health now and in later years.’
Hurry up – and invest in some weights
It is well documented that muscles become weaker with age and remaining active and exercising regularly should help keep you healthier and more mobile in later life. Whatever you do, continue doing it.
Walking it fine – but the latest evidence is that the faster you do it the more you reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Strength training – which uses resistance like a dumb belle or your own body weight to produce muscle contractions – has been found to be particularly beneficial in reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes as well as helping to reduce bone loss and easing pain like that of arthritis.
Eat age appropriately
As the survey suggests, for most of us, it is not ageing in itself that is so much the concern, it is ageing unhealthily – not being able to get around easily, worrying about illness and disease and not being able to live independently.
What, and how much, we eat becomes more significant as we tend not to burn as many calories and absorb less nutrients (including calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and co-enzyme Q10) plus we can find our appetite diminishes and we might not be getting as wide a range of nutrients as we need.
This means the food you do eat needs to be nutritionally dense. The government guidelines suggest two portions of oily fish a week to give you essential fatty acids. Medical Nutritionist Dr Sarah Brewer author of Live Longer, Look Younger: in 20 Easy Steps, adds we should be getting enough of these five key foods: dark green leafy vegetables, tomatoes, garlic, soy products and nuts and seeds.
Take strategic supplements
If you are not absorbing nutrients from your food as efficiently as you once did and/or are not eating as much or as well as you should a multivitamin and mineral should help to reduce any nutritional shortfall. The evidence for this is encouraging: One small study involving around 100 elderly people showed those who had taken a multivitamin for a year had improved immune function and 50 per cent fewer days ill than those not taking one.
Look for ones specifically designed for your age group like Healthspan’s Multivitamin 50+, from £6.45 and 70+, £16.95. Chances are you could also benefit from vitamin D supplementation as our ability to synthesise it from exposure to sunlight decreases with age and there are few rich food sources of it.
Get a new generation of friends
Being active in your community – from chatting to, and helping out, your neighbours to volunteering locally should help to keep you connected, engaged with the world and feeling useful and wanted.
People who stay connected and challenge themselves mentally and keep themselves abreast of news and contemporary culture are more likely to have a more positive time of getting older. Embracing things and people who make you feel good is important at any age and is also more likely to stop you fixating on, or feeling negative about, getting older.
Believe things can only get better…
Dr Megan Arroll (drmegarroll.com) says, ‘We are confronted with ageism in our society which is hard to escape until we become aware of our own age stereotypes – these can have a negative effect on self-belief, confidence, health and can indeed shorten lifespan.
Research has shown that people with positive perceptions about getting older lived on average 7.5 years longer than lose with more negative beliefs. Banish ageist stereotypes by focusing on positive role models who embrace their generational identity.
Also, keep dreaming about the future – think about what you will be doing in the years to come (e.g. learning a new skills, travelling or simply enjoying life without the self-consciousness of youth) and place yourself in this world of opportunities’.
* Ipsos Mori – March 2019Last modified: May 22, 2019