Photo Credit: Christian Newman
What is considered old? For most of us it is 10 years older than we are. So the goal post keeps changing. As physicians we measure age as function. It is a physiologic age rather than a chronological age. But for these rules I think about a geriatric patient. A geriatric patient is an older person with impaired overall function. For those patients, and for families who are caring for them, I offer these rules:
Eat with others and don't restrict foods. It's important to eat nutritious foods throughout our lives but many people have reduced appetite as they age. Don't restrict the foods you love. And the more meals that can be eaten with others, the better. Food is not just about eating. It is a time for socialization and emotional nutrition.
Stop Driving. One of the hardest things for people to give up is the car. It offers freedom, choice, mobility and independence. But I've seen too many accidents and medical emergencies happen when geriatric patients are still driving. Families can help. Ride-sharing and Uber/Lyft are perfect for getting around.
Keep Moving. No matter what the disability, movement is critical for living. Life expectancy goes down considerably for people who are sedentary. Sitting in a chair watching TV is the worst thing for aging. Get grandma a fit-bit for Christmas. You-Tube has many free exercise programs that can be done in a chair for people who are very disabled. For walkers- walk.
Know Your Medications. This is so important, even with the electronic medical record, patients who have many doctors are confused about their medications and why they take them. This leads to over-medication, missed medicines and drug interactions. Ask a family member or a doctor or nurse to list your medications and why you are taking it. This way old meds can be stopped.
Sit on the bed first. This means when you get up from laying down, especially in the middle of the night, just sit. Let your legs dangle and get your bearings. Many falls happen at night when people first stand up and try to walk. It is important to let the blood pump upward to the brain and get the circulation going. So sit first.
A group of millennials was asked "what is old" and they replied "40's or 50's". Just think about that for awhile.