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Your Later Life 2021

Top tips on how to stay healthier for longer

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Dr Jennifer Burns

President, British Geriatrics Society and Consultant Geriatrician, Glasgow Royal Infirmary

It is vital throughout life, especially in later years, that you keep yourself fit and healthy. Small changes are effective in improving health.


When it comes to ensuring good physical and mental health, it’s never too late to get started. Whatever your age, the most effective things you can do are to take regular exercise, maintain a healthy weight, consume alcohol in moderation (or not at all) and stop smoking.

Get up, Get active

Physical activity is not only important for maintaining good health, but also vital in helping with the process of recovery from illness or injury and to prevent further deterioration. Even a little physical activity is better than none at all.

If you have limited mobility, try to vary your position and use regular tasks such as brushing your teeth or washing your face to move around. If you have more mobility, stand up from your chair regularly and move about within your home. If you are more fit and active, you will be able to go for walks and do exercises. Whatever level you are at, it’s worth persisting so that you gradually build your strength and mobility.

Physical activity is not only important for maintaining good health, but also vital in helping with the process of recovery from illness or injury and to prevent further deterioration.

Eating and drinking

Nutrition and hydration are important to ensure good health in later life and prevent illness. Older people can experience a loss of appetite, which might be as a result of a long-term condition, a sense of sadness arising from loss and bereavement, or because of the strains of caring responsibilities. Eating a balanced diet and drinking water regularly throughout the day are essential to good health and wellbeing.

Alcohol in later life

Cutting back on alcohol comes with clear benefits to health. There are specific problems associated with excessive alcohol use in older people, spanning a range of physical and mental health conditions. Alcohol can cause or exacerbate anxiety, depression, and memory problems. When it comes to physical health, alcohol can increase risk of falls and serious injury. Guidelines for a maximum of 14 units a week may still be too much for an older person.

Quit smoking

It’s worth cutting down on smoking or, preferably, quitting completely. Smokers are more likely to develop frailty than non-smokers and there is strong evidence that smoking increases the risk of developing dementia. Local ‘stop smoking’ services are free, friendly and can help your chances of quitting for good.

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Partnering to help make businesses dementia friendly

Charlotte Matier

Director of Development, Alzheimer’s Society

Fermín Martínez
de Hurtado Yela

Sustainability Strategy Manager, Santander UK

People living with dementia worry about their financial independence. That’s why a high street bank has partnered with Alzheimer’s Society to make its services as dementia friendly as possible.


By 2025, it’s estimated that one million people will be living with dementia in the UK. It’s not just an issue for those living with the condition either, because it impacts carers and family members too.

That’s why organisations have to do more to make their services and products as dementia friendly as possible, stresses Charlotte Matier, Director of Development, Alzheimer’s Society.

Take banking, for example. “This is one of the biggest challenges facing people affected by dementia, because they are concerned about losing their financial independence,” says Matier. “They worry about using cash machines and having to deal with different automated tasks or remembering their PIN and security questions. Plus, they are more vulnerable to fraud because they may be less able to judge if a message they receive is a scam.”

So, in 2019, in an effort to become more dementia friendly, Santander formed a partnership with Alzheimer’s Society. This has spawned various initiatives, including the Santander Dementia Steering Group — made up of people affected by dementia — who review Santander’s processes and products; a roster of Santander colleagues who volunteer their time to make Companion Calls to to people affected by dementia for a chat and to check on their wellbeing; and a fundraising drive which has raised over £1.5 million.

Being part of the Santander Dementia Steering Group is empowering for those of us who have dementia. We can have a voice and make changes for the better. Hopefully what we are achieving alongside Santander will in turn help lots of others.’

Tracey, a member of the steering group who is living with dementia

Embedding dementia awareness into a business 

When embarking on a strategic partnership such as this, it’s vital to involve all members of an organisation — from junior team members to senior leadership — from the very start of the process. “Colleagues across the bank had the opportunity to vote on who our charity partner should be,” explains Fermín Martínez de Hurtado Yela, Sustainability Strategy Manager, Santander UK. “It was a good way to get everyone’s engagement from the beginning.”

Once the partnership was formalised, it aimed to deliver mutual benefits for both organisations. “That’s why two colleagues from Alzheimer’s Society have been seconded to our organisation,” explains Martínez de Hurtado Yela. “They are able to leverage our knowledge — and we are able to leverage theirs, ensuring strategic alignment to deliver on a common ambition.”

Dementia awareness to empower colleagues 

The bank has also invited colleagues to join Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends programme, an initiative to change people’s perceptions of dementia aiming to transform the way the nation thinks, acts and talks about the condition. This has been taken up by 54% of colleagues. “There is still stigma surrounding dementia,” says Matier. “Awareness helps employees understand more about the condition – what it is and what it is not – meaning they are much better placed to support customers affected by it.”

The Santander Dementia Steering Group uses their lived experience to review the bank’s products and services to make sure they are dementia friendly. An example of this is making the cash machines experience more dementia friendly through use of accessible colours, language and sequencing as well as launching a Carers Card Account, so a carer can have their own card and PIN to help with shopping, getting cash and paying bills.
 

During Dementia Action Week in May, the bank also launched an external campaign encouraging customers to inform the bank of their dementia diagnosis, to ensure they are accessing support and suitable products, and supported Alzheimer’s Society’s petition to urge the Government to reform social care, and supported Alzheimer’s Society’s petition to urge the Government to reform social care, and supported Alzheimer’s Society’s petition to urge the Government to reform social care [repeated sentence, delete]. 


Dementia awareness and support is now part of the bank’s culture. “One of the strengths of our partnership is that it has delivered holistic outcomes, not simply single solutions to individual challenges,” says Martínez de Hurtado Yela. “The feedback we’ve had from colleagues is that customers and colleagues affected by dementia have responded very positively to it.” 

For information about the dementia-friendly banking initiatives access santander.co.uk/personal/support/supported-banking/dementia

To get support and advice about dementia please contact Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Connect support line (0333 150 3456) or visit alzheimers.org.uk. More information about how to take part in our fundraising activities like Memory Walk is also available on our website.

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