Dr. Elena Mucci, Consultant Geriatrician at Conquest and Spire Hospitals, has some common sense advice on staying healthy as you get older. Her presentation called ‘Avoiding Frailty in Older Age’ was delivered to large audiences in East Sussex in 2019 but had to stop because of the pandemic. It is hoped it will return in 2021.
Just because you are getting older doesn’t mean you will automatically become unhealthy!
Look after your mind
- Many people worry about dementia. Help yourself to avoid it – do new things with new people. Make the effort to socialise. Most importantly, recent research shows that regular exercise prevents or slows down dementia.
- Volunteering is really good for you. It keeps you connected and contributes to society. Being and feeling useful makes you feel good.
- Keep your brain busy. Doing puzzles is fine but learning new skills is better. Challenge yourself, for example, learn Russian!
Look after your body
- Exercise really matters. All physical activity is good for you but anything that makes you breathe harder for a while is even better. Walk, join a ‘grown ups’ exercise class, dance, do some gardening or play with the grandchildren!
- Get out of the house in all weathers and do… anything! 30 minutes of brisk walking 5 times a week will not only help your heart and lungs but it has also been shown to help memory.
- Your body really needs vitamin D to keep bones strong. Spend 5 to 15 minutes, 3 times a week outdoors with the sun on your face and arms (not in winter). Then cover up or put on sunscreen. Oily fish twice a week helps too!
- Take a look at your home, what could you change to keep yourself safe and is easily fixed? Poor lighting, loose rugs, badly placed furniture, trailing cables can put you at risk of falls and fractures. Make simple changes.
- Falling over can do you much more damage than you might think. You don’t want to finish up in hospital if you can possibly avoid it. A stylish handrail in the right place can make a difference and helps you to feel safer.
- Don’t be too proud to use a stick. Ramblers and explorers use them all the time! (Get a colourful one – it needn’t make you look old!) Use it indoors too, especially when away from home.
If you are not well
- Talk to a clinician (a doctor, nurse, paramedic, perhaps a pharmacist or call 111 for advice). When talking remember you are a person, an individual, not just a ‘patient’. Always ask questions, make sure you understand and remember what they say. Have a notebook with your questions prepared in advance and write down the answers. Have someone with you if you think that will help. Talk to them afterwards.
- If you’ve been given lots of prescriptions for different problems, by different doctors, go and talk to your GP or local pharmacist about this. Do you need all those medicines? If you are taking 4 or more medicines, you should have them reviewed at least every 6 months.
- If you have continence problems, first make sure it’s not a water infection causing it. Remember, too much caffeine from tea and coffee will irritate your bladder. Alcohol and fizzy drinks will also make this worse. Also don’t drink too much in the evening; if you are up a lot at night, try to cut down on drinking fluids after 6pm.
If you would like to find out more and get help to develop your own action plan to stay healthy as you get older you can download this leaflet.
All material is for personal use only and is copyright of K.Katner based on resources developed by Dr. E. Mucci. Consent is required for reproduction.
About the authors
Dr Elena Mucci
Consultant Geriatrician, Conquest and Spire Hospitals
I strongly believe it is my grandma’s influence which made me the Geriatrician I am today. Having survived the starvation of 1932/33 and then the Nazi occupation in 1942 she instilled me with a work ethic and made me appreciate all the things in life which we often take for granted.
I became an NHS doctor on the 11 September 2004. This is still one of the proudest days of my life. I was honoured to work in one of the best health organisations in the world. I was even more fortunate to be given a training position and eventually qualified as a Geriatrician which has given me the opportunity to look after people like my grandma for the rest of my career.
However, very early on in my career as a Geriatrician I realised that I was seeing things somewhat differently to my colleagues. I strongly believe that the care we give to our patients must be bespoke and personalised. Once we know the person, only then, and together with them, can we make treatment plans. I am passionate that we should always do this together. I also spend a good deal of time educating my patients about their medical problems and how to deal with them, helping them to ‘be their own doctor’, confidently in control of their health in between the visits to healthcare professionals.
During my presentations to the public on ‘Avoiding Frailty in Older Age’ I discuss the most commonly seen medical concerns among older people. We look at how to recognise and deal with problems and most importantly how to prevent them occurring in the first place. I try to use a ‘common sense approach’ – an amalgamation of understanding the medical signs alongside the needs and wishes of the individual. I talk about preventing falls and dealing with continence problems, understanding medicines and preventing avoidable hospital admissions, memory concerns and avoiding frailty; ageing is inevitable but frailty is not.
If you are not able to come to a presentation of mine in the future, here is a simple tip from a ‘Common Sense Adviser’… Next time you see a healthcare professional, please tell them first who you are and what matters most for you in life, before you tell them about your medical concerns!
Work and voluntary activity biography
Having had a varied working career in diverse fields – including fifteen years as a professional entertainer, eight years a DJ, and being a trained teacher of drama and English – I have now, (allegedly), retired. I am currently involved in a range of health-related voluntary activities.
After twenty years of teaching, I joined a Local Authority (LA) Education Advisory team specialising in Professional Development, Appraisal, Leadership and school structural reorganisation. During a period of part time education consultancy work after retiring from the LA, I developed an interest in volunteering in the health sector. I am currently Chair of the East Sussex PPG Forums Steering Group, and have been a public member for the 111/CAS project, in both respects closely integrated with the Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group.
In 2019 I attended a one-off presentation by Dr Mucci on ‘Avoiding Frailty in Older Age’. This so impressed me that I suggested a much wider audience would benefit from hearing her messages. Over the course of a year we set up a series of free events working closely with the patient groups and voluntary agencies, with sponsorship from voluntary agencies and Spire Healthcare. This series of big events in Hastings and Rother were extremely successful, with the final two being heavily oversubscribed as word spread.
This has expanded into a longer term programme and I work alongside Dr Mucci on the ongoing development of resources for a range of audiences, and I compère the presentations, recently with an additional health professional involved. I have also produced an analysis of the project examining the impact of our work which identifies future wants and needs.
In spite of the pandemic, our activity is leading to wider cooperation with a range of agencies and professionals beginning to invite our input or collaborate on future activities, expanding the network supporting ‘Better Ageing’.
We hope that following the pandemic we will be able to resume our planned programme of presentations. We welcome further invitations!