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Top tips for staying independent

Keep fit and prevent falls

Fitness is important at every age, but especially so as we get older. As we age, we begin losing muscle strength and become more prone to falls. Around 1 in 3 adults over 65 currently have at least one fall a year. Depending on the severity of the injury, one fall can greatly impact independence. The Hampshire County Council website has more information about preventing falls.

By engaging in regular, low-impact exercise you can reduce muscle loss and stave off disease. Try daily walks, water aerobics, a round of golf or tai chi.

Be proactive about staying healthy

Routine check-ups

As we get older, routine check-ups are critical to maintaining your long-term health and independence. Appointments help your doctor to detect and address any issues. They also give you the opportunity to ask any questions and to make sure you are taking all the necessary steps to stay active and well.

Learning what is normal for you and detecting subtle changes in your daily activities may help you identify and address problems before they become a major issue. You may be able to minimise or even reverse some of the changes you experience including reduced mobility, visual problems, bladder and bowel control, and hearing loss. 

See also our health and wellbeing advice for help with specific issues such as incontinence, drinking, smoking and weight management.

NHS online tests, tools and apps

NHS Health checks

We're all responsible for our health and regular health checks are vital.  

  • If you're aged 40 to 74, you may be eligible for a free NHS health check. Find out where you can have your NHS Health Check in Hampshire.
  • Anyone who is on their GP's learning disability register can have a free health check once a year. You can ask to go on this register if you think you have a learning disability.
  • Annual physical health checks are also available for people registered with their GP as having a severe mental illness. You should be invited annually for a health check but if you think you are due one, you should contact your GP surgery.

Make sure you get your annual flu jab – especially if you are over 65, have certain medical conditions or are a carer.

Keep your mind alert

Most of us become a little more forgetful as we get older but it is not inevitable and there are things you can do to stay alert.

Physical exercise is a great route to take for better brain health, as it improves the flow of blood to your brain. Older people who regularly undertake moderate exercise have a 36 per cent lower risk of cognitive impairment than those who do not.

If you are not able to do any physical exercise, then there are other ways for you to keep your brain engaged. You could read a book, complete a jigsaw or crossword, play a game of chess, learn a new skill or language. Here are four easy activities you could do every day to strengthen brain function: 

  1. Test your recall. Make a list — of grocery items, things to do, or anything else that comes to mind — and memorize it. An hour or so later, see how many items you can recall. Make items on the list as challenging as possible for the greatest mental stimulation.
  2. Multiply random two-digit numbers in your head. 12 x 43? 24 x 16? It doesn’t matter how long you take to arrive at the answer – you’re still exercising your brain!
  3. Create word pictures. Visualize the spelling of a word in your head, then try and think of any other words that begin (or end) with the same two letters.
  4. Challenge your taste buds. When eating, try to identify individual ingredients in your meal, including subtle herbs and spices.

 If you are worried about memory loss, you may want to read our information about dementia.

Think about what you eat

It sounds obvious but having a balanced diet is crucial for good health and energy and to prevent illness.

There are lots of cheap and tasty ways you and your family can eat well every day.  The One You website has tips  on cutting out sugar, salt and how to eat well, for less. You can also find out more about healthy eating on the NHS website and visit change4life to get ideas aimed at helping you to lead a healthier life.

Losing weight is not a natural part of getting older and undernutrition can lead to illness. Age UK have produced a Healthy eating guide which you can print.  

If you, or someone you are caring for, is losing weight and you are concerned, you should speak to your GP. Your local pharmacist may also be able to give you some advice.

BAPEN have developed a simple online self-screening tool you can use along with advice to follow if you are at risk of becoming malnourished. 

Look after your feet

You are more prone to foot problems as you get older so it is very important to take care of your feet. See the advice from Age UK .

Depending on where you live and any conditions you have (such as diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis), it may be possible to have routine podiatry (also known as chiropody) treatment on the NHS.  You should speak to your GP about this.

If you do not qualify for free treatment, you can search for a podiatrist (chiropodist) in your area on the College of Podiatry website  or telephone 0207 234 8620.

Some community organisations, such as Age UK, offer foot care and toenail cutting services.

    Adapt your home

    If you want to stay independent at home, you will want to ensure that your home is secure, safe and easy to move around by yourself. Simple adjustments such as installing hand rails on the walls or changes in the bathroom, such as a wet room, can make a huge difference.

    See our information about equipment and adaptations and staying safe in your home.

    The NHS has useful advice about removing trip hazards in your home to prevent falls.

    Stay connected

    Sometimes the best support system can be a group of good friends.

    Whether you are new to the area or looking for people who share the same interests as you, there are hundreds of groups, classes and activities where you can meet new people and make friends.

    Find information to help you get out and about.

    If you are unable to get out, you can still keep in touch with people.

    • Find ‘Befriending services’
    • See our "Get online" section below for help with computers and accessing the internet.

    Get involved in your community

    If you have spent most of your adult life working or raising a family (or both), retirement can sometimes feel a little slow. It can take time to adjust to the change of pace.

    One of the best ways to ease this transition – and to make new friends and do something rewarding – is to volunteer in your community.

    Get online

    The internet provides new ways to stay in touch with people and to access information:

    • You can email people. This is quicker and more convenient than using the postal system.
    • You can do your banking and shopping from the comfort of your home.
    • ‘Skype’ is a freephone and video messaging service you can use on a computer. It is a great way to keep in touch with friends and family who do not live near you. Find out how you can get Skype on your desktop computer, smartphone or tablet.
    • ‘Social media’ websites like Facebook are a good way to connect with friends and family. There are also Facebook ‘groups’. You may find a group for people who share a common interest with you. It’s quick and easy to create an account.

    Help for beginners to get online

    • Computers are available to use, free of charge, for all library card holders in Hampshire Libraries. They also offer Computer courses and events  including one-to-one sessions for beginners. Call the Library Service on 0300 555 1387.
    • Portsmouth libraries and Southampton libraries also offer help with computers.
    • Age Concern Hampshire run computer courses at a number of local centres. A donation of £4.50 is appreciated to help cover costs. Telephone 0800 328 7154.
    • Carers Together runs Computer cafe mornings in Romsey. Cost: £2.00 per morning to include tea and coffee. Telephone 01794 519495.
    • Surrey libraries have a 'digital buddy' scheme offering one to one support.

    Find more computer help in our community directory.

    Hampshire Superfast Broadband - If your property is not included in the current superfast broadband programme and you can only access a speed of 2Mbps or less, there is a government scheme in place to help you access better broadband.

    Find the right equipment

    AskSARA is an online information tool which guides you through questionnaires and gives you free, expert, personalised advice written by occupational therapists and equipment experts.

    It covers a wide range of topics, including products and ideas to help with physical and mental health, carrying out tasks around the home and getting out and about. It also covers obtaining funding and assistance in purchasing equipment and carrying out home adaptations.

    Advice is available without the need to register or provide any personal details.

    See our section below for more information about care technology equipment which can help to keep you safe and independent.

    Embrace technology

    You may already use email, social media and instant messaging to stay engaged with family and friends. But have you explored technology which can make life easier?

    Care technology

    There is a vast range of monitoring and alert equipment that can help to support you to remain independent in your own home and even when you are out in the community. This is also sometimes known as ‘telecare’. It includes pendant alarms, sensors, GPS trackers and much more.

    See our information on care technology

    Apps

    If you have invested in WiFi connection, there is a huge range of apps available, to use on smartphones or tablets, which can help you. For example:

    • MyTherapy pill reminder and medication tracker combines a pill tracker, mood tracker and a health journal.
    • Life360 is a free app which lets you create a circle of friends or family. It uses GPS technology so your family can always see where you are (and you can keep track of them!).
    • BeMyEyes is an app that connects visually impaired users to volunteer helpers who can aid with everyday tasks.
    • Wheelmap lets you mark and find wheelchair accessible places — worldwide and for free.
    • The NHS lists a number of approved apps which can help you manage and improve your health and wellbeing. 

    You could also use a ‘virtual assistant’ like Amazon Alexa. You can download the app and use it on your phone or tablet, or even with a separate speaker. You can then ask it questions, get it to set reminders, play your favourite music and much more.

    Smart home devices

    Smart technology can help you improve your home environment in a variety of ways.

    For example, you could consider investing in wireless thermostats, lighting and security systems that connect to your smartphone through easy-to-use apps. With a few taps on your touch screen, you can check the locks, turn on the lights and adjust the temperature from miles away.

    See the Which guide to smart home devices for your home.


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