With global life expectancy ever increasing, living to your golden years is highly likely. New trends are emerging to help you age healthily and have a good quality of life, writes Linda Mzamane.
Let’s face it, we’re all getting older. But this natural phenomenon has been frowned upon across mainstream media for decades, and those (especially women) who allowed its evidence to rear its head were behind the curve, on the outside of the forever young club.
With medical advances and an increased awareness of health and well-being, more people around the world are living longer. While South Africa is generally a young nation with the majority of the country under 40 years, Statistics South Africa indicates that the over 60 demographic increased by 33,8% in 2022. The larger the older population, the higher the risk of a chronic disease burden on the health system unless early interventions are found to keep this demographic healthy – mentally and physically.
AGEING IN A PANDEMIC
When the unthinkable happened and the whole world shut down, confining us to our homes in 2020, 78-year-old wine merchant Olga Hafner was living alone in her home. While reading through a copy of a UK magazine, she came across an article about a web-based platform called Goldster. “I was looking for some kind of exercise to do to keep me occupied during lockdown, and stumbled across the article,” remembers Olga. “I found Goldster so helpful, it improved my mobility and kept my mind and body active,” she says.
With over 400 real-time video-based activities that focus on cognitive, physical and emotional well-being, Goldster took the UK by storm in 2019. And with Olga’s persistence, South Africa became the first country outside the UK to offer the platform earlier this year. Positively redefining the term old-age, Goldster is the new frontier in healthy ageing. Its name is derived from the term “golden oldies” mashed up with a twist on the word “youngster”.
Designed by an international team of experts, every activity on the platform is backed by science and research for the specific purpose of helping the three areas proven to promote healthy ageing: cognitive, physical and emotional. The Goldster philosophy is that prevention is better than cure, and their goal is to make non-pharmacological healthcare for healthy ageing and dementia accessible to everyone.
“The simple things that make you healthy should be easy, accessible and affordable, and you should be able to do them at home. They don’t all require medication, a pill or an operation,” says Mark Carter, Co-founder and MD at Goldster. “The evidence that is emerging in healthy ageing shows that positive social connections and a sense of purpose are vital for health in ageing. We have built Goldster as a social platform and our members get great outcomes using our live activities, as they offer a dimension which videos or apps just can’t provide,” adds Mark.
For Olga, keeping active in this way has alleviated a lot of fear. “We all fear getting older and especially developing dementia and being immobile. I now fear less and have gained so much confidence.”
The platform offers everything from yoga, Pilates, painting, book club (hosted by the world’s biggest authors), cognitive training, emotional classes, classes for better sleep, to menopause coaching and dementia prevention. And you can talk to the presenter live in real-time.
“People have come off waiting lists for operations and are getting 50-60 minutes more sleep every night,” asserts Mark. “The body really isn’t ageing until we’re in our 90s. So ageing isn’t the issue – it’s how we live our lifestyles and the choices we make that makes 90 the new 50,” says Mark.
Professor Brent Tipping, a member of the South African Geriatric Society and the head of the Division of Geriatric Medicine at the University of the Witwatersrand, agrees. “Many healthcare practitioners write off their (the elderly’s) complaints and put them down to age. It is an entrenched treatment behaviour that a lot of symptoms and disabilities are put down to age, when it’s actually disease. It’s our job to manage disease,” he says.
AGEING AND AI
Artificial Intelligence is finding its niche in healthcare. Johns Hopkins medicine is currently developing AI technologies for healthy ageing. “Many older adults accumulate health problems and have functional and cognitive declines that impact their ability to stay in their own homes and enjoy meaningful social interactions,” says Dr Jeremy Walston, Professor of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “This new enterprise is attempting to disrupt these problems in ways that will lengthen the years that people have to enjoy independent, highly functional lives, free of cognitive impairment,” he adds.
An example of this technology in action is in data collection. Data from sensors that monitor steps and gait (such as Fitbits and Apple watches) could be used to develop devices that predict and prevent falls, and algorithms monitoring facial expression and speech could spot signs of early dementia to help people receive early intervention or treatment.
TIPS TO HELP YOU AGE WELL
Experts agree on these main elements to healthy ageing.
¥ Get moving. Any exercise you enjoy will do, be it gardening, walking your dog or playing with grandchildren.
¥ Eat well. Fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, a little bit of red meat and little to no processed food. Generally what you cook for yourself will be healthier than anything processed or readymade.
¥ Maintain social connections. Isolation and loneliness are some of the biggest causes of health decline in older adults.
¥ Go for regular check-ups (at least twice a year) and stick to one healthcare provider to maintain your health over time.
¥ Sleep well. Practise good sleep hygiene by sleeping at the same time every night, avoiding screen time before bed and making sure your bed linen and pillows offer good neck and back support.
FOR MORE INFO:
To learn more about Goldster visit www.goldster.co.uk