Aging changes the body in many ways. There are obvious, external changes, like graying or thinning hair and wrinkles. However, there are also many changes that we cannot see. One of the changes that occurs is in the immune system. Understanding what changes and how you can help your aging relative to strengthen their immune system can allow you to assist them in staying healthier.
There are two kinds of immunity. They are:
Innate Immunity: Innate immunity is the kind of immunity that kicks in to fight infections.
Adaptive Immunity: Adaptive immunity remembers certain kinds of germs the body has encountered before and attacks them.
As the body ages, innate immunity may not fall back after it takes care of the initial attack. As a result, the body develops chronic inflammation. At the same time, adaptive immunity gets weaker and doesn’t fight viruses, fungi, and bacteria as well as it used to. The combination of these two things means that older adults aren’t able to stave off illnesses the way they could when they were younger, so they catch colds, flus, and other things more easily and more often than young adults do. And, because their immune systems are weaker, they may have worse symptoms and develop complications.
How Can You Help a Senior to Support Their Immune System?
Although it’s normal for a senior to have a weaker immune response, there are still things that can be done to strengthen their immune systems. Some tips for improving an older adult’s immune system are:
Quit Smoking: Smoking is responsible for increasing the risk of developing many kinds of diseases. By encouraging an older adult to quit smoking, you can help them to reduce those risks.
Sleep Well: Studies show that when people sleep 6 or fewer hours per night, they catch colds more often. Seniors should aim for between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night.
Eat More Plant-Based Foods: Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants that help to reduce inflammation.
Exercise Regularly: Getting enough exercise helps the body to fight inflammation. Experts say this has to do with an increase in muscle tissue, which produces inflammation-fighting proteins that also help the immune system to work better.
Home care can assist your older family member to boost their immunity.
If the older adult is trying to quit smoking, home care can offer encouragement and distract them when they have an urge to smoke. Home care providers can also prepare healthy meals that include more fruits and vegetables. And, if your aging relative needs to move more, home care can help with that, too. Home care providers can go for walks with seniors, drive them to exercise classes, or just assist them in moving more around the house.