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Health of Older People

hyealth of older people

Growing older is something we should all celebrate. The wealth of skills, knowledge and wisdom that older people bring to our community is invaluable.

So rather than focusing on the mental and physical decline that can come with ageing, many older members of our community are focusing on how they can remain active physically, emotionally and socially.

It’s vital we stay connected to our community and loved ones, that we adapt to change and we find new things to enjoy. Doing so helps us stay healthy and engaged in the world around us.

While most older people enjoy living healthy, active and independent lives in their own homes, it is recognised that people over 65 years do, on average, have higher health needs.

Given that around 12 percent of New Zealand’s population is 65 years or over, this has a significant impact on our health services.

As a community, we need to work together to address the health and social needs facing our region’s older people by ensuring they have easy access to convenient transport, affordable healthcare, appropriate support services, and safety measures such as mobility devices and good social contact.

What is 'normal' ageing?

Although many young people fear getting old, for most people the latter part of their life can be a time of great enjoyment, activity and usefulness. As we get older our bodies change, but there are a few things that we can do to prevent those changes from becoming problems.

What's normal?

Ageing brings with it some inevitable restrictions, particularly in respect to physical fitness and mobility. In general this shows up as a gradual ‘slowing down’ process:

  • everyday tasks will take a little longer
  • muscles and ligaments become less flexible and elastic
  • reflexes tend to become slower, and coordination lessens
  • the heart muscle can't pump as strongly as before
  • less food is needed to provide the energy required for living.

This ‘normal’ ageing process is often not the main reason for many of the things that happen to older people. Often there is a treatable medical cause for what is happening. But it can be difficult to know what is normal and what is not.

It's important to seek medical advice if any of the following happen:

  • frequent falls - also see falls prevention
  • significant memory loss
  • incontinence
  • difficulty in walking
  • anxiety or depressed mood
  • painful joints
  • change in your bowel habit such as constipation, blood in your poo (faeces, stools) or diarrhoea
  • pains in your chest or indigestion
  • breathing problems.

Although some of these problems cannot be cured, they can almost always be helped. If you, or an elderly relative, are blaming the things that are bothering you on old age, you might be wrong. Talk to your doctor.

What every older person should consider

Every older person should have an Advance Care Plan.

Advance care planning helps you think about, and take control, of your future healthcare.

It also ensures your ability to make your wishes known to those around you, making it easier for them to decide what treatment and care to provide for you if you are not able to make these decisions for yourself at any point in the future.

By developing an Advance Care Plan, you, your loved ones, your healthcare professionals, and other key people in your life will reach a shared understanding of what is important to you, and what treatment and care you would like in the future.

It is always important to discuss advance care planning with those around you while you’re able to. Planning will help you, and those around you, share your thoughts and discuss your preferences for end-of-life healthcare and treatment, based on:

  • your personal views and values
  • a better understanding of your current and likely future needs
  • the treatment and care options available to you.

Based on these discussions, you can then set out what you want in your Advance Care Plan.

Once you have your Advance Care Plan (ACP) drawn up, it’s important to keep it up-to-date, and to amend it as necessary if your situation changes.

For more information on how to develop your Advance Care Plan visit www.advancecareplanning.org.nz. Or view the documents below:

Everyone should have Enduring Power of Attorney (EPoA)

An Enduring Power of Attorney is a document in which you appoint who you would like to make decisions on your behalf when you are no longer able to.

We recommend you appoint an appropriate person as your Enduring Power of Attorney, so you can have peace-of-mind in the knowledge that a person you trust will be making important decisions on your behalf.

You can find detailed information about how Enduring Power of Attorney can keep you protected by visiting the Office for Senior Citizens’ website.

Alternatively, you can contact the organisation as follows:

The Office for Senior Citizens
Ministry of Social Development, PO Box 1556, Wellington
Phone: +64 (4) 916 3758 | Fax: 64 4 916 3778 | Email: osc@msd.govt.nz

More information is also available from the Age Concern and Public Trust websites.

More information about Health of Older People

Live Stronger for Longer: Strength & Balance

We’ve made it easy for you to find a community-based group strength and balance class that’s right for you.