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PENINSULA ZOOMER: We can all take steps to age well, just like Betty White did

Dr. Grace Park promotes healthy aging while avoiding health decline and frailty

Happy New Year!

Sad to read that our ‘golden girl’ Betty White, has left this world at age 99.

I want to age well, just like her.

As does Dr. Grace Park, a local physician who is the Regional Medical Director of Home Health, Specialized Community Health Services – Complex Medical/Frail.

As a practising family physician in White Rock, Dr. Park provides care and supports clients to live independently at home for as long as possible.

She promotes healthy aging while avoiding health decline and frailty.

We Canadians are lucky in so many ways. Our life expectancy has been increasing over the years and we can expect to live well into our 80s and even longer. In fact, centenarians represent the fastest growing age group in Canada, with their numbers expected to increase from 8,000 in 2016 to nearly 40,000 by 2050.

However, many of us spend the last eight to 10 years living with frailty. Frailty is often used to describe age-related decline in our health and function but there is research showing frailty does not have to occur as we age.

In fact, the medical use of the word frailty is now measurable through a geriatric assessment and is defined as an accumulation of health deficits. The health deficits are things like hearing loss, memory problems, weak muscles, etc. If it can be measured, it can be prevented and medical intervention, as well as our lifestyle choices, can actually prevent or at least reduce the progression of frailty as we age.

The Canadian Frailty Network (CFN) is promoting the AVOID frailty strategy.

A: Activity – exercise at any age is helpful;

V: Vaccination – think hepatitis, shingles, flu, pneumonia and, of course, COVID-19;

O: Optimize medication – ensure you need the medication and that the doses are optimal;

I: Interaction – social engagement is critical to healthy aging and social isolation correlates with frailty progression;

D: Diet – As you get older food is medicine in order to ensure adequate protein, calcium etc.

The AVOID strategy can be reviewed with your family doctor and a social prescription can be provided to help you connect with community social resources in order to improve your health and wellbeing.

Getting older does not have to mean a decline in activity or function. Community organizations and volunteers can help seniors to stay connected and better supported in their homes.

In White Rock-South Surrey, we have Seniors Come Share where a seniors’ community connector can provide you with a social prescription to help overcome barriers to accessing community programs such as transportation for exercise classes, language or financial barriers and food security. Or if there is a psychological barrier such as lack of confidence, the seniors’ community connector can partner you with volunteers to help set goals and follow up to ensure success.

United Way has been providing Better At Home for help with housekeeping, snow shoveling etc. We also have BC211 for other community services. The community-based senior services organizations also have friendly visitors, walking groups, cooking classes etc. During the pandemic, many programs are being provided online. There is even help to set up technology for seniors who wish to join online groups.

Speaking with your GP is a great start to addressing healthy aging and to AVOID frailty. Now through social prescribing, Seniors Come Share can support community connections. Here is the link:

The CFN website also has a lot of information on how seniors can take charge of their own health through preventive strategies to avoid living their golden years with frailty.

Age well, just like our beloved Betty did!

April Lewis is the local communications director for CARP, a national group committed to a ‘New Vision of Aging for Canada.’ She writes monthly.