Your 60s and 70s

30 September 2018

In your 60s and 70s you may think about retiring or taking more of a back seat, but there are many ways you can make a big difference to your health.

Studies show that exercise and activity can help prevent illness and give you more healthy years, even if you start after 60.

Simple things like eating well, taking a walk, doing the gardening or solving a crossword puzzle can help keep you in good physical and mental condition as you age.

In these pages, you’ll find lots of ideas and suggestions that will help you stay healthy and enjoy life for longer, as well as useful information and links on age-related health issues, from mobility problems to memory loss.

It’s never too late to get fit

Less than 3% of us take regular exercise over the age of 65. But this is actually when we need it most to make up for the effects of slowing metabolism and declining muscle density. Regular exercise can give you more energy and keep you healthier and fitter for longer. And it’s never too late to start. A recent University of London study showed that you can gain healthy years from exercising, even if you start after 60.

Start with a plan: your body requires a bit more careful maintenance at this stage, so start out lightly. Talk with your doctor or a qualified trainer about an exercise plan that won’t cause strains or injury.

Keep your resistance: working your muscles is important to preserve strength. Try gentle weight training, stair climbing or digging in the garden.

Take care of your joints: running and road cycling can put pressure on your joints in later life. Switch to swimming or a stationary bike if you’re feeling the burn.

Flex and stretch: remember to warm up before and stretch after any strenuous exercise to avoid aches and pains. 

Get more tips and information on keeping fit.

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How to eat well over 60

Your metabolism slows down as you age, so you don’t need to eat as much as you used to. But that doesn’t mean you should skip meals. Your body still needs regular supplies of energy to stay healthy, so have the same number of meals but smaller portions. The key to eating well over 60 is making sure you get all the nutrients you need in your diet. Here are some suggestions:   

  • Iron: our bodies find it harder to absorb iron from our diet as we age so you may need to up your intake of iron-rich foods such as pulses, oily fish and lean meat, or take a supplement
  • Calcium: you lose bone density and strength after 60, so eat calcium rich foods such as milk, cheese, broccoli and cabbage to help prevent osteoporosis
  • Vitamin D: helps your body absorb calcium. Get it from sunlight and eggs
  • Omega 3 fatty acid: this is a vital nutrient, helping to oil your joints as you get older. Find it in oily fish and eggs
  • Fibre: your digestive system finds it harder to break things down as you age. Help it out by eating fibre rich foods such as oats and wholegrains

Get more tips and information on eating well.

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Make the most of your brain power

Some people find that getting older isn’t always fun, so it’s easy to fall into a negative view of life. But studies have shown that positive thoughts and emotions can have a powerful effect on your health and wellbeing as you age and have even been shown to increase your life span. Here are some ideas for keeping a positive outlook:

Exercise your mind and your body: physical exercise has been shown to encourage healthy brain cells and improve your brain power. ‘Mental aerobics’ such as Sudoku puzzles and crosswords can also help to stimulate the brain and prevent the risk of Alzheimer’s.

See the glass half full: a review of 160 studies in 2011 found that being optimistic can make you healthier and help you live longer, reducing the risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease.

Help others: with more free time, you could also consider volunteering. It’s a good way to make friends and gives you the added boost of doing good and being connected to your community.

Get more tips and information on staying mentally active.

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Join in and have fun

With up to a third of people living alone over 65, loneliness and isolation can easily become negative factors in your life, increasing your risk of depression and dementia. But it doesn’t have to be like that. Now you have more time to enjoy life, use it. Keep in touch with friends and make new ones, doing the things you never had time for before. Taking up a hobby or starting a class could be the thing that gives you a new lease of life. Find out more.

Being socially and mentally active in later life can also help to reduce your need for comforts such as cigarettes and alcohol. If you are a smoker, it’s never too late to give up. You start seeing the health benefits from the moment you stop, even if you quit in your 60s. Get advice and support from our quit smoking centre.

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What tests do I need to take?

Just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean you’re going to be ill. But your risk of developing common health conditions does go up with age, so it pays to get yourself checked out on a regular basis. Early diagnosis can mean the difference between living well with a condition or suffering a debilitating chronic illness. These are some of the key tests and vaccinations to talk to your doctor about:     

  • Blood glucose test, for type 2 diabetes
  • Blood pressure test, to assess your risk of heart disease and stroke
  • Bone density test, for osteoporosis
  • Thyroid test, for hyperthyroidism
  • PSA test, for prostate cancer
  • Colonoscopy, for bowel cancer
  • Flu and pneumonia vaccines
  • Shingles vaccine

You should also listen to your body and keep an eye out for signs of other health issues that increase with age, such as memory loss or trouble with balance. It’s normal to experience these but do see your doctor if you’re worried or the problem starts to interfere with your daily life.

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