Older men reveal lifestyle concerns

Older men have revealed their lifestyle concerns in new research from investigators at the Institut universitaire de geriatrie de Montreal. According to the finding, maintaining independence and quality of life are the biggest health worries for males aged 55 to 97, with impairments to mobility, loss of memory and side-effects from medication all cited.

The study also showed vision and hearing loss, as well as repeatedly falling, are some of the biggest fears individuals in this demographic have to contend with.

Dr Cara Tannenbaum, Geriatrician and the Michel Saucier Endowed Chair in Geriatric Pharmacology, Health and Aging at the institute - which is affiliated with the University de Montreal - said: "It is time for the health care system to invest in strategies for older adults to preserve their autonomy, mental health and well-being."

She added depression and anxiety, which can result in social isolation, also need to be considered by officials looking at how best to ensure a patient's quality of life and independence.

Dr Peter Lambley, Chartered Psychologist, commented: "Any study that provides information about the actual state of the lives of elderly people is to be welcomed.

"Too little is known about what the elderly think and feel about their lives despite the fact that this important group of people are in the process of becoming the largest users of healthcare services in developed societies. The present study in Canada on older men complements and adds to an earlier study on women by the same lead investigator, Cara Tannenbaum and it is in line with numerous investigations and reports in the past decade that have helped to radically alter how we think about the elderly.

"To take one example: instead of categorising everyone over the age of 55 as being old and treating them all in the same way we now distinguish between at least three stages of old age - young old age, moderate old age and the truly elderly. This helps us to at least theoretically identify the needs of each age group and to target our understanding and the help we give accordingly.

"Put simply, if we can provide accurate and well-informed guidance and information to the young elderly for example, we can then help them maintain their mobility, autonomy, social and interpersonal relationships in such a way as to make the challenges of the later stages of ageing more bearable and less isolating. So much for the theory.

"As the Canadian studies emphasise, overall the fears, concerns and anxieties of the elderly continue to remain neglected issues by health care service providers.

"The needs of the elderly for information and guidance about the problems they face appear to be not only unmet but also unrecognised.

"At another level, a number of studies have been conducted into the psychological and interpersonal attributes of people who survive successfully into old age and in the main these have shown that resilience and humour together with a network of family and friends greatly help the elderly cope effectively with a range of mental and physical disabilities.

"However, this body of work has not generally filtered down to decision makers and others concerned with the day to day wellbeing of the elderly.

"Perhaps the Canadian studies will help to create greater awareness amongst health care professionals and service providers of the problems that exist and the kind of research that has already been done in the field of geriatrics."