Seven tips to help you live to 100

Find out what you can do to not only live to a ripe old age, but also enjoy your later years in good health.

Words: Melanie Hearse

As a nation, we're getting older. By 2050, almost a quarter of the Australian population will be 65 years or older – quite a contrast to the current figure of 13 percent. This has implications for government planning and individuals from both a financial and aged-healthcare perspective: pension and healthcare costs are projected to rise significantly unless the older population is better enabled to continue working (if they so desire) and more spending is put into preventative health programs1.

Melinda Howes, CEO of the Actuaries Institute until early November 2013, says an ageing population brings plenty of considerations into play, from ensuring adequate resources of food and water, to funding for healthcare, income support and infrastructure planning.

“In Sydney, we already have age-friendly cities; thought is given at the planning stages of new developments to include things like wheelchair access,” explains Melinda, adding that the institute’s important research focuses on improving health outcomes for older people, as longevity would otherwise mean living out a protracted deterioration.

Alive and thriving

While the concept of living longer is one most of us embrace (Melinda comments that she would love to live to 100, provided she was in good health), it does carry implications for personal health, with old age generally bringing an increased risk of health complaints, ranging from bad hips to cancers and dementia.

Dr Judy Ford, geneticist and a lecturer/research fellow at the University of South Australia, says there are genes that partially determine longevity and your susceptibility to health issues.

While the genes we are handed are outside our control, Dr Ford says we can positively influence our health and longevity by paying attention to the following lifestyle factors:

1. Immune system

The immune system is a key player in fighting off serious illnesses and diseases. Dr Ford says habits that protect the immune system – such as washing hands regularly and always before eating food, reducing exposure to infections and diseases, and practising good food hygiene – can equate to improved health and longevity.

2. Stress

Stress is involved in the production of cortisol, high levels of which are linked to a myriad of health complaints that will also take a toll on your immune system, says Dr Ford. Exercise, adequate sleep and relaxation are key stress busters.

3. Oral hygiene

Dr Ford says the state of your mouth plays an often-overlooked but important role in healthy ageing. As well as reducing quality of life through pain and reduced ability to consume a healthy diet, gum disease and poor oral health impacts your immune system and has been linked to cardiac diseases. Dr Ford recommends flossing and brushing your teeth daily, as well as regular dental check-ups.

4. Diet

One way to positively impact health is to think carefully about what you consume. A healthy diet made up of foods from each of the key major food groups will ensure a mix of the nutrients and minerals you need for a healthy body. Drinking eight glasses of water a day is important, as is sticking to the recommended guidelines for alcohol consumption.

5. Exercise

Dr Ford says exercise stimulates circulation, assists breathing, raises the metabolism, aids digestion and stimulates a variety of hormones that influence wellbeing. “Load-bearing exercise of any type increases bone density and protects against osteoporosis,” she says. “Heart problems, high blood pressure and even diabetes are much more likely to occur in sedentary people. Even mental illnesses, such as depression, are associated with inactivity.”

Getting out for a walk in the sunshine is also good for a hit of Vitamin D – deficiencies have been linked to a number of serious health problems, including heart disease, several types of cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and some autoimmune disorders.

6. Social activity

Who wants to live to an old age if they are not having any fun? Staying social will help keep a positive mood and outlook, which Dr Ford says is vital in staving off depression and reducing stress. Love does not have to be romantic; it can refer to a job or hobby, spending time with family or the unconditional love a pet provides.

7. Environment

Dr Ford says those living in a concrete jungle are more susceptible to illness. “We can’t always change where we live,” she says, “but even if you don’t live in a leafy green suburb, you can grow indoor plants or put some time into an outdoor garden.

“Failing that, make time for a walk in a park as often as possible.”

Secrets to longevity

Unlock the key to quality ageing with lifestyle tips from some of the world’s oldest people.

All about food

Bolivian indigenous farmer Carmelo Flores regularly consumes quinoa seeds and riverside mushrooms and constantly chews coca leaves – a diet he believes has kept him alive for 123 years2.

Staying active

Louise Caulder, 101 years old, only leaves her bedroom each morning once she has done 30 minutes of stretches. Later in the day, she walks for more than a kilometre, and she exercises her mind by playing bridge three times a week3.

Driving force

Margaret Dunning, 102, has collected and restored classic cars since the 1940s. This year, she is competing in 11 antique car events around the US. “It’s been a good ride and I am enjoying the opportunities provided by these later years,” she says3.

References:

  1. Australia to 2050: future challenges, archive.treasury.gov.au/igr/igr2010/Overview/pdf/IGR_2010_Overview.pdf
  2. Quinoa, mushrooms and coca kept me alive for 123 years news.com.au/lifestyle/health-fitness/quinoa-mushrooms-and-coca-kept-me-alive-for-123-years8217/story-fneuz9ev-1226700281395#ixzz2eYQ3xoAb
  3. 7 life secrets of centenarians: forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2013/08/20/7-life-secrets-of-centenarians/1/ 
Information provided in this article is not medical advice and you should consult with your healthcare practitioner. Australian Unity accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of any of the opinions, advice, representations or information contained in this publication. Readers should rely on their own advice and enquiries in making decisions affecting their own health, wellbeing or interest.