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Senior Health care and well-being for the over 50's

Being over 50 does not have to mean declining health, nor declining fitness! Being active gives you more stamina, stronger muscles, a lower risk of heart disease and stroke, a lower risk of osteoporosis (brittle bones), and improved posture - as well as making you feel and look better. It also boosts your energy levels and your confidence. There's loads of help and advice to improve health and fitness for the elderly, and in this section we give you some details and places to contact for more information.

Sport, lifestyle and fitness
The over 50's can enjoy sport without having to compete, and there is a wide range of locally-based activities which more senior people of any fitness level can do. Regular sport and being more physically active offer a wide range of health-related benefits, can make you feel more energetic and better about yourself, and, of course, can provide a great deal of enjoyment.
You'd think that, at 76, Joyce Heywood would want to take life easy. But, having spent 21 years enjoying the thrills and spills of windsurfing, she has no intention of giving it up.
"I have been windsurfing since I was 55," she says. "It was after my husband took it up that I decided to have a go. I thought rather than stand on the bank watching I would join him."
Joyce and her husband Dennis joined the Seavets, an association for people aged over 35 who enjoy windsurfing. Dennis produced a regular newsletter until his death four years ago. However, Joyce is still taking part in races across Britain. "I'm still racing, although I usually come in last," she jokes. "I haven't got the stamina now, although I do go to the gym once a week to keep me fit."
Joyce says the social side of Seavets plays an important part in keeping her active. "It's lovely to meet up with friends and do something you all enjoy," she says. "I always try to encourage people to keep going. It keeps your mind and your muscles active."


Increasing activity
You can increase your level of activity just by:
· walking more rather than using the car or taking a bus
· doing more activities around the home and garden and putting a bit more physical effort into doing them and
· getting involved in a regular activity you particularly enjoy, such as dancing or a leisurely swim
Is being active for me now I'm over 50?
You don't have to do an exhausting work-out nor be an Olympic athlete to be active. You will improve your health by building up to half an hour of moderate activity each day, such as a brisk walk. You should do activities that you enjoy and can make a regular part of your life.
There is a range of sporting and leisure activities in most areas - look in your local phone book or visit your local council or library.


Keep Fit Association
You can get a range of information on keeping fit and healthy from the Keep Fit Association. Phone: 020 8692 9566. http://www.keepfit.org.uk/

More about sport and fitness in England and Wales
If you want to know more about sporting opportunities that may suit you, contact Sport England or The Sports Council for Wales. They can put you in touch with the sports organisations and people in your area who can tell you about learning, improving and taking part in sport.
Sport England
Phone: 020 7273 1500. http://www.sportengland.org/


The Sports Council For Wales
Phone: 029 2030 0500. http://www.sports-council-wales.co.uk/


Sport Scotland
You can find out more about sporting opportunities that may suit you through Sport Scotland. They can put you in touch with the sports organisations and people in your area who can tell you about learning, improving and taking part in sport. You can call them on 0131 317 7200. http://www.sportscotland.org.uk/


Scottish Sports Association
You can also contact the Scottish Sports Association which represents the interests of over 80 governing bodies and organisations of sport and physical recreation in Scotland. You can call them on 0131 339 8785. http://www.scottishsportsassociation.org.uk/home/index.php

Walking the way to senior health care in England and Wales

Hundreds of walking schemes are starting up around England and Wales. Many organise short walks and produce information on interesting places to walk. Enthusiasts also plan routes, suggest improvements, or get trained as volunteer leaders. Walking is ideal for everyone over 50, as a pleasure in its own right or as a healthy way to get to places.
Case study:

After developing arthritis in her right hip, retired midwife Dorothy Roman had a hip replacement operation in Sep'.Since the operation she has literally walked her way back to health, first with the help of two walking sticks and now, without. Her progress has been remarkable.
Dorothy, 68, comments: "Before having the operation I found out as much information as I could, as I was determined to regain my health as soon as possible. I found that regular walking was not only beneficial for building up the muscles that hadn't been used due to the operation, but also made me feel much better in myself.
"I truly believe that I made a better recovery due to taking such a proactive approach. The walking has become part of my daily routine, and helps me keep the pounds off. Overcoming the problem of motivation was the biggest step."

 


Find out more about walking
Phone the Walking the way to senior health initiative on 01242 533258 http://www.whi.org.uk/


Leisure, sport and recreation - disabled people

It is worth contacting your local authority's social services or leisure department to see what activities they organise.

You should also be able to find out about the accessibility of these places and how they cater for disabled people. For example:
· physical access to buildings
· special lavatories
· lifts
· accessible bars and restaurants
· disabled car parking and wheelchair spaces
· induction loops*
*An induction loop is a system that helps you hear more clearly by reducing background noise. It can also be used with a microphone to help hearing aid users hear conversations more clearly.
Your local library should also be a good source of information. They may have a list of active special groups locally.
Many council swimming pools and sports centres have facilities and instruction for disabled people.

 


The Department for Culture, Media and Sport
Another source of information is the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). The DCMS is responsible for government policy on the arts, sport, the National Lottery, tourism, libraries, museums and galleries, broadcasting, film, the music industry, press freedom and regulation, licensing, gambling and the historic environment.
One of the aims of the DCMS is to ensure that disabled people are able to access and participate fully in cultural, heritage, sporting and leisure activities, including employment in these fields.

Senior healthy eating

A healthy diet for the over 50's is a diet based on a wide variety of foods. You should eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables each day (fresh, frozen, canned and dried all count), plenty of starchy foods (such as bread, breakfast cereals, pasta and rice) and food that is low in fat, salt and added sugars. The balance of good health shows the types and proportion of foods needed to make a well balanced and healthy diet, for most people but especially the elderly. It is based on the five commonly accepted food groups.


Food groups

The nutrition label on foods can help you choose a healthy diet.
All adults are encouraged to eat a varied, balanced diet that is low in fat, salt and added sugars.
The balance of good health shows the types and proportion of foods needed to make a well balanced and healthy diet, for most people. It is based on the five commonly accepted food groups:
· one third fruit and vegetables
· one third bread, other cereals and potatoes
· one third meat, fish and alternatives, foods containing fat and sugar such as natural protein powder, and milk and dairy foods
Fruit and vegetables - five a day
Aim to eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. Fresh, frozen, chilled, canned 100 per cent juice and dried fruit and vegetables all count.
The fruit and vegetables in convenience foods - such as ready meals, pasta sauces, soups and puddings - can contribute to five a day. But convenience foods can also be high in added salt, sugar or fat, which should only be eaten in moderation, so it's important always to check the nutrition information on food labels.
As a guide, a portion means:
· one medium apple or banana
· two smaller fruit such as plums
· three heaped tablespoonfuls of vegetables
It has been estimated that eating at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables could reduce the risk of deaths from heart disease and cancer.
To get the maximum benefits, you need to eat different types of fruit and vegetables. This is because fruit and vegetables all contain different combinations of fibre, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.
Because they are considered a 'starchy' food, potatoes don't count towards five a day. Starchy foods are food like potatoes, rice, pasta and bread and play an important part of a balanced diet.
Salt
Most people eat too much salt - about 50 per cent more than is recommended - an important cause of raised blood pressure. Reducing salt intakes is particularly important for patients at high risk of heart disease, such as those who are obese or have type two diabetes.
About three quarters of the salt we eat is from processed foods such as ready meals, soups, sauces and savoury snacks, so it is also important to check the salt content on food labels which state the salt and/or sodium content of the food. Salt content can be estimated as two and half times the amount of sodium given on the labels.
If you are recovering from an illness, are underweight or don't have an appetite, you should speak to your doctor or practice nurse about the best diet for you.

Healthy weight
Healthy eating is a great way of living a fitter and healthier life. It reduces the risks of developing heart disease, some cancers, diabetes and high blood pressure, and can help you achieve or maintain a healthy weight.
Fruit and vegetables are generally low fat, low calorie foods. So eating fruit and vegetables instead of foods that are high in fat and added sugars may help you achieve, or keep to, a healthy weight.
Being overweight increases the risk of a wide range of diseases including heart disease and diabetes. If you are worried about your weight, healthy eating and being physically active is the best way to bring it down and keep it down sensibly.
You can check whether you are a healthy weight by working out your body mass index (BMI). You do this by taking your weight (in kilograms) and dividing it by your height (in metres) squared. So, if you weigh 65 kilograms and are 1.73 metres tall, you would have a BMI of 65/ (1.73 x 1.73) = 21.7.
Over 25 is considered overweight, and over 30 is obese.


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