Hurdles to growing old gracefully

John Deeks: Mind Your Own Retirement from YourLifeChoices. It’s me John Deeks and, on the line talking lifestyle, a good friend of the show, Dr Kate Gregorevic. Welcome, and happy Mother’s Day to you, Kate.

Kate Gregorevic: Thank you so much.

John Deeks: Now, you’re a young mum of how many?

Kate Gregorevic: Three. I have three children, eight, five and two.

John Deeks: And do you have time to do anything else?

Kate Gregorevic: Yes. I’m also a doctor. I work at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and I’ve recently written a book.

John Deeks: Kate, you’re an overachiever. How do you have time?

Kate Gregorevic: Look, it was a lot to take on; writing a book with the work I was already doing. But I just felt like the messages I had were just so important, so I just chipped away at it.

John Deeks: Tell me about those messages.

Kate Gregorevic: Yeah. So, my book is called Staying Alive and basically about how we can apply the science of longevity to everyday life. And I wrote this book because I wanted to share that we don’t need to sacrifice enjoying life today to live as long as possible. And so, many of the choices we make that can improve our mental and physical wellbeing in the present are actually things that will improve our longevity.

John Deeks: Give me some examples of that, Kate.

Kate Gregorevic: Yeah. So things like sleep, because obviously if you’ve had a better sleep, it makes your whole day so much better. But sleep is also really important for protecting your future cognitive health. Exercise, and exercise is a well-known mood booster, even recommended as part of a treatment plan for mild to moderate depression. And exercise is one of the most important things we can do to protect that physical and cognitive function into our later years. Or social connections. So, we don’t think so much that when we go and sit down and have a coffee with a friend, that we’re doing something excellent for our health. But that sort of emotional connection with someone makes us feel great. And it’s also really good for both our cognitive and physical health.

John Deeks: Now, I know a lot of our listeners have issues with sleep and some of us wake up at three o’clock in the morning. Tell me, as you get older, what are your recommendations as far as having a good, solid, restorative sleep?

Kate Gregorevic: So, sleep is something I do work with my patients a lot. And the thing about improving sleep in older age, there’s a couple of challenges. Number one is that we have a natural sleep cycle, a circadian rhythm.

John Deeks: Sure.

Kate Gregorevic: And part of this is we get a release of a hormone called melatonin from our brain that helps get us off to sleep. Now, with age this melatonin release actually happens a little bit earlier than we’d like, which is why a lot of people find themselves dozing off to sleep at 7:30, 8 o’clock in front of the TV. That can then take away some of the sleep pressure for later in the evening or sometimes it is that people go to bed early and then wake up early in the morning. The other thing that can happen with age is that sleep can become a little bit lighter, so it’s easier to get woken up. And so, when I’m helping people with their sleep issues, there’s some really simple things and changes that we can make. Number one is avoiding anything with caffeine in it, coffee or tea, after mid-day. Avoiding alcohol, even though I know this can make you feel drowsy, it actually makes your sleep lighter and less refreshing. Making sure you’re getting some daylight. So, getting up in the morning, getting that daylight so it can help with that circadian rhythm and staying active, which helps good sleep as well. And if it is a real problem, sometimes seeing a psychologist can actually be a really helpful technique to learn some mind techniques to get you in the right place to drift off.

John Deeks: Now, I know you’re doing a lot of work with Elder Health Australia. Tell us some of the work that you’re doing with them and outline how people can assist themselves by getting onto that.

Kate Gregorevic: Yeah. I run an online program called Project 3-6-12 and that is an online exercise and wellbeing course aimed at women in their forties and beyond. I started this with an exercise physiologist called Cassandra Smith, because we saw that there was a real gap in appropriate exercise programs for women in this age group. We focused on this group because women are less likely to exercise than men, and less likely to do a resistance training – or strength training.

John Deeks: Sure.

Kate Gregorevic: Which is the most important type of exercise you can do to keep yourself really healthy and independent into older age. And so, if you’re a 55 year old, and perhaps you’ve just been doing some walking but want to take it to another level, it’s really important to start an exercise program that focuses on technique that gradually builds strength that gets a little bit harder over time. And we’ve also with this program – ’cause health is obviously not just physical – we’ve got a nutrition component with recipes based around some of the healthier eating principles, which generally apply to all ages. As well as mental wellbeing. So, we’ve got tai-chi and meditation, and also some educational webinars to help people make appropriate lifestyle choices.

John Deeks: What does 3, 6, 12 mean? Project 3-6-12?

Kate Gregorevic: So, it means that there’s three different exercises – three different components that you work out six days a week. And each course goes for 12 weeks.

John Deeks: Ah, that’s sensible.

John Deeks: Kate, how can people pre-order your fabulous book Staying Alive?

Kate Gregorevic: Yep. So, if you head to the Pan Macmillan website, or hopefully the link on your website, that way you can pre-order it.

John Deeks: Okay, well do make sure you get a copy of that because it’s a book that’s going to help so many people and I, for one, will certainly be getting hold of it. Kate, thank you so much for giving up your time.

Kate Gregorevic: Thank you so much.