According to the Canadian Frailty Network (CFN), over a million older Canadians live with frailty. As Canada ages, it’s estimated that this number will rise to over two million by 2025.
Frailty is commonly referred to as the condition of being weak and fragile. However, in terms of aging, frailty refers to how our bodies gradually lose their in-built reserves, leaving us vulnerable to changes in health triggered by seemingly small events.
Physical frailty can also cause self-imposed isolation and loneliness. However, it’s not an inevitable part of aging. There are some practical steps that seniors can take to AVOID frailty and help maintain their health.
The Prince Albert Seniors Advocacy Centre has seen some amazing results with structured activities. While anecdotal and not necessarily evidence-based, seniors who took a regular exercise class appeared to be more active and engaged than those who didn’t participate.
When counselling seniors, try and assess their overall physical activity levels. Even simple things like walking to events and visiting with each other can make a difference and should be encouraged.
Vaccinations for seniors are very important. While all Canadians should be encouraged to get vaccinations, seniors in particular should be encouraged to get vaccinations for illnesses that they are particularly susceptible to, such as the yearly influenza strains, pneumonia, and shingles.
Snowbird seniors should also protect themselves against illnesses which are common in tropical and sub-tropical climates. Also teaching seniors good hygiene such as washing hands, sneezing appropriately could possibly be a life-saver. Even just getting a bout of the common cold can set a senior back and frailty can stand before the door
O: Optimize Meds
Medications that are correctly prescribed by a physician can regulate and improve many age-related illnesses. In order to avoid frailty, it’s important that a thorough review be conducted of all medications, including over-the-counter meds. This review can be conducted by either the senior’s family physician or a licensed pharmacist.
Interacting with others not only prevents frailty, it prevents loneliness and social isolation. Family, friends, and caregivers are crucial in providing this meaningful interaction. Seniors who live far away from their loved ones should consider joining a community group.
D: Diet and Nutrition
It’s crucial that seniors be taught proper nutrition and proper diet. Seniors are often on fixed incomes, which can have a negative impact on their diets. They have to make difficult decisions on what to purchase and what to save on, which can make maintaining adequate nutrition a challenge. To avoid frailty, seniors should make sure to eat food that’s rich in essential vitamins and consider trying supplements.
To prevent frailty in seniors, remember the “AVOID” acronym.
Dr. John Fryters is the founder and director of the Prince Albert Seniors Advocacy Centre and the pastor and founder of The Heart of Seniors Gathering, a non-denominational church exclusively for seniors. He can be reached at [email protected] or through seniorprincealbert.com.