“Healthy Aging’ has been a month to celebrate the positive aspects of aging for twenty – five years and the journal by the same name is filled with interesting articles and tips for successful aging. The editors cautions the reader: “We are not about retirement. Nor are we a ‘senior’ magazine filled with articles about depression, incontinence or organ recitals. We are about vibrant, active, 45-plus people who are taking charge of their lives, following their passion, and who are happily looking forward to what’s next in life.”

Color Me Surprised 
That Healthy Aging Month has been recognized for 25 years is a reminder of the opportunities that have existed for those who have been willing to acknowledge that although they are not “seniors” they are aging. It is surprising though that those who are 45 are considered in their readership. Aging certainly has begun long before age 45 but most people do not think about this and hence do not take the steps to prevent whatever physiological declines are preventable while building up whatever reserves they can maintain. According to the editor, when Healthy Aging was first introduced the baby boomers were about to turn 50. “At that time, no one wanted to talk about growing older. You know, it was that same ‘60’s attitude – ‘Don’t trust anyone over 30; hell no we won’t go.’ Today as the boomers turn 60 and 65, it’s a different story. We recognized early on that careful attention to the combination of physical, social, mental and financial fitness was powerful in the pursuit of a positive lifestyle.”

Color Me Pleased
This referenced article, while ignoring the side of aging we at Patient Pattern specialize in addressing, nevertheless provided 10 tips for healthy aging that are on our list of recommendations for those who are not frail and wish to delay its onset, those who are mildly frail and wish to reverse the process, and those who are moderately frail or higher, and wish to manage the process and make wise decisions for their future health. The suggestions touched on physical health, motivation, psychosocial needs, and physical appearance. These tips are certainly appropriate and beneficial for healthy aging of the pre-frail adults.

Color Me Interested
Our interest at Patient Pattern is focused on those who are aging and living with some degree of frailty that has occurred not because of their chronological age but from the impact of multiple chronic conditions on their function and cognition. Approximately 85 percent of older adults have at least one chronic health condition, and 60 percent have at least two chronic conditions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Frailty is the result of the natural aging process, the accumulation of chronic illnesses, and the loss of function and/or cognition. So, for those who are aging and living with chronic illnesses, healthy aging may still be their goal but it is an uphill battle. 

At Patient Pattern we are interested in helping individuals with chronic illnesses to achieve their goal and to be as “healthy” as possible in their “aging” and to:

  • Be aware of the concept of frailty as another chronic illness to be addressed
  • Be aware of their own degree of fitness or frailty
  • Be aware of steps to reverse or prevent further decline
  • Be aware of important ways to prepare for future healthcare

The Concept of Frailty

  • Frailty begins as a result of the natural aging process
  • Frailty increases as chronic conditions accumulate affecting cognition or function
  • Frailty is a chronic condition that can be reversed, slowed, or managed
  • Frailty, when measured, identifies the degree of risk for bad outcomes
  • Frailty can cause sudden and significant decline with a relatively minor stressor
  • Frailty predicts poor outcomes better than age or diagnosis alone

A frail elderly person represents a complex system at the edge of failure. (Rockwood, 2009)

Healthy Aging Tip: Frailty is a valuable indicator of when to make decisions and choices to slow its progression, reverse its damage, or prepare for the future.

Since 2013, Patient Pattern has focused on identifying frailty in all healthcare settings and our goal has been to allow the known risk of frailty to inform care and to frame person-centered approaches to care.

Frailty has proven to be a better predictor of risk for bad outcomes than age or diagnosis. Frailty increases the risk for infections and other unwanted outcomes. Now, more than ever, the known risk of frailty, coupled with the risks associated with the Coronavirus, MUST be identified and addressed. 

COVID – 19 Guidance abounds, necessary, and often valuable. To that, we offer a Complimentary assessment tool to measure Frailty. After completing the brief assessment, your Frailty Risk Score will be calculated and will be accompanied by an explanation of how the score was calculated. A brief summary of healthcare choices will be included in the report.

You can know your own degree of fitness or frailty by completing our online Frailty Risk Assessment right here.

Through lifestyle changes, we can greatly reduce the risk of becoming frail. (Muscedere 2019)

Healthy Aging Tips: 

  • Discuss areas of decline with family or doctor to see if improvement is possible
  • Discuss your healthcare goals and priorities with family or doctor
  • Develop a plan with your doctor to prevent bad outcomes as much as possible
  • Document your wishes by completing Advance Care Directives

These are important steps in directing your own healthcare.

 

Steps to Reverse or Prevent Further Decline

In spite of the prevalence of frailty in older adults, and irrespective of your own degree of fitness or frailty, with simple lifestyle changes frailty can be often prevented, mitigated, or managed. In 2020, the mortality rate from the coronavirus for those with increasing frailty was very high, impressing upon us the need to address frailty in the community, making every effort to increase the resilience of those moving along the continuum from fitness to frailty. 

Exercise and good nutrition are high on the list of lifestyle changes that will impact frailty and durability in spite of deficits and disabilities that are contributing to the degree of frailty. Exercise does not have to take place in a gym, cost money, require travel, or take a lot of time but it should occur regularly, safely, and produce results. Many options exist for exercise programs that will match individual tastes and abilities. One very helpful option comes from the National Institute on Aging at the NIH. 

Workout To Go by NIH Cover Image

 

Go4Life at www.nia.gov/Go4Life

  • Make your own exercise plan
  • Track your progress
  • Share your success story
  • Check out other resources

 

Another option comes from the Canadian Frailty Network AVOID FRAILTY:

A Action and Exercise may slow or undo frailty

V Vaccines help you stay away from ailments causing bad health

O Optimize Medicines and eliminate unnecessary pills

I Interactions with friends and family are crucial to wellbeing

D Diet & Nutrition with Vitamin D and Calcium is good for bones and muscles

Source: https://www.cfn-nce.ca/frailty-matters/avoid-frailty

Important Ways to Prepare for Future Healthcare

Frailty impacts the quality of life for those who are frail and the people who care for them. Frailty also increases the need for ongoing healthcare, often in emergency rooms or hospitals. Because frailty co-exists alongside other chronic illnesses, the potential for sudden and dramatic decline in health is always present. A relatively minor illness, a change in medication, a psychosocial crisis, or physical trauma can cause frailty to increase and cognitive or functional changes to occur.

The best way to avoid a healthcare crisis is to plan for it in every way possible. If we start by understanding the concept of frailty and its impact and know our own degree of fitness or frailty, we can make a plan that will be beneficial to the quality of our lives now and perhaps mitigate a healthcare crisis in the future. Certainly, the plan should include an evaluation of the healthstyle changes you may need to make. Exercise more? Eat a better diet? Update vaccinations? Discuss the number of medications you are taking with your clinician? Increase social interactions?

When these areas of healthcare have been decided then the next, and very important step, has to do with the completion of advance care directives to memorialize your wishes and priorities for future healthcare. As you think about a future when caring for yourself may be less possible, or you have an illness that is life-threatening, or when the risk of a procedure outweighs the benefits, what is most important for you and how do you want healthcare decisions to be made.  

Healthy Aging Tips: 

  • Decide to talk with your healthcare provider about your future care
  • Discuss your healthcare goals and priorities with family or doctor
  • Document your wishes by completing Advance Care Directives

The motto on the wall at Patient Pattern reads: We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we STOP PLAYING. (George Bernard Shaw)

Our final Healthy Aging Tip: DON’T STOP PLAYING