Ageing & Nutrition

Katie Williams- Dietitian

There is a common belief that as we get older, nutrition becomes less important. However, having a well balanced diet is crucial throughout our life spans, particularly as we age for improving quality of life and longevity.  There are particular nutrients that are imperative for older adults to include in their day-to-day diets.

For older adults, dairy should be included regularly in all diets.  This is because it contains a mineral called calcium, which is important for maintaining strong healthy bones and teeth.  Having good bone health is key for all ageing adults due to an increased risk of fracturing bones when falling over or diseases such as osteoporosis. Females are at a particular risk of poor bone health due to increased bone losses during menopause. 

All adults should eat at least 2.5 serves of low fat dairy each day. 1 serve of dairy is equivalent to:
-250mL of milk or milk alternatives (e.g. soy milk)
-2 slices (or 40g) of hard cheese (e.g. cheddar)
-¾ cup (or 200g) of yoghurt

Having an adequate protein intake during the older years of life is important for maintaining muscle and decreasing the risk of malnutrition. Being underweight comes with it’s own health risks as it hinders the immune system; can make it harder to recover from illnesses and slows wound healing. Maintaining muscle is also important for having good balance, strength and metabolism.

Protein should be included in at least 2 main meals each day. Foods that are good sources of protein include:
-Beef, lamb, chicken, pork & fish
-Dairy products
-Legumes (beans, chickpeas & lentils)

Fibre contains many health benefits that can be particularly helpful for older adults. Having a diet high in fibre helps to keep the bowels regular and assists with issues such as constipation and diarrhoea. Additionally, it helps you feel fuller for longer, can improve cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Fibre can assist in weight loss and  preventing diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and bowel cancer.

Adults should be consuming around 30g of fibre each day. Fibre is the indigestible parts of plant foods; such as vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, beans and legumes. Therefore, these foods should be an abundant part of our day-to-day diets.

Weight Loss & Chronic Diseases

Carrying excess weight is associated with many chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, shortness of breath, sleep apnoea and osteoarthritis. 
Foods that promote weight gain are those high in calories, saturated fats, added sugars and salt.  Some of these foods include:
-Processed meats (bacon, ham, salami, sausages etc)
-Sweets (cakes, muffins, biscuits, chocolates, lollies etc).
-Takeaway foods (pies, pizzas, burgers, hot chips etc).

For a healthy diet, these foods should only be eaten in moderation. The majority of the food eaten each day should be made up of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, low fat dairy and lean meats.

For anyone trying to lose weight or with any other nutritional concerns, I would recommend to see a Dietitian. Otherwise, The Heart Foundation website is a great source of nutritional information and healthy recipes. 

Ageing & Exercise

Jules Webster- Exercise Physiologist

Julie Webster

A lot of the work I do as an exercise physiologist is with people 60 years old and over, and one thing I frequently hear from them is “Don’t get old, Jules!” Considering that I don’t have much choice in the matter I’m going to do everything I can to limit the effect that getting older has on my life. Being now on the wrong side of 40 I have become aware of some niggles and stiffness that I didn’t used to have, and my patients tell me – some with an element of gleefulness – that this is just the beginning.

Your blood vessels become stiffer, meaning your heart has to work harder to pump blood around; your bones shrink and become less dense, making fractures more likely; your muscle strength and flexibility decrease; and balance and coordination become more challenging. No wonder everyone wants to avoid the process!

What I’m not going to do is lie down and let the ageing process have its way with me. Nor am I going to wait until I’m completely free of any niggles before I do some form of exercise, otherwise it may never happen.

We all want to be healthy and well but sometimes, especially if you have an injury or condition, knowing what the right exercise for you is can be confusing. People are often afraid that what they try might worsen their pain or condition. This is where an exercise professional can help you. I believe that everyone benefits from exercise, and if you can’t do one form of activity there’s always something else we could devise together.

We all know we should be moving more and eating less/better but sometimes it’s getting started that is the problem. If you’re not happy with your weight, your blood pressure, your dodgy knees, your strength then take action to make changes. I believe that it is never ever too late to make a difference to your own life and health. 

See you out there!
Jules Webster

Ageing & Mental Health

Hanna Thomas- Psychologist

The journey of ageing and growing older is very much an individual process. Some people experience considerable struggles, for others it's more a time of enjoyment and renewal.  And for most it's likely to be a combination of challenging and rewarding experiences.

What can sometimes change is our ability to cope. This could be due to a variety of reasons, e.g. poor health or feeling run down, having lots of change occur in a short period of time, experiencing  a number of difficult situations that build up etc. This can leave you with less mental, emotional and/or physical energy to manage as well as you normally would.  

It can also be a time for reflection. An opportunity to think about past experiences, such as choices you have made about family, relationships, work, and health; what you've done with your spare time, what you have prioritised in life and where you have focussed your energy and efforts.  Depending on circumstances, this reflection can bring feelings of joy and pleasure, but also perhaps some sadness, anger, grief or other uncomfortable feelings.

Looking after our mental and emotional health, is therefore important.  Our mindset can have a big influence on how we experience daily life and our expectations of the future, e.g. the extent to which we are fearful of what's to come and  how confident we feel to cope.  It's normal to have some concerns about financial security, health and wellbeing, housing options, opportunities for pursuing activities we enjoy, our mortality and end of life needs.  But if these concerns build up, that's when our emotional and mental health might suffer.  It's good time to check in with your G.P. and consider ways to get support for yourself at this time.

Some general protective factors for our wellbeing include:
-regular social contact
-doing activities you enjoy and look forward to
-eating well - having a nutritious diet
-being physically active
-keeping mentally active - scrabble, cards, brain games etc.
-knowing when and getting support, e.g. talking to a professional, using strategies such as meditation, yoga, prayer, helpful thought patterns
-finding and engaging in whatever gives you a sense of meaning and purpose in life