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Aging and Wellness

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Optimizing your health

Your risk of experiencing a fall is closely connected to your physical and mental health.  There are many factors that play a role in continuing to age well.   Your ability to maintain good health, improve your health, or manage chronic diseases is directly affected by factors such as physical activity levels, ability to control pain, quality of social connections, and our diet.

Check out these resources and keep reading to learn more about how to optimize your health and wellbeing, while reducing your risk of experiencing a fall.


As people get older their bodies metabolize alcohol differently due to the reduction in body mass and water content.  This makes them more susceptible to the intoxicating effects, even with less intake of alcohol and can increase the likelihood of falling.

People consume alcohol for various reasons.  Some people drink on social occasions, some drink to help with emotional or physical pain.

Canada's Guideline on Alcohol & Health provide information for making an informed decision when consuming alcohol, with a new understanding that all alcohol consumption, regardless of type or volume, is associated with some level of risk. Low risk consumption for those in good health, is two standard drinks or less per week. The less you drink, the more you reduce the harms associated with consumption.  If you drink more than two drinks a week, consider reducing this to optimize your health.

Alcohol is classified as a drug and is a cancer-causing (carcinogenic) agent. Alcohol consumption is linked to at least seven different types of cancers, such as breast, colorectal cancer, mouth, throat, liver, esophagus and larynx. Cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada with nearly 7,000 cases reported each year due to alcohol use. As such, drinking less alcohol is considered one of the top 10 healthy habits to prevent cancer. If you have a personal or family history of cancer, you may want to avoid alcohol all together. 

The second leading cause of death in Canada is heart disease. Research in the last decade has shown that drinking alcohol at the high-risk level – 6 or more drinks per week, increases your risk for most types of heart disease, including coronary artery disease, heart attack, heart failure, high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation and stroke.

More on alcohol.


It is important to review prescription, over the counter and recreational drugs that your take with your health care provider or pharmacist each year.  It is also important to know what drugs you are taking, how they may interact with each other and what the possible side effects are.  Making a list of questions you want to ask before your appointment can help ensure you get all the answers.  Keeping an up-to-date list of the drugs you take in your wallet is also a good idea.  This can be beneficial for times when you might need to see a health care provider who isn’t familiar with you at a walk-in clinic or in the hospital.   Check out Dr. Mike Evan’s video on the importance of keeping an up-to-date medication list.

Keep in mind, our body’s metabolism slows down as we age.  This means that we will require less drugs than we did when we were younger to achieve the desired effect. This change in metabolism makes it easier to become intoxicated.

Dr. Mike Evans video

If you suffer with pain and are using or thinking about using opioids or cannabis, you might want to check out some of the information we have on these substances to understand the impacts they could have on your health.



If you are struggling with pain, either physically or emotionally there are supports for you.  Pain negatively impacts our mental and physical quality of life by interfering with our desire to be social and active. Poor mental health can intensify pain. Pain is a symptom that needs to be addressed, you can start by talking to someone.

Your health care provider is the first place to start. It is important that you clearly express the impact your pain is having on your quality of life.

There are assessment tools that can be used to help you communicate with your care provider.  Feel free to print, fill out and take with you to your next appointment.

The McGill Pain Questionnaire

The Pain Interference Short Form

Support groups - seek out support groups for pain in general or for pain specific to your condition. Pain can be associated with an illness, injury, or a traumatic event or emotional incident.  Sometimes talking to someone who is going through a similar experience can be of great benefit.

Websites can provide great information, but you need to make sure it is good information and not promoting a product for purchase.

If you are feeling anxious or depressed, please talk to someone.

  • Your Health Care Provider
  • Family or Friends
  • 9-8-8: Suicide Crisis Helpline (
  • ConnexOntario or call 1-866-531-2600

    Anxiety, depression and other mental health concerns can lead to isolation, limited mobility, pain, increased substance use and a decline in overall health.

    Check out CAMH resources for mental health and wellbeing in later life.

    Social connectedness

    Take time for friends and family! Research tells us that those who are involved in activities outside the home, have companionship and are physically active, have less falls and suffer fewer serious injuries.

    • Participate in a walking group
    • Join a VON SMART class, Tai Chi, Yoga or other activity
    • Become a member of a seniors center or club
    • Volunteer at the closest school to you
    • Become a friendly visitor for a local support agency

    The risk for social isolation is high for those who have a limited support system, have chronic health issues and have no transportation options.

    Take this interactive lesson on Social Isolation to learn more


    Older adults are at a higher risk for a fall if they experience cognitive changes. Changes can be caused by illness or disease, but changes can also be caused by a concussion or other brain injury. If you have noticed changes in your memory, learning or concentration, please talk to your health care provider for an in-depth assessment and possibly a referral to a geriatrician (older adult specialist) or a cognitive specialist. Check out these tips to keep your brain healthy.

    Take the Promoting Brain Health lesson offered by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal, to learn more.
    Check out this link if you have wondered what the difference is between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

    Regular physical activity is needed for good health. It will increase your strength, balance, flexibility, improve your posture and prevent bone loss.  If pain is stopping you from being active, please review the pain section above.  You may want to take the osteoarthritis and exercise lesson developed by McMaster University.

    Household chores, garden work and regular walks are a great start.  If you do these already, try challenging yourself to start a new activity that uses different muscles.

    Take a look at the CSEP Physical Activity resource for ways to get yourself moving and how much time you need to spend doing it. It is NEVER too late to start! Talk with your health care provider if you have concerns about starting a new activity.

    For more ways to stay active see the Active Aging Canada website.

    Search for local activity groups on HealthLine North Simcoe Muskoka or Central.


    Skipping meals, not eating healthy foods and not drinking enough water, can lead to dizziness and other health concerns. Use Canada’s Food Guide to help you choose healthy foods. 

    Calcium and Vitamin D, along with weight-bearing activity (activities that involve exercise on your feet, with your bones supporting your weight), will help to keep your bones strong!

    Use the Calcium Calculator at Osteoporosis Canada to help you identify if you are getting enough calcium. 

    To learn more about Healthy Eating as you age, check out

    As we get older, we have less water in our body, so we get dehydrated faster. We may be taking medications that make us lose water.

    • Dehydration can lower blood pressure and make you dizzy, it can cause confusion and even increase your risk of developing a bladder infection, all of this increases the risk of having a fall.
    • Drink 6-8 glasses of water each day to stay hydrated – unless otherwise indicated by your health care provider.

    If you are having trouble eating because your mouth is sore or you have issues with your teeth, gums or dentures, check out the Oral Health section below.

    If you are not drinking fluids because you are having bladder leakage, see the section below on Continence.

    Oral Health

    Research and evidence show oral bacteria can directly affect your overall health. Your mouth is the gateway for nutrition and health. Take care of your teeth and gums by getting regular checkups.

    Easier said than done; money is often a barrier to accessing dental health care. There is dental care access through these financial assistance programs: 


    There is also the new Federal dental care program. Check out the details here: Getting Canadians the dental care they need.

    According to the Canadian Urinary Bladder Survey, 16% of men and 33% of women over the age of 40 have symptoms of urinary incontinence but only 26% have discussed this with their doctor.

    Bowel incontinence is much less common. About 1% of people under the age of 65 and 4%–7% of people over 65 have fecal incontinence.

    Incontinence is linked with falling for 2 reasons:

    Rushing to get to the toilet in time.
    Limiting activities outside of the home due to the fear of having an “accident”. 

    **Limiting activity leads to isolation and deconditioning of the body and mind.

    Check out the The Canadian Continence Foundation and Pelvic Health Solutions for more information.

    Talk to your health care provider.  Incontinence is not uncommon, there are treatments available.

    Vision and hearing problems put you at risk for a fall - yearly checkups are recommended.

    If you have a visual impairment The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) may be helpful. Eye exams are covered by OHIP annually for seniors. If you require glasses this is at your own expense.

    People don’t realize that hearing effects the risk of falling, but your ears are also responsible for spatial orientation and balance.  Even mild hearing loss can triple your risk of having a fall.

    Hearing tests are often free, however if you need hearing aids, these are at your own expense. If you have a hearing impairment visit The Canadian Hearing Society (CHS) to see what services are available.

    Here are some options to seek financial assistance:
    Simcoe County Assistance Program
    Muskoka McConnell Foundation 
    Independent Living Services – Accessibility Resource Centre

    It is important to keep your feet healthy to prevent pain, sores, and other problems including ankle, knee, hip and back pain.  Pain in these areas can cause changes in the way you walk, making you unstable.

    Choose footwear that is comfortable and stable.  Look for a shoe that has a sturdy sole, and a wide and enclosed heel. You should feel confident walking in them as well as climbing stairs.  

    Check out Finding Balance and The Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists for more information. 

    When it comes to winter footwear you may want to check out the Rate My Treads website before you purchase your next pair of boots.  Footwear is rated in a winter lab and is tested for the ability to grasp the ice at different slope heights.  Sadly 81% of footwear tested so far, do not meet minimum standards.

    If you are looking for service providers check out foot care providers on HealthLine North Simcoe Muskoka or Central

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