Each of us is aging. And as a nation, Canada is aging faster than ever before. Women and men experience aging in various ways, and women far outnumber men in the oldest age groups (80-plus).
The evidence is clear. Older adults can live longer, healthier lives by remaining socially involved, increasing their physical activity level, eating healthily, taking action to minimize their risk of falling, and avoiding smoking.
Today, people aged 65 and older make up around 13 percent of the Canadian population. About nine million seniors will be there by 2031, accounting for 25 percent of the total population.
Diet plays a significant role in a healthy aging process. The findings of comparative studies consistently show a clear association between longevity and caloric restriction. Some research has also indicated that balanced diets and dietary restrictions are a preventative factor linked to the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and cancer.
Healthy body weight measured according to current Body Mass Index (BMI) tables; between 18.5 and 24.9, is considered normal and healthy. Both low and high BMIs are deemed dangerous for older adults. A BMI of less than 20 was associated with an increased risk of death, particularly related to pneumonia. A very low BMI may also indicate malnutrition and may also indicate anorexia or bulimia. High BMIs in both males and females from all ethnic groups are correlated with earlier mortality rates. High BMI (over 30), which may be just one aspect of the overall lifestyle that includes lack of exercise, is associated with a 2-3-fold increase in early death risk, especially from a heart attack, stroke, and diabetes.
But it’s not just the amount that counts—the low quality of the food is often unhealthy. The consumption of recommended vitamins has been associated with longevity. Non-nutritive diets can accelerate the physical decline. One diet and physical decline research in 1,000 older adults showed that low intakes of vitamins C, D, E, and protein were positively associated with accelerated physical decline.
An abundance of evidence indicates the many advantages of physical fitness, showing that daily exercise slows down the aging physiological phase. Both aerobic and resistance exercises are essential for healthy aging and, particularly, for preventing hypokinesia, muscle loss and bone mass, which is a significant factor leading to physiological decline.
“Use it or lose it” depicts the mentality that researchers have developed exploring aging processes. Like diet, the integration of preventive measures in this field is essential to aging’s positive experience.
The living area is considered an individual’s “home space,” and, as developmental needs shift, this atmosphere warrants continued attention. Positive subjective feelings about “home space” tend to be strong predictors of happiness for older adults regardless of their degree of physical well-being.
Older adults who are more relaxed in their home space are more likely to engage in healthy living practices. Maintaining the home atmosphere and modifying the home or institutional space to suit older adults’ needs can also be critical to maintaining their independence.
Tobacco use and exposure to second-hand smoke are correlated with the development and progression of many chronic illnesses, mobility limitations, disability, and reduced physical function.
Smoking deaths result in an estimated loss of 15 years of expected life. Besides, seniors with heart disease, asthma, and other chronic health conditions are especially vulnerable to second-hand smoke exposure.
Fortunately, it’s never too late to quit. Quitting can increase the quality and length of life and reduce the risk of illness, decline, and death.
It is estimated that about 20% of older adults have some diagnosable mental issues, and others are dealing with less severe mental health changes. Depression and anxiety are the two most widely identified psychological disorders in older adults.
Guidance and short psychotherapy can be useful in addressing these issues. It has also been shown that short-term family-oriented prevention and intervention efforts with older adults can minimize mild depression and anxiety.
Researchers assert that preventative psychological treatments could be successful, including adaptation to chronic illness, pain management, sleep disturbance therapy, grief and loss support, support for caregivers, and retirement counseling.