Updated 16 March 2018

Do you want to be in control of how you age?

Ageing comes with many challenges but you can take action.

As we get older our bodies and mind start to undergo changes, a natural part of the ageing process. Fortunately, we have it within our power to be in control of these changes and tackle ageing head on.

Taking care of your mental health during your senior years is just as important as during any other life stage.

How can I stay mentally and emotionally healthy?

  • Keep busy – practice your favourite hobby such as painting, reading, writing, playing chess, etc. These activities will not only enrich your life, but will also stimulate your brain and lower your risk for neurological diseases.
  • Boost your memory by doing crossword puzzles and sudoku puzzles.
  • Cherish relationships – stay close to your family, value your children, grandchildren and friends. Call and visit regularly.
  • Create a new community – join support groups or societies to build new relationships.
  • Make a difference in your neighbourhood or society by doing volunteer work such as helping out at a soup kitchen.
  • Use technology – social media platforms and Skype are useful tools to keep in touch with family members that live far away. Familiarise yourself with these communication tools.
  • Physical health is intertwined with mental health – go on regular walks and eat a balanced, healthy diet.
  • Stick to a routine and fill your days with activities.

Take action

Seek help if you experience any of these signs and symptoms pointing to a possible health disorder or neurological condition

  • Feeling sad, hopeless or empty for no reason
  • Suddenly experiencing memory loss
  • Feeling tired
  • Experiencing a loss of appetite
  • Unexplained pain
  • Declined motor functions or mobility
  • Loss of interest in daily activities and hobbies

Paying careful attention to our mental and emotional states is imperative, but we cannot ignore the physical side. To combat the physical side of the ageing process, it becomes important to maintain a healthy balanced diet to avoid age related conditions, combined with exercise.

A quick guide to what to eat:

These nutrients/minerals are found in the specific food groups that assist in maintaining your health in old age:

Immune system: Vitamin A; B6, C, D&E, Iron, Zinc, Folic acid, Selenium -  prawns, egg yolks, dried fruits and chicken 

Gut function: Pre-and probiotics – yoghurts with active cultures

Bone health: Calcium and Magnesium - low fat or fat free dairy products, and whole grains

Heart health: Antioxidants and omega3 fatty acids - Soy beans, fish, kale, garlic, onions, berries  

These healthy foods work better with regular, reasonable age-appropriate exercises:

  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Aquatic and step aerobics
  • Yoga
  • Jogging
  • Cycling

While we can do our utmost to age as well as we can, there will always be situations which will be out of our hands – but we can still prepare for these in any case by making sure we have the right medical coverage, and manage it well.

Here are a few tricks you can use to ensure that you can stretch which is often limited benefits.

How to get the most out of your medical aid

You’ve probably had a medical aid for many years and as you reach retirement, now’s the time you’ll really need to get the most out of your medical aid. Fortunately, there are a few tricks to make sure your benefits go a bit further.

  • Generic medication is often more affordable so ask your doctor or pharmacist whether it is an option for you. This will allow your medical savings to go further every month.
  • Check to see whether your medical aid offers discounted rates for service providers in their network. Find a GP and dentist in the network.
  • Ask your doctor if they offer a discount if you pay cash after your consult. Settle your bill upfront and then submit it to your medical aid – it will help your medical savings account go a little further.
  • Always check to see if your condition is covered under chronic. There are 25 chronic conditions that are covered by your medical aid (these include diabetes, hypertension, Parkinson’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis) – what this means is that it comes out of a separate fund that you do not pay for. So, if you spend R200 on your hypertension medication every month, you could save up to R2 400 per year if it is covered under chronic.
  • When you retire it’s likely that your income will be less than when you were working. As a result, it’s a good idea to find out if your medical aid offers different plans based on your income – a lower monthly premium will help you save a bit of money.

Image credit: iStock

Brought to you by TENA


Ask the Expert

Incontinence Expert

Dr Prenevin Govender completed his MBChB at the University of Cape Town in 2001. He obtained his Fellowship of the College of Urologists in 2009 and graduated with distinction for a Masters in Medicine from the University of Cape Town in 2010. His special interests include laparoscopic, pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence surgery. He consults full-time at Life Kingsbury Hospital in Claremont.

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