During Men’s Health Awareness Week we discuss some of the pertinent health issues affecting older men, and look at the advice and support available.
We live in an age where mental health problems touch all our lives. Our research shows that over half of people over the age of 60 report feeling unhappy or depressed at any one time with older men’s mental wellbeing most at risk.
There are a number of triggers for depression and anxiety in later life such as bereavement, changes in physical health, retirement, caring for a relative or friend and not having a support network in place.
Awareness is key to managing mental health and helping to prevent problems occurring. Some mild symptoms can be helped by exercising or joining a self-help group and sometimes these symptoms will pass by themselves. However, it’s important to seek help when symptoms persist or get worse; Age UK’s information booklet is designed to help people who are looking for more support but aren’t sure how to go about it.
Being very overweight puts us at risk of serious conditions including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers. As men age, abdominal fat increases and waist circumference becomes a good predictor of all of the above conditions. Being overweight may also increase the risk of dementia in older age.
So, at an age when we might feel like slowing down, it is especially important to do the opposite and incorporate movement into our daily lives. This doesn’t mean that you have to start spending every day at the gym. We can all increase our activity levels, whatever our age or current health status.
Age UK’s Healthy Eating and Healthy Living guides can help people identify what types of exercise they might enjoy and offers tips to help people stay active throughout the day. There are also include tips to help people stay active, drink sensibly, get enough sleep and give up smoking.
Loneliness among older men is a growing problem in our society – especially for those with poor health. Almost a third of older men who have long-term health problems are lonely, according to research by Age UK.
Unfortunately, all the evidence shows that older men who live alone are more likely to be lonely than their female counterparts and to have less regular contact with family and friends, exacerbating feelings of loneliness.
The Age UK Network helps provide support in a number of different ways to help relieve loneliness such as befriending services which can connect you with a volunteer who can visit your home or give you a regular call. You might want to consider joining a ‘Men in Sheds’ group which usually involves making or mending things in wood or a ‘Walking football’ group. This can be a good way to build new and meaningful friendships, and help you to regain your confidence. If you’re missing the social connections you used to have through work, you could also consider volunteering.
For a range of advice at your fingertips, visit www.ageuk.org.uk/publications or call Age UK Advice on 0800 169 6565 – lines are open every day from 8am – 7pm.