Healthy Aging

Many seniors are living active, healthy, and productive lives. A woman who is 65 today can expect to live, on average, another 19 years to age 84. Many women use this extra time to volunteer, travel, and spend more time with family and friends. Taking good care of your body and mind will help you enjoy this time. This can also help you better manage health issues that are more common in older adults and the unique challenges older women face.

Older Person’s Health Assessment

An Older Person’s Health Assessment is a voluntary in-depth assessment of an older person living in the community (75 years and over or, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, 55 years of age and over).

The assessment aims to identify health issues and conditions that may require further management, and includes an assessment of medical and physical health, psychological and social function.

Key issues for older women include

  • Health issues older women face include heart disease, cancer, stroke, and injuries from falls. Heart disease is a serious concern for older women. Many people think that heart disease mostly affects men. But actually, it’s the number one killer of both men and women in the U.S. Women of any age can have heart disease. But your risk rises sharply after menopause.
  • The medical community has been studying older women’s health issues in recent years. More older women are taking part in research studies such as the Women’s Health Initiative. This study included over 150,000 postmenopausal women. This research has helped health care providers learn a lot about issues like menopause, osteoporosis, and heart disease. More research has also been done on the prevention of breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer.
  • Older women have higher disability rates than men of the same age. This is not because more women develop disabilities, but because women with disabilities survive longer than men. Taking good care of yourself can lower your chances of becoming disabled. That means staying active, healthy eating, controlling stress, and seeing your doctor regularly.
  • More women are in the workforce than ever before. Yet, women often spend less time in the workforce. This is because many have taken time off to raise children or care for loved ones. Also, women often make less money than men. As a result, women tend to be at higher risk of poverty than men of the same age. Planning for your future can ensure you have what you need when you retire.
  • Additional health disparities exist for older minority women. These women have many of the same health problems as older white women. Yet, they are often in poorer health and use fewer health services. They continue to suffer more from early death, disease, and disabilities. Many also face huge social and financial barriers to having life-long good health.
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Getting the Nutrition You Need

As you get older, good nutrition plays an increasingly important role in how well you age. Eating a low-salt, low-fat diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and fiber can actually reduce your age-related risks of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, osteoporosis, and other chronic diseases. By eating a wide variety of foods, you can pretty easily get what your body needs, including:

  • Protein, which is needed to maintain and rebuild muscles. You can get low-fat, quality protein from poultry, fish, eggs or egg substitutes, soy, and limited amounts of nuts and low-fat meat and dairy.
  • Carbohydrate, which is the body’s preferred source of energy. There are two main sources of dietary carbohydrates: simple sugars, such as sucrose (the refined white sugar added to sweets and desserts), fructose (the sugar contained in fruit), and lactose (milk sugar); and complex carbohydrates, which come from vegetables and grains. Unlike refined sugars, fruits contain vitamins and fiber, dairy products contain nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D, and complex carbohydrates contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Get most of your carbohydrate calories from vegetables, grains, and fruits. And try to replace fat calories with complex carbohydrates in your diet.
  • Water, to replace water lost through activity. Because your kidneys gradually become less efficient at keeping your body hydrated, make a conscious effort to get six to eight 8fl oz glasses of water a day.

Help for managing underweight or poor nutrition

People who are underweight have low reserves for bouncing back after an illness or injury. In the later years, this can lead to permanent ill health or disability. If you have trouble keeping your weight up, it’s critical that you take special measures to build your weight, energy, and resilience. Every day, follow your doctor’s recommendations and:

  • Eat three meals plus three snacks, and never miss a meal.
  • Choose higher-calorie foods from each food group, such as whole milk instead of skim milk. But try to keep your overall saturated fat intake low-high cholesterol can affect anyone.
  • Eat the highest-calorie foods in a meal first.
  • Use liquid supplements, such as Ensure or Boost, between meals.
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Tips for Healthy Ageing

No known substance can extend life, but the chances of staying healthy and living a long time can be improved. Here are ten ways to help.

  • Eat a balanced diet, 3 regular meals and plenty of fluids (preferably water) each day.
  • Exercise regularly – at least 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise every day.  Do a range of exercise that involve balance and walking, strength, flexibility and cardiorespiratory activities.
  • Keep your weight within a healthy range.  Do you know your body mass index (BMI) and your waist circumference?  If not, find out or talk to your doctor.
  • Keep your mind active – read, write, do crosswords, play music, play games, learn new activities or skills.
  • Don’t smoke…it is never too late to quit!
  • The new Australian Alcohol Guidelines for Low Risk Drinking recommend that adults drink two standard drinks (10g of alcohol) or less a day but suggest that older people should consider drinking less or no alcohol.  The body’s ability to process alcohol decreases with age and alcohol can interact with your medication.
  • Keep a positive attitude toward life. Do things that make you happy.
  • Try and get 7-8 hours of good quality sleep regularly
  • Understand your medical conditions and your medication – whether it is arthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes etc – ensure that both are properly managed .
  • Have a medical check-up at least once a year.  If there is a problem, early detection improves outcomes.  See “Older Person’s Health Assessment” below.
  • Practice safety habits at home and in the community to prevent falls and fractures
  • Maintain contacts with your family and friends.  Stay active and socially and productively engaged through work, volunteering, recreational activities and involvement in the community.
  • Keep a positive attitude towards life and a sense of humour.  Do things that make you happy and give you meaning/purpose.
  • Be adaptive as your circumstances change, look for opportunities to meet new friends, to take on new activities, learn new skills.
  • Plan your long term housing, financial needs and your retirement activities.  Don’t wait until you retire to decide what you will do to keep active and productively engaged.
  • Eat a balanced diet, including five helpings of fruits and vegetables a day.
  • Exercise regularly (check with a doctor before starting an exercise program).
  • Get regular health check-ups.
  • Don’t smoke (it’s never too late to quit).
  • Practice safety habits at home to prevent falls and fractures. Always wear your seatbelt in a car.
  • Stay in contact with family and friends. Stay active through work, play, and community.
  • Avoid overexposure to the sun and the cold.
  • If you drink, moderation is the key. When you drink, let someone else drive.
  • Keep personal and financial records in order to simplify budgeting and investing. Plan long-term housing and money needs.