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Top 10 ways to live to 100 (and live well!)

An older woman holds a young boy, both are smiling at the camera.
It's never too late to make healthy lifestyle changes.

Our later decades can be one of the most rewarding times of our life. It’s a time to do the things we love and to enjoy the simple pleasures. With ageing comes wisdom, experience, and perspective.

Ageing doesn’t have to equal declining health. In fact, some people enjoy better quality of life in their later years than they did when they were younger. It’s never too late to make healthy lifestyle choices to support good health now, and as you get older.

Taking charge of your health is an empowering way to live well now, and into your 80s, 90s and beyond. Hit a century in style with our top tips.

1. Eat well

As we get older our metabolism slows down, and we need more of some foods but less of others. For example, as we enter our 50s (for women) and 70s (for men), the recommended number of serves for dairy increases as our calcium requirements go up, while our recommended daily serves of wholegrain foods reduces.

Don’t worry though - you don’t need to keep a tally of every vitamin and mineral. By eating a balanced and varied diet, as covered in the Australian Dietary Guidelines, you give your body the nutrition it needs. A balanced diet includes vegetables, fruit, wholegrain breads and cereals, dairy or calcium-rich dairy alternatives, and meat or protein-rich alternatives.

Be mindful about the amount of discretionary or ‘sometimes’ foods you’re having, as these can give you unnecessary extra kilojoules. They often contain excessive fat, sugar, and salt, which can contribute to a wide range of health conditions.

We’re all unique, and our nutrition needs can vary. Your doctor or an accredited practising dietitian can help you to eat well at every age.

2. Get active – and work those muscles

Use it or lose it, as the saying goes! Exercise is essential at every age, and no matter your ability level. Exercise helps us maintain our muscles, which in turn keep us strong, active, and independent. Our muscles also provide protection for our bones, support balance, help with blood circulation, and much more.

Muscle-strengthening activities include:

  • Carrying or moving items such as groceries
  • Yoga, pilates, push ups, sit ups, and other activities that use your own body weight for resistance
  • Lifting weights
  • Dancing that includes stepping and jumping
  • Heavy gardening activities like shovelling

The other type of exercise is aerobic exercise, or cardio. As the name suggests, cardio exercises are great for cardiovascular health – they get our heart pumping and help with blood circulation.

Aerobic activities include:

  • Walking briskly
  • Water aerobics
  • Dancing
  • Tennis
  • Bike riding

Before starting a new type of exercise it’s important to speak with your doctor to make sure the activity is right for you.

An older woman smiles as she takes part in an aqua aerobics class

3. Stay mentally active

Just as your muscles need regular workouts, so does your brain. Embrace lifelong learning to keep your mind sharp. Doing puzzles and ‘thinking’ games, reading, socialising, playing an instrument, and learning a new skill are all great ways to stay mentally active.

Memory loss and mental decline is not inevitable. As well as keeping your mind active, the things you do to keep your body in shape also boost your brain health. Yet another reason to exercise regularly and eat well!

Memory loss and other mental health changes can be due to a lot of factors. If you have concerns, don’t jump to conclusions – speak with your doctor.

4. Keep an eye on your weight

Watching your waistline means avoiding excess weight gain, right? While this is true, as we get older it can be just as important to keep an eye on unintentional weight loss, especially in our 70s and beyond. There are many reasons for unintended weight loss, including reduced appetite, changes in activity levels, or underlying health concerns.

Taking charge of our health means tuning into our body and paying attention to these changes. You don’t need to weigh yourself every day – just keep an eye on how your clothes are fitting, note any changes in your energy levels, and keep your doctor in the loop.

5. Stay connected

Social connections are vital to our health and wellbeing at all ages, but are particularly valuable as we grow older. When we spend time with others, we build our sense of belonging and add meaning to our lives. Our social relationships can also boost our physical and mental health. Connectedness helps us to not only survive, but thrive.

Loneliness can be experienced at any age, but is more isolating as we grow older. Try each day to connect with those around you. Ways to connect include phoning a loved one, joining an activity or group, becoming a volunteer, or getting together with friends for a meal.

A group of men fish from the beach in the late afternoon.

6. Get regular health checks

Taking charge of your health also means involving the right people. See your doctor at least once a year for a check-up. It’s also wise to schedule routine visits for your eye sight, hearing, and dental health. Take advantage of free cancer screening programs for breast, bowel, and cervical cancer. Pay attention to your own physical and mental health and if any changes concern you, speak with your doctor or other health professional.

7. Quit smoking

If you’re a smoker, know that it’s never too late to quit. In the hours, days, weeks, and months after quitting, your body gets healthier. You’ll be taking pressure off your lungs, heart, kidneys… in fact, all your organs and body systems will thank you! Give yourself a better today and a healthier tomorrow and call it quits on smoking.

8. Keep hydrated

Did you know that dehydration can make us feel tired, dizzy, and confused? Our bodies and brains need adequate water to be at their best. Dehydration can increase our risk of falls, which is a major cause of injury for older adults. It also makes us more prone to constipation and can impact our kidney health.

Be aware that our thirst sensation reduces the older we get. It’s best to drink water at regular intervals during the day to keep dehydration at bay. Learn about the signs of dehydration and how to prevent it.

9. Follow a sleep routine

You might notice that your sleep patterns have changed quite a lot since your teen years. It’s normal to sleep less as we get older, but restful sleep is still very important. Following good sleep practices can help. For example, avoid screens in the hour before bed, have a pre-sleep routine to help you wind down, and go to bed at the same time each night.

10. Practise self-care

Many older adults have spent their lives caring for others, whether it be raising a family, supporting friends, or caring for others. It can be hard to prioritise self-care when it hasn’t been a part of your daily life before. But self-care is an essential part in taking care of yourself in a holistic sense. It can help us to feel more mindful, less stressed, and more connected with ourselves and the world around us.

What do you love to do? What brings you feelings of peace and contentment? Build these activities into your daily life and make it a habit.

Last updated: 8 May 2019