Looking after yourself with age


We now live twice as long as we did 200 years ago and around 16% of our population is over 65 years old. There is much to look forward to as we age; the winding down our working life and the joy of grandchildren and time for ourselves. Things become clearer in many ways; we find less need for commercial accumulation and can, with hope, feel a sense of satisfaction with our lives and our achievements. We care a little less about the things that might have knocked our self-confidence earlier in life. Old age need not be something to dread, but to welcome without fear. This is a time to enjoy and appreciate, to find peace with oneself and a calm, quiet sense of happiness. There can be long holidays, or lazy afternoons reading, gardening or cooking. Or perhaps non-stop events and adventures. Why not relish this time without guilt? This is the time to take up those hobbies you never found the time to do and to keep active and healthy.

However, with age comes a natural decline in our body and its capability to fight off infection and illness. We need to think about how to protect ourselves as best we can from health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, dementia and diabetes. The more we educate and inform ourselves about the natural changes in our bodies and minds and how to protect ourselves from illness, the better we can enjoy our later years without worry or fear.  Practising yoga and mindfulness is a great way of keeping the body supple and strong throughout life, as well as regular walking, swimming and tennis. 

Most of us know what a healthy, balanced diet looks like. However, when we age we need to make sure we increase the levels of fibre, omega-3 fatty acids and consume more calcium, vitamin D and B12 due to a natural decline in our bone strength and a decreasing ability to process vitamins. Although many older adults will take vitamin supplements it is good to know where to find these vitamins in our foods. Calcium can be found in milk, cheese and yoghurts but also leafy greens, seafood, dried fruit and tofu. Vitamin D is in fatty fish such as tuna, mackerel and salmon. Vitamin B12 can be found in fortified cereals, beef, liver, salmon and milk and dairy products.

The Eatwell Guide is a helpful place to start if you need some nutritional direction and clearly shows the proportions of food and how best to balance your diet.