What do Sylvester Stallone, Cher, Diane Keaton and George W. Bush have in common other than fame? They’re among the first wave of baby boomers, who turn 65 years old this year, to become “senior boomers” and Medicare-eligible. Starting January 2011, more than 10,000 baby boomers a day will turn 65 – that’s one every eight seconds, a pattern expected to continue for the next 19 years, according to the American Association of Retired People (AARP).
How times have changed! Aging is different now than it was for our parents and grandparents. Today, there are more people living longer than at any other time in history. In fact, boomers will number 78 million by 2030, statistics from the United States Census Bureau.
The Beatles once asked, “Will you still need me?” in their famous song, “When I’m Sixty-four.” “As baby boomers are reaching that age, it is clear they are most certainly needed,” says Dr. Marci Teresi, a geriatrician at Kaiser Permanente in Santa Clara. “Some will have delayed parenthood until they were older and will still need to work to pay for college or retirement. Others will be caring for grandchildren or elderly parents. Many will be enjoying retirement by staying physically active, traveling, and remaining connected to their friends and community. Some, of course, will find themselves doing it all. Making sure they stay healthy will be more important than it has ever been.”
Dr. Teresi recommends 10 easy tips to help baby boomers live long and thrive!
- Quit smoking
Take this critical step to improve your health and combat aging. Smoking kills by causing cancer, strokes and heart failure. Smoking leads to erectile dysfunction in men due to atherosclerosis and to excessive wrinkling by attacking skin elasticity. Many resources are available to help you quit.https://members.kaiserpermanente.org/kpweb/healthency.do?hwid=qtsmk
- Keep active.
Do something to keep fit each day—something you enjoy that maintains strength, balance, flexibility, and promotes cardiovascular health. Physical activity helps you stay at a healthy weight, prevent or control illness, sleep better, reduce stress, avoid falls, and look and feel better too.
- Eat Well
Combined with physical activity, eating nutritious foods in the right amounts can help keep you healthy. Many illnesses—such as heart disease https://members.kaiserpermanente.org/kpweb/entryPage.do?cfe=287 , obesity, high blood pressure https://members.kaiserpermanente.org/kpweb/Link.do?html=/htmlapp/feature/287hearthealth/nat_blood_pressure.html , type 2 diabetes https://members.kaiserpermanente.org/kpweb/entryPage.do?cfe=199 , and osteoporosis https://members.kaiserpermanente.org/kpweb/Link.do?html=/htmlapp/feature/364womenshealth/nat_womens_bone_health.html —can be prevented or controlled with dietary changes and exercise. Calcium and vitamin D supplements can help women prevent osteoporosis.
- Maintain a healthy weight
Extra weight increases your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Use our BMI (body mass index) calculator https://members.kaiserpermanente.org/kpweb/healthcalc/bmi.do to find out what you should weigh for your height. Get to your healthy weight and stay there by eating right and keeping active. Replace sugary drinks with water. Water is calorie free!
- Prevent falls
We become vulnerable to falls as we age. Prevent falls and injury by removing loose carpet or throw rugs. Keep paths clear of electrical cords and clutter, and use night-lights in hallways and bathrooms. Did you know that people who walk barefoot fall more frequently? Wear shoes with good support to reduce the risk of falling.
- Stay up-to-date on immunizations and other health screenings
By age 50, women should begin mammography screening for breast cancer. Men can be checked for prostate cancer. Many preventative screenings are available. Those who are new to Medicare are entitled to a “Welcome to Medicare” visit and all Medicare members to an annual wellness visit. Use these visits to discuss which preventative screenings and vaccinations are due.
- Prevent skin cancer
As we age, our skin grows thinner; it becomes drier, and less elastic. Wrinkles appear, and cuts and bruises take longer to heal. Be sure to protect your skin from the sun. Too much sun and ultra violet rays can cause skin cancer.
- Get regular dental, vision and hearing check ups
Your teeth and gums will last a lifetime if you care for them properly – that means daily brushing and flossing and getting regular dental checkups. By age 50, most people notice changes to their vision, including a gradual decline in the ability to see small print or focus on close objects. Common eye problems that can impair vision include cataracts https://members.kaiserpermanente.org/kpweb/healthency.do?hwid=hw36825 and glaucoma https://members.kaiserpermanente.org/kpweb/healthency.do?hwid=hw158191 . Hearing loss occurs commonly with aging, often due to exposure to loud noise.
- Manage stress
Try exercise or relaxation techniques – perhaps meditation or yoga – as a means of coping. Make time for friends and social contacts and fun. Successful coping can affect our health and how we feel. Learn the role of positive thinking https://members.kaiserpermanente.org/kpweb/Link.do?html=/htmlapp/feature/286mindbody/nat_topic_overview.html .
- Fan the flame – sexual intimacy and aging
Age is no reason to limit your sexual enjoyment. Learn about physical changes https://members.kaiserpermanente.org/kpweb/healthency.do?hwid=hw159186 that come with aging and get suggestions to help you adjust to them, if necessary.
This article contributed by Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara Medical Center