Revera was the first company to appoint a Chief Medical Officer in the Canadian senior living sector. In her blog series, Dr. Rhonda Collins offers helpful advice for seniors and their families to lead healthy and fulfilling lives
As a physician, I have seen people age well and I have seen people age poorly, people who look 60 when they’re 80, and people who look 80 when they’re 60. I’ve had patients who were on no medication at 90 and patients who were on a dozen at 50. I plan to be one of the people who age well.
I would like to enter my senior years with a pattern of physical activity that I can continue. Two of the things I enjoy most in my life are scuba diving and traveling. Scuba diving is exhilarating and peaceful all at once; with so many things to see and the only thing I hear is the sound of my breathing. It’s like being in another world. It also speaks to my thrill-seeking nature. I have been on safari in Africa, swam with dolphins and stingrays in the Caribbean, and climbed volcanoes in the Galapagos. I have even jumped out of a plane!
In June, I completed a 5-kilometre mud run with 17 obstacles and am scheduled for another 5K in September. Do I like running long distances? No. I don’t enjoy it at all. I keep waiting for the day when I’m going to yell out proudly, “I love running!” but that hasn’t happened yet. People ask why I do it if I don’t enjoy it and I tell them that I like challenging myself and doing things that aren’t particularly appealing but are good for my health.
I want to stay active, healthy and mobile with my cognition intact. I want to continue to travel and enjoy life well into my 80’s and beyond if that is my destiny. I know that nobody is immune to disease, but I will do everything in my power to reduce my risks. I am not going to use my age as an excuse to stop doing things. I am not going to focus on the things I can’t do; only on the things I can.
Here’s what the evidence shows about moderate physical activity in adults over the age of 65: it lowers rates of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer and breast cancer. Older adults who participate in regular physical activity also exhibit higher levels of functional health, they lower their risk of falling by improving bone health and muscle strength, and they demonstrate better cognitive function and experience less depression.
The World Health Organization recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity during the week, muscle strengthening activities on two days of the week, and for older adults with poor mobility, activities to enhance balance and prevent falls three days a week. Physical activity includes walking or cycling, chores, games, sports, planned exercise routines. You don’t need to run a marathon, and you don’t need to do something you don’t enjoy. You just have to move.
My philosophy is: eat less, move more, stay happy. Focus on eating healthy, staying active and staying positive, reducing stress and enjoying your life. It’s that simple.
Here is a shining example of a positive attitude toward aging and the power of remaining active. Ernestine Shepherd is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest competitive female bodybuilder at the age of 75. She is now 82 and continues her active lifestyle, which includes running 80 miles each week.
She believes that “age is just a number.” She has been featured in multiple news stories and magazines and last year she wrote a book: “Determined, Dedicated, Disciplined To Be Fit: The "Ageless" Journey of Ernestine Shepherd.” I encourage you to Google her. She is such an inspiration. I want to be just like Ernestine when I grow up!
Dr. Collins, shown here skydiving, says to live your life to the fullest in older age you need to set the example now.
Dr. Rhonda Collins
brings passion and expertise in memory care, dementia, falls prevention and clinical quality improvement to the role of Revera’s Chief Medical Officer – a first for the Canadian senior living sector. Dr. Collins is a family physician with a certificate of added competence in Care of the Elderly from the College of Family Physicians of Canada.