Ageing is inevitable but “ageing well” requires some planning.
I’m in my 50s, relatively healthy, and trying to stay in shape. So “aging well” didn’t enter my daily thoughts until I moved my elderly parents (85 & 91 years old) into my house. What I’ve seen is that lifestyle and quality of life can change very rapidly at their age. When they moved in 4 years ago, they were extremely active and entirely self-sufficient. But, a fall, a complicated broken hip, and a long hospital stay, has totally changed the way they live and severely limited the things they do.
In helping aging relatives navigate life changes as they age, some advanced planning makes all the difference. Here are a few critical things to consider:
- Consider the Suitability of a Home for Ageing – Think about mobility restrictions that are extremely common as we get older. Give thought to how a walker or a wheelchair might move around in the house and whether there is good access to the key rooms – bathroom, bedroom and kitchen. Evaluate places in and around the house that create risk for falls; an occupational therapist can be consulted and provide assistance with this type of evaluation. Think about upkeep and maintenance and whether that workload is realistic. Bungalows can be better than 2-storey homes if mobility becomes an issue.
- Foster Social Interaction – Social isolation can be a big feature of ageing. Ensure that ageing relatives have strong social groups and lots of interaction with multi-generations. Encourage seniors to get involved with interest groups or social/community activates have can build relationships. Also remember that seniors love visits with kids.
- Consider What Help Might be Required – Things like meal preparation, home maintenance, housekeeping, and even driving to appointments can become challenging. Consider the financial means available and decide if there’s money to hire help or if the necessary chores can be divided amongst family and friends. Sometimes there are services in the community that can help seniors with a variety of jobs and also offer social engagement.
- Nutrition is Critical – Sometimes seniors lose interest in cooking and end up eating very basic, nutrient-poor foods. This type of diet can lead to health decline so take time to see what elderly relatives are eating and help them to build fruits and vegetables in their diet with simple salads or homemade smoothies. Suggest a multivitamin for daily minerals and vitamins and DeepMarine collagen to strengthen bones and connective tissues.
- Check for Government and Community Programmes – search online to fully understand what services and programmes are available in your district. This can range from government-sponsored exercise programmes, to meal delivery programmes, senior’s social gatherings, and government funded in-home care visits.
- Evaluate Time frames for Changes and Plan Ahead - If it looks like some significant changes are a good idea for an ageing individual – like a change of residence - it’s best to consider making a change well before health problems force a move or make it urgent. An urgent or forced move might result in financial loss, limited accommodation choices or confusion and upset for someone who is elderly with complicated health issues. Being settled in a suitable house before age-related problems arise is a much easier process for everyone involved.
Prevent Falls– Each year millions of people over 65 have a fall, and about 1 in 5 falls results in serious injury such as broken bones or head injury. What many people don’t know is that a fall-related injury can result in significantly diminished capacity in an elderly person. Surgery is often involved with serious falls frequently creating significant shock, confusion and cognitive problems which can persist and become permanent. It can also reduce an individual’s overall mobility resulting in a permanent lower baseline of functioning. In some unfortunate cases, a fall can end in severe complications and even death.
To protect against falls, make sure that balance exercises are a feature of daily activities. Balance exercises are not strenuous so it’s not necessary to be in fighting form to do them.
Floor Tightrope – put a straight line of painter’s tape on your floor, close enough to the wall that you can use it for assistance if necessary. Put your hands on your hips and walk forwards and backwards for 15 normal steps along the tape to build balance.
Leg Raises – Again, close to a wall or railing for support, put hands on your hips and feet together. Do side leg raises and when the foot is at the highest point, hold it for 5 seconds, then slowly lower it. Do 15 slow lifts on each side then switch and do front leg lifts in the same fashion.
Sideways tightrope – use the same piece of painter’s tape and walk sideways along the tape for 15 steps in each direction.
- Plan for Emergencies – Sometime accidents happen in which the individual can’t get to the phone and end up stranded. Consider whether carrying a call button could be useful, a fanny pack with a cell phone or perhaps investing in a personal alarm system. It’s also a good idea for a friend or relative to look in every few days.
- Speak Clearly About an Advanced Directive – This tends to be something that many people are not comfortable discussing. But, it’s extremely important to make sure that you know what type of care an elderly person wants if they become too sick, confused or injured to be able to give instructions for themselves. Read about the contents of an advance directive and a living will and this information can help guide a conversation. Consider who would have power of attorney if the person is unable to make decisions for themselves.
With some advanced planning, a happy and high-quality life can be ensured well into old age.