Health / Lifestyle
New ways to improve your quality of life in 2018.
At age 60 and older, your body and mind go through significant changes. Many of them are far from comfortable: aching hips and joints, faltering senses, fading memory, a lack of energy—you get the picture. Because of these changes, you might miss out on hobbies, time for bonding with your family and friends, and other activities you enjoy.
That is why many perceive a reduced quality of life as a natural effect of aging. But today, people over 60 are enjoying new treatments, therapies, technologies, and activities that promote their health and wellness, adding life to their years.
- Cataract surgery
Cataracts are a common condition among people older than 60, although more and more people in their 40s are having it, too. What starts out as blurred vision can lead to blindness when left untreated. It is the leading cause of blindness among seniors worldwide.
Cataracts are easy to treat with surgery. There was a time when cataract surgery meant having to stay in the hospital for days, but not so today. The procedure is painless and takes less than half an hour, and a complete recovery takes only a few weeks. Some patients regain clear vision within hours. The best news is that complications are rare, making cataract surgery one of the safest surgical treatments performed today.
Being cataract-free helps you live longer, says one study, by lowering your risk of accidents and enabling you to take better care of yourself. More important, it helps enhance your quality of life. You’ll be able to read your favourite book or see that tourist spot you’ve always wanted to visit. What’s more, you can do these things without having to wear cumbersome eyeglasses.
- Bioidentical hormone restoration therapy
Your body’s hormones are vital to processes like reproduction and homeostasis. But as you grow older, your hormone levels drop, which causes several symptoms. These include a reduced sex drive, lower bone density and muscle mass, increased body fat, and thinning hair. You can also be prone to unstable moods.
Contrary to popular belief, the effects of depleted hormones are not seen only in women. In men, it causes erectile dysfunction and gynecomastia, on top of the aforementioned symptoms. In women, it can also cause discomfort during sexual intercourse.
Bioidentical hormone restoration therapy (BHRT) uses plant-based hormones (extracted from yams and soy) identical to what your body produces. It is administered in several ways: pills, creams, gels, and injectable medication. By replenishing your body’s hormone supply, it helps you lose weight and look younger. It can also improve sleep and memory, and help restore your sex drive. By aiding in stabilizing your mood, BHRT helps prevent the onset of disorders like anxiety and depression.
You’re never too old for stress. It’s manageable in small doses, but when you’re exposed to it too often and for too long, it can contribute to various health conditions, including coronary diseases and depression. Meditation and mindfulness exercises are some of the best measures to fight everyday stress and achieve peace of mind.
Finding a local group that offers instruction on meditation techniques is a good way to start. If you want to learn on your own, you’ll find plenty of resources on the internet. You may also download mindfulness apps such as Headspace or Insight Timer on your phone. These offer step-by-step guides on achieving relaxation, improving concentration, and much more.
Meditation can benefit you in many ways. It keeps your mind active and fully functional, helping you offset age-related cognitive decline and its symptoms, including forgetfulness and lack of focus. Regular meditation also improves your physical health by enabling you to sleep better and enhancing insulin and glucose metabolism. It helps relieve depression, lowering your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
- Regular exercise
If you think you’re too old to be active, you are missing a lot. Many have described exercise as the fountain of youth, with the power to keep you feeling and looking young, and your immune system strong. There is an exercise routine for every age. Finding it starts with listening to your body—and consulting an expert, of course. If you enjoy group exercises, you may even meet new friends.
Aerobic or cardio exercises are among the best activities for older adults. Studies show that these exercises can help prevent hypertension and depression, and keep your bones healthy. You don’t need to force yourself; try low-impact exercises like walking, cycling, swimming, rowing, ballroom dancing, and tai chi, and still reap the benefits.
Do not forget to train your muscles. Even among frail adults, physical activity helps maintain balance and muscle strength, which can help lower your risk of falls and other accidents.
- Social interaction
Social interaction is necessary, especially for people who have a lot of experience to share. Keeping a strong network of friends has been shown to improve both quality of life and lifespan. Interaction can also increase your willingness to engage in health-seeking behaviour and decrease your risk of cognitive decline.
Technology makes it easier to start and foster connections. Social media and the internet allow you to keep tabs on how your loved ones are doing and even show you care with a well-timed “Like” or “Share.” With mobile devices, you can engage in video calls, send photos, and exchange news in real-time wherever you are.
Attending events with like-minded individuals offers a change of pace and scenery, and the chance to unwind and form new experiences. And social interaction is not just a human endeavour! If you prefer the company of animals, keeping a pet offers many benefits, including helping you relax and fighting off loneliness and depression.
- Cryotherapy and hyperbaric oxygen therapy
Random aches are an inevitable part of aging. If the pain gets too hard to manage with just massage and exercise, try turning to technology instead.
Cryotherapy is the process of using low temperatures to freeze painful tissue. It soothes pinched nerves and nerve growths to provide comfort. Some use it for more than just pain relief, as it can also help keep your skin looking young.
If you are a scuba diver, you likely know about hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT). Originally used to treat “the bends,” which occurs when scuba divers surface too fast, HBOT exposes you to high atmospheric pressure and enriched oxygen levels anywhere from 17 to 100 percent. The therapy stimulates healing and the birth of new tissues. The FDA considers it a viable treatment for several conditions, including tissue damage from radiation therapy, thermal burns, and diabetic wounds, among others.
If cryotherapy or hyperbaric oxygen chamber therapy sound a bit overwhelming, you can enjoy many of the same shared benefits by training your body gradually for cold showers. Just make sure you discuss with your doctor so they can evaluate based on your unique circumstances.
- Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy
Your cells are made up of atoms that produce varying degrees of electromagnetic fields (EMFs). Pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) therapy exposes your body to EMFs that stimulate healing and maintain healthy cell function. There is no need to worry about complications, as the EMFs in the treatment are too weak to do damage and do not remain in your cells.
PEMF helps with pain and inflammation relief. It can help improve circulation, blood pressure regulation, cellular detoxification, and tissue repair. It can also help treat post-surgical and chronic wounds, and manage pain caused by osteoarthritis.
If you are in a situation where medication cannot heal a mental condition, alternative options like neurointegration (NI) therapy could provide valuable improvements.
Also called neurofeedback, NI relies on your brain’s ability to learn. It creates a map of your brain using data gathered through an electroencephalogram (EEG), which reads your brainwaves. This data helps determine if you have any mental condition. You will receive a treatment protocol appropriate to your condition.
NI therapy shows promise as an approach for treating depression, PTSD, and anxiety in peer-reviewed clinical research. It also shows potential as a method for enhancing cognitive performance among the elderly.
- Extending sleep
Lack of sleep does more than just make you sleepy during the day. Its short-term effects include irritability and unstable moods, dizziness, and lack of focus. If prolonged, it can worsen a host of conditions, including heart disease, obesity, and Alzheimer’s disease. If you want to improve and elongate your sleep, there are several steps you can take.
Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate your sleep and sleep cycle. Your brain produces it, although you can also find it in small quantities in various food items. As a supplement, it helps fight insomnia. Like any supplement, talk with your doctor before introducing anything new into your regimen.
You can also download a variety of sleep apps from both the Android and iOS app stores. They help you keep track of your sleep quality so you can improve it. Sleep Cycle, for instance, even helps you fall asleep with white noise and wakes you up at the best point in your circadian rhythm to prevent you from feeling groggy.
There are many ways your body and mind can change with age, but these changes don’t have to impair your ability to experience and enjoy your life. With the help of medical advances and personal technology, Boomers are redefining their understanding of retirement, and what being a senior means in 2018.
Darragh Grove-White is an occasional contributor to Ageless Living Magazine, reporting on health and wellness news, technology, and trending senior’s topics. He lives in Victoria, BC, and can be reached on twitter @darraghgw.