7 Pillars of Healthy Ageing

Introduction

What We’ve Learned About Healthy Ageing: An Evidence-Based Perspective

We have been with the Village retirement group for the past 11 years and focused on working with clients 65 years and older. During this time, we have learnt a lot about Healthy Ageing and the things clients can do to lessen the impact.

When I started with the Village group, only about 10-25 research articles per week focused on older adults, which has grown to greater than 250. As clinicians at Fizzio Clinics, it’s our role to read this research, interpret it, and develop actionable interventions you can use in your daily life to improve the quality of your life.

We have learnt that ageing is hard work. Younger adults don’t believe that ageing will affect them. However, ageing comes to all of us, and the process of ageing has challenges that no one tells us about until we are older.

Working with older adults is not about curing problems; it about managing these problems and minimising their effect.

Ageing: A Complex Process

Ageing is an intricate process that presents unique challenges, often unspoken until one reaches an advanced age. Contrary to the notion that ageing is merely about curing problems, our approach is geared towards managing these challenges and minimising their impact.

Key Concerns in Ageing

Mobility

Changes in mobility can start as early as a person’s mid-fifties; often, it’s a depth perception issue resulting in an unbalanced event that, at some level, erodes a person’s confidence. This progresses as a person ages, and one of the primary reasons is a loss of muscle mass or sarcopenia. We know some interventions slow the curve, flattening the wasting speed; however, it can’t be reversed over time.

Mobility is a paramount concern among older adults. Loss of mobility can lead to an increased risk of falls and a subsequent decline in confidence. A study by Stathi et al. demonstrated that a community-based, active ageing intervention could effectively prevent the decline in physical functioning among older adults.

Sarcopenia. This term refers to a syndrome characterised by the progressive and generalised loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength. It is closely associated with physical disability, poor health, and even mortality. While interventions can slow down the rate of muscle wasting, reversing the condition over time remains a challenge (Stathi et al.).

Cognitive Decline

The second issue and perhaps the issues of most significant concern to older adults is cognitive decline. Cognitive decline or mild cognitive impairment is a broad term and encompasses the entire spectrum of mild changes through dementia and Alzheimers. These changes in cognitive decline and the speed of disease progression can be controlled, in part by the lifestyle choices we make now.
Dementia describes a collection of symptoms that are caused by disorders affecting the brain. It is not one specific disease.

Dementia affects thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday tasks. Brain function is affected enough to interfere with the person’s everyday social or working life.

Cognitive Decline: MCI is a condition that causes a slight but noticeable and measurable decline in cognitive abilities, including memory and thinking skills. It increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia (Ng et al.).

 

Future Directions

In the coming weeks, we will delve into the seven pillars of ageing and explore lifestyle choices that can positively influence the ageing process.

Part 2: Exercise
Part 3: Sleep
Part 4: Diet and Nutrition
Part 5: Stress Management
Part 6: Mindset
Part 7: Supplements and Medicine
Part 8: Community

References

Stathi, A., Withall, J., Greaves, C. J., Thompson, J. L., Western, M., Ladlow, P., & Fox, K. R. (2023). From a successful RCT to community implementation: lessons learnt from the REtirement in ACTion (REACT) group-based active ageing intervention targeting older adults with mobility limitations. European Journal of Public Health PDF
Tulliani, N., Bye, R., Bissett, M., Coutts, S., & Liu, K. P. Y. (2023). A Semantic-Based Cognitive Training Programme on Everyday Activities: A Feasibility and Acceptability Study among Cognitively Healthy Older Adults. Occupational Therapy International PDF
O’ Dowd, A., Hirst, R., Setti, A., Kenny, R., & Newell, F. (2022). Self-Reported Sensory Decline in Older Adults Is Longitudinally Associated With Both Modality-General and Modality-Specific Factors. The Journals of Gerontology DOI
Ng, T., Lee, T. S., Lim, W., Chong, M. S., Yap, P., Cheong, C., Rawtaer, I., Liew, T., Gwee, X., Gao, Q., & Yap, K. (2022). Functional mobility decline and incident mild cognitive impairment and early dementia in community-dwelling older adults: the Singapore Longitudinal Ageing Study. Age and Ageing PDF

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