According to the research completed by Chulalongkorn University, College of Population Studies, by 2021, senior citizens (those over 60) will account for 13.8 million or 20% of the Thai population, which categorises this as an “aged society.”
The government has been putting forward some measures on how to manage our aged society, but because of more pressing problems, the future of these elders is far from being secure. A number of health conditions and diseases are associated with aging, and the most common ones include bone and joint disorders, digestive problems, eye and vision problems, as well as cardiovascular diseases. It is important to understand the challenges and recognise preventive measures.
Are Thais prepared for healthy aging? In a recent Asia Pacific survey on healthy aging, 5,510 respondents from 11 countries aged 40+, including 502 from Thailand, were asked the question, “What does healthy aging mean to you?” For 74% of Thai respondents, healthy aging means “not being a burden to my family as I age,” while people in most countries answered “being physically active as I age”.
It is interesting to note that Thais have a different perception of healthy aging and consequently, a different set of priorities. Like most of the people in neighboring countries, 98 % of Thais agrees that they can take active steps to put themselves on a path to healthy aging. For the majority (60 %), however, the right age to start taking active steps toward healthy aging is between 40 and 50 years old, which is lower than the region’s average. Healthcare professionals worldwide tend to encourage people to start preparing for healthy aging when they reach 40, because it is a milestone when the risk of many health conditions increases.
Here are three key steps for staying healthy and happy as you age: Maintain a healthy, balanced diet Proper nutrition including supplements can help prevent most ailments. Calcium can help strengthen bones and joints to lessen the risk of breaking something from a fall later on. To keep the digestive system healthy, a balanced diet can be supplemented with fibre and probiotics. Our eyesight also starts to suffer as we get older, so keep it healthy by having regular eye checks ups and take nutrients such as lutein, which is found in sweet corn, pumpkin, carrot and egg yolks. Build up the cardiovascular system by eating a hearthealthy diet, staying active and maintaining your weight. Choose supplements that can support the healthy function of the heart, blood vessels and others. Most of all, managing stress levels may be one of the best things you can do to protect your heart.
Most Thai respondents in the survey said that they “do not want to be a burden to their families as they age”. Engaging in physical activities and exercising regularly is one of the best ways to avoid becoming dependent on others. Regular exercise helps to maintain bone density and muscle mass, which can help retain strength, flexibility and posture later on.
Take part in mentally stimulating activities
Exercise the mind to keep it active. Look for brainstimulating activities such as problem-solving games, reading, art, and even meditation, to keep your mind sharp. It may reduce the risk of developing memory and thinking problems later in life. Investing in a healthy lifestyle will certainly pay off. We are fortunate in Thailand to have a good social support system. For healthy aging, it is also important to have supportive and nurturing family members and friends around you because having them enables seniors to live happier and healthier, and to stay actively engaged in the community.