Continued from last week
Healthy aging can be achieved if one follows healthy life style throughout their life span. It starts from conception and continues to old age and stops when one dies.
During pregnancy, the mother is supposed to eat well and the diet should be nutritious to promote good development and growth of the foetus/unborn child.
She should attend antenatal care and get all necessary medical attention and immunisations for her health and the baby’s.
When a child is born, it should be given good nutrition, should not be exposed to any infections and should be immunised.
When ill, the child should be taken to hospital soon for early diagnosis and treatment.
The environment in which the child grows should promote growth and development. This should be maintained even as a person grows to adolescence and adulthood.
It is also important to maintain regular physical activity.
Exercises and good nutrition help maintain muscle mass, preserve cognitive function, delay care dependency and reverse frailty.
Refraining from behaviours such as cigarette smoking, drinking alcohol, sedentary life style and eating unhealthy foods, help to reduce one’s risk to non-communicable diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes and kidney problems.
Avoiding sexually-transmitted infections, living in good/clean environment reduce one’s chances of contracting communicable diseases such as HIV and diarrheal conditions.
Improving the quality of life for the elderly
It is important to help old people to do what is important to them, despite losses in capacity.
The retirement age in Malawi is 60 years. Some people are still active at 60, and even 75 years.
These people can be allowed to work on part time or can be employed on contract so that they mentor young ones.
They can also do businesses and it is important to encourage them as this keeps them active and reduces their risk to developing problems of old age.
The availability of safe and accessible public buildings, transport and environments are examples of supportive environments.
Old people are prone to falls therefore; home environments should be elderly-friendly. It is important to avoid slippery floors, long grass, potholes and old/empty tins around their environment.
The elderly should be given nutritious diet. The diet should have carbohydrates which are for energy such as nsima, rice, cassava and potatoes; proteins, for repair of worn out body tissues (such as beans, milk, meat, eggs and fish); vitamins, for strong immunity (vegetables and fruits).
Fish and milk contain calcium for strong bones. The food should be easy to chew. They should also be given more fluids such as water, thobwa and other juices if available, to keep them well-hydrated.
Where possible, nutrition supplements can be bought from pharmacies.
The elderly should be encouraged to associate with others. This can be done by taking them to church, weddings, shopping and other social gatherings.
Where movement or transport is a problem, other activities can be done at their homes so they feel loved as part of the community.
Adults whose parents are alive and old, whether living with them or are at the village, should have time for them.
They should love, understand and care for them. They should teach their children to respect, love and help their grandparents.
In so doing, the future elderly will live happily, free from abuse. As the Bible says, do unto others what you would want done unto you.
It is important for us to realise that the elderly are important in every society; hence, the setting aside of the International Day of Older Persons.
It is important for Malawi to start celebrating this day and make it special as other celebrated days to make people realise the importance of old people among us.
It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that the elderly are treated well. In the event that we notice an elderly person’s abuse, please let us report that to police.
Police have a victim support unit which serves everyone, including the elderly.