Formula for Healthy Ageing
Q. Is there a formula for healthy ageing that I can help my 76-year-old widowed dad implement to keep him well longer?
A. Researchers recently identified four healthy lifestyle factors that could go a long way toward reducing your father’s risk of contracting common and life threatening diseases. Those successful ageing practices are not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and following a healthy diet.
Together, these four lifestyle attributes appear to be associated with as much as an 80 per cent reduction in the risk of developing such diseases as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer, according to a report in Archives of Internal Medicine.
The article explains that cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes, chronic diseases which account for many deaths, are largely preventable. “An impressive body of research has implicated modifiable lifestyle factors such as smoking, physical activity, diet, and body weight in the causes of these diseases,” the authors write.
After adjusting for age, sex, education level, and occupation, individuals with more healthy lifestyle factors were less likely to develop chronic diseases. Participants who had all four healthy ageing factors at the beginning of the study had a 78 per cent lower risk of developing any of the chronic diseases during the follow-up period than those who had none of the healthy factors.
Although it was not included in the study, companionship also is an important part of a senior’s healthy lifestyle. Since your father is alone, make sure that he has the kind of meaningful social interaction that will help him continue to live an independent and healthy life.
That means encouraging him to participate in activities outside the home. These could include things like a bridge club or active seniors group, or even learning a new skill. Some secondary schools look for interested local seniors to come into the school to be trained on using the internet by transition year students. Your local library may be a source of useful information on clubs and associations in your area.
If he's not able to get out and about so easily consider ways of bringing the companionship to him. Does he have a few friends who could come to the house regularly? Try to find something that will appeal to his existing interests. If he loves his garden, perhaps some members of the local gardening club could drop by?
Another answer could be enlisting the help of a professional caregiving companion who could help your father with outings or activities as well as help with tasks such as meal preparation, errands, and shopping. Home Instead Senior Care has developed various other resources to help seniors and their families as well. Visit www.homeinstead.ie or contact us for further information.
Seniors who are alone, particularly those who need help with the activities of daily living, are at risk of developing unhealthy lifestyle habits without this important support.
Painful, polarising, marriage break-up is a reality for a lot of families. How can grandparents cope? Catherine Wiley, psychologist and founder of the Catholic Grandparents Association (www.CatholicGrandparentsAssociation.com ) gives some advice.
1 Don’t take sides. Promote peace and harmony, rather than division. And keep communication open with all parties for as long as you can.
2 Listen to the grandchildren. They may be suffering a great deal of trauma, and you might be the person they feel most able to communicate with — so listen to everything they say for pointers as to their true feelings and emotions.
3 Don't come laden with presents. There is sometimes a tendency to spoil children who are caught in the middle of a marriage break-up, but this is not a good habit to start.
4 In front of the grandchildren, never talk disparagingly of their parents.
5 If you're religious you might want to ensure that the children get to see the crib in the church, and experience some of the true meaning of Christmas.