Fight the ageing process by keeping fit and active

By staying physically and socially active the quality of our lives as we age will improve. Margaret Jennings offers healthy tips to get you started.

THEY may be drawing the pension now, but many Irish women of that age were among those who shocked the nation by wearing micro minis — a first in the history of fashion — and a bold statement of defiance in the sexually liberated sixties.

Having lived through so many socially historic changes and in an age when they are expected — according to European Commission projections — to live on average 20 years beyond 65, and men 17, their life trajectory is very different than that of 60-somethings a few decades back.

Is 60 the new 50, and 50 the new 40? No! Not when it comes to the undeniable changes our bodies go through as we age. But by staying socially and physically active; by altering the limiting perception that ageing is a ‘giving up’, and by staying continually interested in life, the quality of those additional years is much improved.

So here are some healthy ageing tips you might add to your resolutions for 2015, gleaned from Ageing With Attitude over the past year:

MOVE IT: Yes, we’re sick of hearing it, according to the Irish Sports Monitor 80% of women aged 55-64 and 68% over 65, who exercise, do so to improve their health and fitness. Are you among them though? The World Health Organisation recommends older adults do 300 minutes of combined moderate-to-vigorous-intensity aerobic activity throughout the week. US research last year even suggested exercise keeps your skin looking younger. So forget the lotions and get up off that couch!

HAVE PURPOSE: Setting goals, challenging yourself, looking ahead positively, all make a difference. Lots of research – the most recent last month from Carleton University in Canada– suggests having purpose adds to longevity. Just look at some of the old rockers worldwide still giving it their all! Christy Moore and Philomena Begley, both in their 70s, told Ageing With Attitude last year how their passion for performing to an audience keeps them energised.

USE IT OR LOSE IT: Two words — strength training. That means challenging your muscles by pulling or pushing a weight. We all lose muscle as we age. The comfortable conveniences of modern life enable us to disable ourselves. At the very least start carrying that heavy shopping bag, pushing the lawnmower and stepping it out on the stairs. Otherwise you progressively lose flexibility and balance and that’s a recipe for being feeble.

GRANNY WAS RIGHT: Moderation in everything is sensible – especially with what you put into your ageing body. There are so many conflicting studies on diet. You’re still alive and you were probably reared on buttery spuds, so relax. If it’s food in its original state it’s good, if it’s processed, it’s not good. Oh and chocolate and red wine are full of antioxidants, so enjoy (a little)! As you age your immune system finds it more difficult to recover from toxins and overload.

STRESS: Don’t stress yourself out trying to avoid stress – life happens.

Meditation, yoga, dance, hobbies, socialising with family, friends, volunteering – all help to lighten the load. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) even helps you cope better with pain, according to research done with Limerick patients by 60-year-old MBSR practitioner Timothy Sweeney. And supple 72-year-old yoga teacher Barbara Currie says 10 minutes of stretching a day will keep you flexible for life.

GREY MATTER: The good news is that our brain is adaptable and we don’t lose all those cells, as we age after all – as long as we challenge our grey matter constantly with novelty. ‘Hello Brain’ a website set up by TCD encourages you do just that www.hellobrain.eu.

MARRIAGE: Research claims being in a good relationship add years to your life and regular sex keeps those flagging hormones topped up. But UCC head of psychiatry Prof Ted Dinan agreed with a recent US report that bad marriages can bring on life-threatening heart problems.

BODY BLUES: 66-year-old US therapist Katherine Forsythe told us how to “exhale midlife body blues” by using six steps — Accepting your likes and dislikes; Adjusting how you talk to yourself; Appreciating how your body has been with you, your whole life; Adorning yourself with clothes and accessories in a positive way; Admiring your authentic self and accomplishments, and Using positive self affirmations regularly with carefully chosen words.

TECH SAVVY: Stay technologically smart but don’t get swamped by the conflicting advice on the Internet about how to age well. But don’t get too worked up. Keep your humour intact. Be kind to yourself for 2015 and it will be a good one!

Suffering from post festive party blues? 

As we age, being naughty takes its toll much quicker on our faces — and unfortunately it also takes us much longer to recover.

We often crave carbohydrates such as potatoes the day after the night before, and apart from them being a comfort food, you can also benefit from their high vitamin C content — a gesture towards maintaining healthy skin. But raw? You can juice the potatoes with apple and carrot to make it more palatable — treating yourself to an inner and outer cleanse.

And if you can’t stand that thought, just dab juiced potato liquid regularly with a cotton pad to your face, to give your skin a lift.


More in this Section

A lack of sleep can accelerate ageing among older adults

Why a good breakfast is a must for your kids

Here's four of the most common eye health conditions

Blues to soul: An interview with Mary Coughlan


Lifestyle

Delving into the Irish tradition of Jack O'Laterns

Making Cents: How to call the scammers’ bluff

Why Hollywood gave superhero Thor a makeover

A helicopter put a piano on the 150-foot roof of Blarney Castle and other stories from the Cork Jazz Festival archives

More From The Irish Examiner