Food and physical activity among older adults in the Nordic region
Healthy eating habits and physical activity have a positive impact on health, social participation, and functionality in late adulthood. The Nordic Welfare Centre’s project “Diet and Physical Activity among Older Adults in the Nordic Region” intends to strengthen policy development in individual countries to promote healthy eating habits and adequate physical activity even in the early years of old age. Good eating habits and physical activity support an active, healthy life in old age and reduce the burden of disease among elderly people in the Nordic region.
Improving one’s lifestyle habits reduces the risk for non-communicable chronic diseases. Risk factors such as high blood pressure and an unhealthy blood fat profile can be addressed by improved lifestyle habits, even later in life. Healthy eating habits and sufficient physical activity in older adults help to prevent chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases.
Age-related muscle loss can adversely affect strength and balance and thus increase risk of falls in older adults. This can be countered by healthy eating habits and muscle-strengthening exercise including flexibility and balance training exercise, as this helps to maintain functionality and reduces the risk of a downward spiral of inactivity, loss of appetite and frailty.
Having the opportunity to eat together with others, enjoy the food and be involved in joint physical activities contributes to joy and a sense of community. In this context, the social aspects of food and physical activity must also be considered.
Taken together, health promotive strategies supporting healthy eating habits and sufficient physical activity are important for quality of life, well-being and wellness in late adulthood. Furthermore, health-promotive strategies can reduce the economic burden of disease and illness in the welfare society. Even though the individuals decide on their own lifestyle habits, supportive societal structures can facilitate healthy practices and reduce health inequity among older adults in the Nordic region.
Project results and timetable
An analysis of Nordic health indicators and statistics that are significant for health of the elderly in relation to diet and physical activity is being published at the beginning of the year 2022. A body of knowledge is also being compiled about the importance of good eating habits and physical activity among older adults in the Nordic region.
The report also presents Nordic examples of effective preventive and health-promoting initiatives by practitioners, as well as policies that support the implementation of government guidelines and recommendations around diet and physical activity. The report will be published during 2023.
The Nordic Welfare Centre will be organising seminars and webinars within the framework of the project. Information about the events will be published on an ongoing basis.
The project’s target groups include civil servants employed at ministries, government agencies, county administrative boards and regional and local authorities. The project is also aimed at those who work in civil society organizations such as community associations, associations representing senior citizens and other interest groups working with issues related to late adulthood.
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