Food, fitness & health: Live your healthiest life in your 60s and beyond
Over the decades, the Italian actress Sophia Loren was celebrated worldwide for her distinctive grace and style. She once mused, "There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap into this source, you will truly have defeated age."
You can also bring creativity into caring for your body and work to defeat age by prioritizing your health and wellness. This can be your ticket to enjoying mobility and independence as you age. Whether you’ve been living a healthy lifestyle since your teens or you’re new to the game, you can still make improvements to your health in your 60s with some small but significant lifestyle changes.
If you want to work towards living a healthy life in your 60s and beyond, read on.
The powerful nutrition enhancements you need to live a long, fulfilling life
As you age, you're more likely to develop deficiencies in vitamin B12, vitamin D, and calcium (pdf).
While you can – and should! – try to meet all of your nutritional needs through the food you eat. You can also consult with a dietitian or doctor who can help you determine if supplementation is right for you. Everyone’s needs are different, and this holds for nutritional supplements.
You can also make small but impactful changes to your eating to help you stay healthy and live a long, fulfilling life.
- Low fruit and vegetable consumption has been linked to colorectal cancer and may also be linked with lung, breast, bladder, pancreatic, ovarian, liver, stomach, esophageal, head, and neck cancers.
Reduce your cancer risk by eating more fresh fruits and vegetables and less processed meats.
- Immune function decreases with age, but you can help boost it with zinc-rich foods – like seafood, beans and lentils, and nuts and seeds – and folate-rich foods – like dark green vegetables such as broccoli and spinach, and legumes such as chickpeas, beans, and lentils. Studies even suggested that zinc supplements should be offered to the elderly to fight COVID-19.
- Older adults often struggle with constipation. Choosing high-fiber foods – like broccoli, apples, whole-wheat pasta, chickpeas and pears – over refined products can help prevent or relieve it.
- To counter any loss of taste and smell, flavour foods with a variety of salt-free spices and herbs, lemon juice, or vinegar.
- Eat oily fish – such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines – at least twice a week to
reduce your chances of developing heart disease and to slow down cognitive decline.
Focus on regular low-intensity activity, mobility, and balance
When you enter your 60s, musculoskeletal problems are common. Regular exercise can help prevent cancer, obesity, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes. It can also help you to stay independent and give you the confidence you need to continue performing your daily tasks.
- While any amount of exercise is beneficial, aim to get active 2.5 hours a week. Try exercises like walking, cycling, stair-climbing, hiking, or swimming, and break your 2.5 hours up into multiple sessions of at least 10 minutes.
- Use free weights, elastic bands, body weight, or machines for strength training.
- Daily balance and core strengthening exercises will help reduce the risk of falling, which is a risk factor for those over 60.
- Stretch regularly to maintain sufficient joint space and flexibility, which can help reduce the wear and tear inside your joints.
- Exercise is also beneficial for better brain function and can help prevent memory loss, cognitive decline, and dementia.
Staying active can add years to your life. A combination of cardio, strength, and balance training can help maintain muscle tone and make everyday tasks easier.
Keep an eye on your risk profile with preventive screenings
The best way to keep tabs on your health is to ensure you are going to your doctor regularly and attending all of the needed preventative screenings for your age.
|Recommended screening||Frequency||Top health tip|
|Pap test (women only)||Once every three years||
Every year, thousands of older adults suffer serious health problems from diseases they could be vaccinated againts, like singles, flu, and pneumococcal disease. Talk to your doctor about which vaccines are recommended to protect you.
Also ask your doctor about vitamin D supplements for strengthening your bones.
Do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week, as well as 2 to 3 strength training sessions and balance exercises to improve your quality of life and reduce your chances of a fall.
|Dental check-up||Every 6 months|
|Eye exam||Once every 2-3 years, including glaucome screening|
|Flu vaccination||Once a year|
|Mammogram||Once every 2-3 years|
|Prostate exam||Speak to your doctor about your risk factors to determine when you should be tested|
|Colorectal cancer screening||Every 2 years|
|Pneumococcal vaccination||One dose after you turn 65|
|Shingles vaccination||One 2-dose series after you turn 50|
Looking for more information on preventative screenings? Speak to your doctor or visit the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care website to answer any questions you may have.
Please always check with a medical professional to ensure these strategies are right for you.