We are all getting older each day and Australia’s population of older adults is expected to continue to grow. Australia currently has 15% of its population aged 65 years and over, with this number expected to rise to 22% by 2057, that’s about 8.8 million people! This larger proportion of older adults is due to our increasing life expectancy.
Unfortunately, with older age comes age related changes that may impact on our quality of life and ability to contribute to society. 50% of men and 52% of women aged over 65 experience some form of disability, with this percentage increasing for those over 85 years.
The top 10 diseases causing burden on people aged over 65 include:
Although these statistics may be alarming there are steps we can take throughout our lives to help prevent and manage these diseases to ensure we can continue to live our lives as best we can.
It is important to remember that it is never too late to adopt a healthy habit to improve your life. Nutrition plays an important role alongside physical activity in assisting with healthy ageing. A healthy diet reduces the risk of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, bowel and breast
cancers. A change in diet can quickly improve health and studies have shown that a healthy diet and exercise is more effective at preventing or delaying the onset of diabetes than treatment with the drug metformin.
Keeping the brain active throughout life is another important factor in healthy ageing. Research shows that cognitive training, leisure activities and physical activity improves intellectual function in older adults, and may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Physical activity has a range of benefits both for your mental and physical wellbeing. Physical activity is important in helping maintain a healthy weight as being overweight or obese increases the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer. It is also beneficial in maintaining muscle strength and flexibility to provide a protective effect against osteoarthritis, falls and other musculoskeletal conditions. Physical activity gives a boost of endorphins that helps improve mental health reducing the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
The current guidelines recommend that people aged over 65 should complete 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise on most, preferably all days. Physical activity can take on many forms and it is important to do an activity that you enjoy and is suitable to your level of function. If you can, try to incorporate a range of different types of exercise that target strength, cardiovascular fitness, balance and flexibility. This may include activities such as gardening, walking with friends, weights, Tai Chi or dancing.
Our physiotherapists will be able to work with you to identify your goals for physical activity and help to put together a program that incorporates a combination of strength, flexibility and balance to help you keep living your best life.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2018). Older Australia at a glance. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/older-people/older-australia-at-a-glance
Australian Government Department of Health. (2021) Physical activity and exercise guidelines for all Australians. Retrieved from https://www.health.gov.au/healthtopics/physical-activity-and-exercise/physical-activity-and-exercise-guidelines-for-allaustralians/for-older-australians-65-years-and-over
Bherer, L., Erickson, K. I., Liu-Ambrose, T. (2013). A review of the effects of physical activity and exercise on cognitive and brain functions in older adults. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/657508
Prime Minister’s science, engineering and innovation council (N.D). Promoting heathy ageing in Australia. Retrieved from