There is an ageing problem in society we are told, and it is that we are living longer and therefore placing additional strain on an already stretched NHS.
This is only partially true, however, because the real problem isn’t that we have a greater life expectancy but that we are not staying healthier.
Improvements in life, and by this I mean a healthy life, expectancy are temporising and there is growing inequality between classes. For instance, the poorest groups in society are suffering the onset of multiple illnesses at least 15 years earlier than the most affluent groups.
A clinical approach is not needed as much as a social one. Professor Walker, in his: Why the UK Needs a Social Policy on Ageing suggest the aim of which might reasonably be expressed as ‘delaying the onset of loss of function or independence often associated with ageing but more correctly associated with illnesses’. The research which lays out a roadmap that forces us toward a social model and away from a medical one.
So what is an ‘ageing’ strategy?
A strategy for ageing might well include a response which supports people to be as healthy as they can through all life stages but incorporates wide-ranging social strategies.
Ageing doesn’t begin when you are elderly, ageing starts at the very beginning of our life course, from before birth in fact. Think about it this way; if you were to start a pension only when you were 67, thinking it would be a help to you in your later years, is the same as thinking about the problems of ageing only when you reach 67 i.e. it’s too late.
We are well aware of the benefits to health of babies in the womb, which is why more and more women neither smoke nor drink while pregnant, and it is this kind of foresight we need to cultivate throughout our lives: a whole life course strategy.
Recent research by the New Economics Foundation can provide such a strategy:
There as many views on basic human needs as there are human needs, but from these fundamentals shoot all the other things that humans need to survive and thrive.
- Expel waste
There is also strong evidence that links being valued by and being close to, others is a basic human need, we are social animals after all, and one that furthers well-being, promoting positive mental health in people of all ages.
Try to make connections today. The research suggests activities such as:
- Talk to someone face to face
- Speak to a stranger
- Ask how someone’s day’s been then actually listening to them
- Give someone ten minutes of your time
- Talk to people on the journey home
Frequent physical exercise has clear and documented connections with low rates of depression and stress across all ages. Regular exercise is vital for slowing age-related cognitive deterioration, but it doesn’t have to be intense for you to feel better; activities like walking or cycling to the shops, can be beneficial, not only to your physical wellbeing, with connecting with people too.
- Take the stairs at work
- Go for a walk instead of sitting at your desk at lunchtime
- Walk or cycle to work, maybe with a co-worker (helping you to ‘connect’) or just get off the bus one stop earlier
- Organise a sporting activity
- Have a kick-about with the kids or friends
- Try some stretches, before you leave for work
Habits can be hard to break, remind yourself to ‘take notice’ which will strengthen and broaden cognitive function.
Research has shown that being aware of what is happening ‘right now’ directly boosts your well-being.
- clear the clutter
- Take notice of how your co-workers are feeling or behaving
- Look up
- Try a different route to school or work
- Go to a new place
Life–course learning enhances confidence and inspires social interactions. CPD in work, extra-curricular activities after school, all help to lift people out of depression. The practice of goal-setting, in adult learning in particular, is associated strongly with increased levels of well-being.
Health is a vital component of anyone’s life, and at Regenta we value health above all things. That’s why our Second Opinion service will be there for you when you need us most. Find out how you can benefit from a second opinion by clicking here.