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The Top 10 Things You Can Do to Stay Healthy As You Age

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Danny Jardine, Regional Director, Collaborative Care Seniors Health, Horizon Health Network

Collaborative Care Seniors Health at Horizon aims to provide exceptional care for all seniors across New Brunswick.

However, the health system cannot do it alone. In fact, many population health models suggest our health is only 10 per cent dependent on the health system, with 90 per cent of our health status determined by health behaviours, social and economic factors and the physical environment.

As you age you have control over some of these factors, such as your health behaviours.

Collaborative Care Seniors Health wants to help you, so we reached out to our clinical experts and community partners to provide you with the "Top 10" things you can do to stay healthy as you age.

There is no priority to this list; we want you to be empowered to choose what you what to do based on personal preference.

Many of the examples below are linked to available resources in New Brunswick. We hope you will use it to stay healthy!

Exercise Every Day

Seniors should aim to exercise every day. This exercise can take many forms, such as cardiovascular (i.e. walking, aerobic fitness classes), strength training, stretching and balance activities. The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology has some guidelines here.

Or check out Active Aging in New Brunswick - A Physical Activity resource for Older Adults. This resource will provide you with tips and fun ideas for making physical activity a bigger part of your life.

If you live in New Brunswick and are looking for physical activity events, check out the NB Wellness Calendar of events.

Many municipalities, private fitness clubs and health organizations also have senior exercise programs listed on their websites. Zoomers on the Go is one example from Horizon.

Eat Healthy

Follow a healthy meal plan. It is well known that eating a healthy and balanced diet improves health.

Canada's New Food Guide outlines healthy daily requirements. Your requirements may be different depending on specific medical conditions or level of activity so ask your doctor if you are not sure. By following a healthy meal plan you can ensure the proper recommended daily allowances of items such as sodium (salt), which is known to increase chronic diseases at high levels. Don't forget to stay hydrated as well!

Please call the NB Association of Food Banks at 506-227-0417 if you need to access a food bank in your area. They can help you. Meals on Wheels are also available in some areas of the province. Some grocery stores also deliver if transportation is an issue.

Here are some tips for eating/cooking for one or two people as this can sometimes be a challenge as we age.

Check out the Healthy Eating Resources and information provided through NB's Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Coalition.

Stay Social

Research shows isolation and loneliness can be bad for your health. Try to limit this by becoming engaged and active in your community.

Of course, there many ways to stay social such as attending community events, going to an exercise class, taking a course, having a coffee with friends or volunteering. It's also important to build connections with friends and family.

The Department of Social Develop produces a guide for seniors that can help you make connections. In addition, many communities have Senior Resource Centres, which are another great source of information. The NB Senior Citizens Federation may also be able to help.

Many other organizations have also created their own directory like this one for Fredericton from the University of New Brunswick.

Check out the NB Wellness Branch Regional Wellness Pages for events and resources to help you stay connected in your area.

Keep Learning

Continual learning and keeping your brain active are important as you age. This can be as simple as learning a new hobby or as formal as an actual education program. Many universities and colleges have special rates for seniors. Some communities also have free programs, such as the Tantramar Seniors' College.

Sleep Well

Your need for sleep does not change with age. Older adults need just as much sleep as younger adults - seven to nine hours per night - but often get much less.

Lack of sleep can cause depression, irritability, increased fall risk, and memory problems.

Practise Prevention

Keeping regular with your doctor appointments, immunizations (including a yearly flu vaccine), age appropriate screening, blood work and regular hand washing can go a long way toward keeping you healthy as you age.

Are you safe at home? You can call Social Development's Home First program at 1-855-550-0552 to learn about services and programs available in your community and request an in-home health, well-being and safety review.

Eligible seniors also could also be eligible for financial assistance (up to $1,500) for minor in-home repairs that will improve the safety of your home. More information can be found here.

Plan for the Future

It's important to think ahead about your health and the decisions that you may have to make some day. To reduce the chances of getting slowed down in the future, make those decisions now.

This can include everything from wills and estate planning to powers of attorney for financial and medical purposes. It can also include decisions about nursing home preference, should you require one. It is important to keep this information up-to-date.

More information on Powers of Attorney can be found on the Public Legal Education and Information Service of NB website here. The Financial and Consumer Services Commission has good information on Estate Planning here.

Relax

Always take time to reduce stress in your life. This can take many forms including regular meditation, laughter, spiritual practises, exercise and socialization.

Opportunities can be found in many places including church bulletins, senior centres, municipal event calendars and directories such as this one, from the Department of Social Development.

If you are a caregiver to a loved one, this can sometimes be a stressful role; helpful information can be found here. Specifically, if you are a caregiver to a person with dementia, please take advantage of the support services provided by the Alzheimer Society of New Brunswick.

Check out these inspiring stories of New Brunswickers just like you who found ways to relax and improve their wellness.

Or visit The Wellness Movement's Seniors Resources page to check out the Inspired and Well - A Toolkit on Mental Fitness for Seniors and many more sources of information.

Healthy aging is an adventurous journey. It is about taking steps that are important to you and using opportunities to take care of yourself. This toolkit offers tips and ideas on how you can maintain a positive sense of well-being and enhance your mental fitness.

Know Your Community

Learn about the programs and services offered in your community.

There is no single resource, but the Department of Social Development has a Toll-Free Seniors Information Line (1-855-550-0552) that can provide information on government programs and services in your area.

Many communities hold wellness fairs that have a lot of great information. If you are internet-savvy you can always search for information through about events/resources in your community through Google. You may find interesting volunteering opportunities that can help get you active and engaged in your community.

Did you know many NB communities are taking steps to become more age-friendly? An Age-Friendly Community is a place where seniors can age actively, live in security and enjoy good health. Check out this map to see if your community is working towards becoming age-friendly.

Talk to Your Local Pharmacist

Get to know your local pharmacist. Your pharmacist is a wealth of knowledge, and can provide a wide range of services and health information.

They are also very helpful in reviewing your medications and ensuring safety. Don't be afraid to approach or call the pharmacist you regularly use to ask questions.

Also, try to maintain a consistent pharmacist so that they get to know you too!

 

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