A Picture of Health: Older People

Every month, Public Health Tameside publishes facts and figures about health in Tameside. This time the focus is on Older People...

There are around 37,000 people over the age of 65 in Tameside

If you think they’re all about grey hair and free bus passes, think again. Just because you reach a certain age doesn’t mean you lose your individuality. Every older person has a unique story to tell, just like you will when you are older. Next time you’re with an older person try asking them some questions to understand who they are and the life they’ve lived; you might be surprised. If you need some inspiring conversation starters check out the link.

Humans are pack animals. When we don’t see as much of other people as we like, we start to feel lonely

Not only does it feel bad, it can cause problems with our physical health too. For older people life events like the death of a spouse, retirement, or grown children moving out of home can come in quick succession, meaning the chances of feeling lonely are higher than for people of other ages. If you know someone who might be lonely, tell them about the SilverLine. It’s a free confidential helpline providing information, friendship and advice to older people, open 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Their number is 0800 4 70 80 90, even if it’s just to say goodnight, there’s someone there to listen. Find out more about how feeling lonely can have a physical impact on our bodies from the Campaign to End Loneliness.

Young people fall over, but when we talk about older people we say they ‘Had a fall’, but why?

As we age the impact of falling over can be signicant. At the least it can cause the person to lose confidence and independence. At worst it could lead to broken bones and a hospital stay. Either way a fall can lead to a decline in health and mobility and is best avoided. A broken hip also costs the NHS over £26,000 to fix including medical and social care, and with 75,000 broken hips each year that’s a whopping 2 billion pounds! There are lots of ways to prevent falls around the home, here are some hints and tips for you or your older relatives to keep you on your toes.

Nearly 2000 people are living with dementia in Tameside. Most of them are older people, but dementia isn’t a natural part of ageing.

It’s caused by diseases of the brain, some of which can be avoided if we live a healthy lifestyle. Smoking, drinking alcohol, taking little exercise and eating too many treats can contribute towards vascular dementia, so take steps to protect your little grey cells and make some smart changes to your lifestyle. Tameside is working hard to create a Dementia Friendly Community, where lots of people understand dementia and can help those with it to continue to live well. We have over 2000 thousand Dementia Friends in Tameside, and you can become one of them.

The flu vaccination gives you the flu right? Wrong!

There are many myths about the flu vaccine that can put people off having it, but that fact is that flu is a serious business which
hospitalises and kills people every winter. The flu vaccination is vital to everyone over the age of 65, those with a long term health condition, pregnant mums and young children. The flu vaccine protects us in two ways, as an individual you are covered, but the more people who have it, the less mobile flu becomes, because it’s less likely to pass from person to person. If you don’t do it for yourself, do it for the people around you. Call your GP and book to have yours. Still not convinced? Click here for 10 common flu myths and the truth behind them.

Even if you’ve led a lifetime of inactivity there’s no time like the present to get up and get moving.

For older people the benefits of physical activity come in different ways; active bodies make for active minds, keeping you sharp as you get older. Balance and strength can protect you from falls, and keep fit clubs offer social scenes to boot. Whether you’re aiming to be the most glamourous granny on the beach, or just wishing to stay mobile and independent, try to keep moving. Carrying shopping bags, climbing stairs and gardening are the day to day activities you can do, but there are lots of classes and clubs you could join too. Click the link to find out more.

How many older people does it take to change a light bulb?

Around 36% of over 65’s live alone, that’s over 13,000 people in Tameside. Living alone can mean you’re not able to tackle odd jobs by yourself, and standing on chairs to test a smoke alarm is a fall waiting to happen. If you don’t have someone to ask, whether it’s a small repair around the house or important safety measures such as  tting carbon monoxide detectors and grab rails, talk to Age UK Tameside. They provide a Handyperson Service, and can help with this and more. If you know an older person who could do with a helping hand, click here for more information.

Good winter health is vital for older people. On average around 116 people die in Tameside each year during the coldest season.

Some can be attributed to flu (remember that vaccine?) but some are because of the cold weather. Eating well, staying active and wearing warm clothes can protect you against falling ill, but you can also take steps to make your home toasty. Keeping your home above 18 degrees has been shown to help, but many older people worry about rising heating bills. There are many winter warmth schemes that focus on helping older people to manage their fuel, some of which offer grants to help with costly winter heating bills. Click here for more information.

Caring for an elderly friend or relative is something that comes to many of us at some point in life

Whilst it’s a responsibility most of us take on without a second thought, it’s easy to underestimate the strain it can put on your own health. Whether it’s worrying about your loved one, trying to fit caring around a full time job, or looking after young children at the same time, it can be tiring, demanding, upsetting, and lonely. Carers may also take a financial hit if they have to change working hours. Advice on how to look after yourself, as well as your loved one is available from the Carers Centre. If you have caring responsibilities, be sure to let your GP know, so they can keep an eye on your health. Click here for more information.

The likelihood of developing certain types of cancer increases with age

1 in 3 women who get breast cancer are over 70, so you can never assume you’re past it. Symptoms of breast cancer can include a lump or thickening in the breast or armpit, changes to the breast skin, or pain in the breast. Click here for information on this and other cancers from Be Clear on Cancer. And what about the boys? The chance of developing prostate cancer increases around age 50, but luckily it is highly treatable in most cases. Lots of men shudder at the thought of a check, which can include a rectal examination, but a moment’s discomfort is a small price to pay for the peace of mind. Male to female transgender women who still have a prostate should continue to be checked too. Not sure what the symptoms are? Click here for information on prostate cancer.

It’s unlikely you’ll find the Crown Green Bowls Club binge drinking and brawling of a Friday night...

...but more older people are admitted to hospital because of alcohol harm than you’d think. Older people tend to drink less overall, but drink more frequently than younger people, so whilst it might not be a trip to A&E after a night out, they may need treatment for things like liver damage. As the body ages it become less efficient at dealing with alcohol, so unless you want to become a pickled pensioner try drinking no more than 6 pints of beer or 6 glasses (175ml) of wine a week, spreading this over a few days. Remember to have a couple of days alcohol free a week to give your body a chance to rest.

If you know an older person it’s important to take notice of their weight

As we get older our appetite changes, but living alone can also mean we take less care of our own nutrition. Cooking for one can become a boiled egg affair, but that’s not always enough to maintain a healthy weight. If you notice a wedding ring or shirt collar getting looser it could be a sign that a few hearty dinners are in order. Click below for advice on how to ensure an older person eats well. And whether it’s can’t cook or won’t cook, The Grafton Centre in Hyde host fine dining every Friday, as well as serving hot meals daily. It’s not just lunch though, there’s drama, singing, Tai Chi, indoor bowling, the list goes on. If you know an older person who might like to join, tell them to call on 0161 368 4110 to find out more.