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Healthy living for older people

Gardening is good for exercise and healthy living

Getting older brings with it a whole set of changes and challenges. But by taking care of your physical health, you can boost your chances of remaining healthy and independent.

Eating healthily

Try to eat a variety of foods from the main food groups – fruits and vegetables, starchy foods (such as grains and potatoes), dairy products and proteins (such as meat, eggs and pulses). You don’t need to have them all in one meal, but try to consume all of them over the course of each day.

Eating healthily doesn’t mean you have to cut out all indulgences but you should try to limit the amount you eat. Similarly, be wary of the amount of salt you consume, particularly if you tend to eat readymade meals.

Keep a stock of basic food items in case you can’t get to the shops. You may find it useful to keep a list of favourite foods or essentials to help family or friends to help them shop for you if you feel unwell. If you find it hard to get to the shops, you could also try ordering food online and get it delivered to your door.

If you have little appetite, try not to skip meals. Instead, eat small portions of food throughout the day, such as fruit, egg on toast or pasta dishes. It’s important to avoid a ‘tea and biscuits’ diet.

It’s also important to drink enough fluids throughout the day to keep your body hydrated. Water is best, but well-diluted squash is also a good way to get enough liquid. Try to drink 1-2 glasses of water before going to bed, thus keeping your organs hydrated and healthy. Ensure you drink more water in hot weather.    

Keeping active

Physical activity can help you remain healthy, energetic and independent as you become older. You should aim to achieve 150 minutes [i.e. around 20 minutes per day] of moderate activity each week. Moderate activities raise your heart rate, make you breathe faster and feel warmer. They include:

  • Walking at your own pace
  • Rising a bike on level ground
  • Pushing a lawn mower
  • Gentle swimming
  • Doubles tennis

On top of this, try to do some activities that work your muscles, such as:

  • Gardening, digging
  • Carrying heavy loads, such as shopping
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Dancing

If you have problems with mobility, the NHS has a series of sitting exercises that you can try.

Eyesight

Eye tests don’t just test to see if you need glasses – they also look at how healthy your eyes are. Some conditions, such as cataracts and glaucoma, can be detected before you notice anything is wrong.

If you’re aged 60 or over you will qualify for a free eye test every two years. It’s important to get your eyes checked at least this often, or as often as your optician recommends.

If you find you have trouble reading, you could purchase reading glasses or a magnifier. You could also have a look at the RNIB’s Reading Choices website, which includes books, newspapers, magazines and sheet music designed for people with sight loss.

Staying independent

It’s natural to want to remain independent and living in your own home for as long as possible. Thankfully, there is plenty of support and technology about to help you do that.

If you are worried about having a fall or any other emergency, you could look into a personal alarm system. These can be portable alarms – normally worn as a pendant or wristband – or fixed-position pull cords within the house that you can use to call for help. Some people may be able to get them for free as part of their care assessment. You can find out more on the NHS website.

Additionally, if you need adaptations to your home or someone to lend a hand, then it could be a good idea to go for a care and support needs assessment. You can find out more about these on the NHS website.

More information

You can find more advice on physical health and wellbeing on our support services pages, including how to manage a long-term condition and improve your sleep.

We also have help and advice on a range of topics linked to financial, mental and social health.

We’re here

Ben is here to provide support for life to those who work in the UK’s automotive industry and their families. If you need support or advice, you can ring our free, confidential helpline on 08081 311 333 or use our online chat.

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