Healthy ageing – it’s not rocket science

Did you know that 35% of Australians have at least one chronic condition – asthma, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and depression to name just a few?

In later life, we start to face a wide range of medical conditions from mild complaints to devastating illnesses. Thankfully, there are new medications and surgical techniques developed each year that allow us to better care for our conditions and lead an enjoyable life.

What can we do about it? Diet and exercise are obvious. A nutritious diet and at least thirty minutes of active exercise a day can contribute to a higher quality of life through improved bone and muscle strength, increased mental alertness and improved resistance to illness and disease.

In his National Seniors report Healthy Ageing: The state of the evidence and available resources CEO and Research Director, Professor John McCallum and his team found that improved physical and mental health meant stopping smoking, cutting out alcohol (or moderating it at least), exercising, eating well, and knowing where to get support.

Malnutrition is one of the greatest challenges facing the health system because it contributes to serious complications and early death.

Maintaining a healthy mind is just as important as many older Australians are affected by depression, anxiety or related disorders due to the loss of a loved one, a change in living arrangements or social isolation.

You're just an oldie

It can be tough for unwell older Aussies because it is still common to be told their complaints are just because they’re getting old. The message is ‘old age sucks so just soldier on’. A new book takes this approach to task.

In Your Elderly Parents Failing Heath – Is it Ageing or a Treatable Condition? author Dr Peter Lipski says this ageist attitude means older people are denied proper medical care which can improve their day to day function and quality of life. At worst, blaming old age for everything from breathlessness to confusion is the greatest risk to their health.

Dr Lipski says that should a 21-year-old suffer dizziness, repeated falls or ongoing or worsening pain in a knee or their back, or become incontinent or breathless, they would be promptly whisked off to the doctor or the emergency department. And he asks why this is not the case when someone is old. Why indeed?

This book challenges negative stereotypes that cause elderly people to suffer unnecessary distress, illness and loss of function.

A review of Your Elderly Parents Failing Health … is available here.

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