Healthy ageing isn’t always something we consider when we’re preparing for our retirement. We make the savings, we plan our days, but we don’t always plan our health.
We all look forward to the days where we don’t have to worry about the daily grind of working 9-5 anymore. The days when we can just sit back, relax, and enjoy our days with no work pressures…right?
I imagine my days will be spent leisurely holidaying around the country side either here, in beautiful New Zealand, or overseas. I see myself hiking and maybe cycling, stopping at some amazing cafe’s and enjoying the local and seasonal food on offer. With a damn good coffee (of course!).
In reality I’ll probably end up helping out with the grand-kids; helping with school drop off and pick up, and perhaps after school care.
I watch y own mum do this and I see the enjoyment she gets out of it. And, in some way, I look forward to being able to do this for my own kids one day.
My only worry, of course, is that I’m fit-and-healthy, and able to do these things once retirement finally rolls around.
Of course that means that right now I am focusing on healthy-ageing which will hopefully see me through to that next wonderful stage of life.
The Three Pillars of Healthy Ageing
So how do I focus on healthy ageing now?
I describe these as the foundation for good health:
If we choose to neglect one part of this important foundation, we now know that it may increase the risk of chronic disease.
In fact, the Ministry of Health has a “Healthy Ageing Strategy Plan” with a framework that focuses on ensuring “older people will live well, age well, and have a respectful end of life in age-friendly communities”.
Overseas, where there are pockets of healthy-ageing populations, there has been a lot of research carried out to see what the secret is.
Some classic examples include the remote Italian village in Sardinia where, within a specific population of 700, one in ten people are over the age of 100. Another great example is Japan which has a more than 50,000 people aged 100 years or older!
In the past 70 years the lives of Japanese have lengthened by about 35 years.
These two countries are part of the Blue Zone or “longevity hotspots” which have been studied because specific pockets of population within these countries have been shown to have much lower risk of developing lifestyle (chronic) disease such as;
other degenerative diseases.
So what is their secret?
What can we learn from these specific communities?
Well, new information comes out all the time about what might be the best approach for healthy-ageing.
And there are many concepts that I definitely agree with!
Based on all the different research, and my own learning of holistic health, here are my top 5 tips for keeping healthy during retirement.
The Five Best Ways to Stay Healthy During Retirement
1. Keep active
Research shows that, pre-retirement, many people tend to put off exercise.
Perhaps due to being time-poor or due to limited finances.
A review of studies published in Europe showed that retired people tend to focus more of their time on exercise or leisure time exercise, like taking a walk with friends.
This is great!
Because we know that, no matter what age, exercise is important for our overall health and well-being – both physically and mentally.
Staying active during retirement can help you:
Maintain good weight
Boost your energy
Improve your mood
Promote good circulation
Decreases risk of cardiovascular issues
Increase muscular endurance and health
Increase aerobic activity
Improves sleep and stress
When we hit the golden years what I think is particularly important is maintaining good muscular health.
Muscles play a pivotal role in overall health and wellbeing. Muscle health directly correlates with our bone strength, metabolic health (diabetes), body weight (low muscle tone may promote obesity), as well the body’s ability to recover from disease.
There are many schools of thought on what type of exercise is best for people 60+.
Any exercise that aims to promote good muscle strength and tone is a good idea, and, most importantly, it makes you feel great!
Good examples include:
Walking (try with small wrist or ankle weights)
Weight and strength training at a gym
Whatever you choose, it’s great to know that the benefits of exercise help to reduce your risk of chronic disease and promote happiness!
2. Maintain a Healthy Diet
Nutrition should be the focus throughout your whole life (of course!). But when the finances become a bit tighter during retirement, food becomes less of priority.
Malnutrition (poor nutrition) is one of the greatest risks among the elderly.
There can be a number of reasons why this is the case, but it usually stems from either; a lack of access to healthy food, or because a person is less able to cook for themselves.
This could be due to of physical or mental impairment such as; stroke, arthritis, depression, loneliness or dementia.
And yet, this is the time when nutrient uptake is critically important for healthy ageing.
Other factors that might impact upon good nutrition include change of appetite as our metabolic needs and energy intake reduce, and our thirst mechanism changes a little which means we can’t easily detect when we’re dehydrated.
So, how can you ensure you maintain a healthy diet?
Reach out to family and friends to ensure that they are aware of your situation and abilities.
If you’re able to cook for yourself, but perhaps you’re on your own, why not organise a regular pot-luck lunch or dinner where you can eat with friends or family on a regular basis.
TIP: Keep the focus on the meal being healthy and nutritious.
Try to make sure that your meals, even if small, are packed full of whole foods rather than processed foods.
Processed foods do not have any of the good vitamins, minerals, enzymes and antioxidants that your body really needs during this time.
Aim to drink 1.5 litres of water a day (depending on your weight) and keep the alcohol intake to a minimum as alcohol affects your overall health and impacts your ability to absorb certain nutrients.
Although a good, healthy diet is the absolute foundation for good nutrition, as we age our body cannot make/store key nutrients as well as it used to when our body was younger.
Even though we’re ageing, we still need the same amount of protein, vitamins and minerals as when we were younger.
A good example is Coenzyme Q10. This important antioxidant nutrient is essential for the energy production of all our cells but most importantly the heart. But as we age our ability to make this nutrient diminishes.
Also, if you’re on cholesterol lowering medication, this can further reduce the ability for this Coenzyme Q10 to work well.
Collagen is a vital component of, not only healthy skin and hair, but also strong joints, good muscle health, as well as healthy veins and arteries. We can still make collagen as we age but the rate at which do reduces drastically.
As their name suggests, Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s) are fats which are essential to our body.
We need them to work optimally but we can only get them from food or supplements; we can’t produce them ourselves.
One of the key EFA’s is Omega 3, which can be marine based (fish oil) or plant based (Hemp Seed or Flax Seed). Omega 3 is an anti-inflammatory, so it’s important for joint health as well as heart health. It also plays a vital role in good brain health.
We are now understand more and more about the importance of good gut health, beginning with proper digestion and supporting healthy digestive microbiome (healthy bacteria vs bad bacteria).
In one of the largest microbiota studies carried out in 2016, researchers at the Western University, Lawson Health Institute found that healthy individuals, over 100 years old, had the same type of gut microbiome as healthy 30 year olds.
The main conclusion from this study was that maintaining diversity of gut microbiome as you age is a biomarker of how healthy you will age.
The researchers from this study suggest that you may be able to reset an elderly microbiome by incorporating key fermented foods and supplementation to that of a 30 year old which may promote healthier ageing.
5. Stay Active in Your Community or Social Circle
Unfortunately, for many people, ageing is associated with social isolation, loneliness and perhaps depression which can have a negative impact upon not just mental health but overall health.
Studies based on the Blue Zone show how being part of, and active within a community or social circle is vital for long term health.
It is now proven that socializing with friends has positive results on health!
Research based on these pockets of communities in the Blue Zone show that people with strong social relationships have a 50% greater chance of living longer.
Being part of a community often helps to give a person purpose, which is quite important for a stage in life when we often start to do away with activities.
However, the health benefits speak for themselves, elderly people who are active socialisers benefit from:
Reduced stress and anxiety
Reduced risk of depression
Boost cognitive function
About the author
Claudia is a Clinical Holistic Nutritionist who believes in the power of real food for creating vibrant health.