Diane Millis discovers how the senior health category now needs to cater to various life stages, attitudes and expectations
Age is no longer a barrier. We expect to be as vital and energetic in our 70s as we were in our 40s – and many of us will need to be as retirement becomes ever more unlikely.
Just this month, a certain Mr Donald Trump will become the oldest president to assume office aged almost 71 (Ronald Reagan was the oldest in office at almost 78 on the day he left the White House). Meanwhile, Pope Francis is travelling the world at a sprightly 80 years of age.
Clearly, mainstream medicine and improved diets have both played a huge part in extending life spans in developed countries. But now, over consumption of high-calorie food could lead to a stalling in life expectancy progress. Plus, while many people are clocking up more years, they are doing so while also coping with life-restricting health complaints. As the Global Burden of Disease report found in 2012, for the first time being overweight has become more of a global health burden than lack of nutrition, and collectively we are spending more of our lives living in poor health and with disability.
Many people are now starting to set different goals for their senior years – they want lots of years in their life, but also plenty of life in their years. “I’ve seen a massive shift in how we define ‘senior years’,” confirms nutritionist Jane Clarke, “people are living longer and want to be as fit and well as can possibly be achieved.”
“There will always be people who just want a pill, but people are asking ‘what are our choices?’ ‘How can we do things differently?’,” said nutritionist Marilyn Glenville at last year’s camexpo panel discussion ‘Caring for an ageing population’.
Helping to provide alternative choices is where the natural and complementary health sectors come in.
There is a big market to aim for – according to Saga, the over 50s held almost 76% of all the financial wealth held by UK households in 2014, and the over-65s, who already account for 18% of the UK population, will make up almost a quarter of the population by 2039.
However, within the senior market there are some quite distinct target audiences. For example, there are those who are in ‘old age’, say over 70, many of whom are already taking many pharmaceutical drugs to address chronic health problems such as arthritis and high blood pressure. Then there are those who are beginning to age – the over 50s – who are aware that mainstream medicine may not have all the answers (or even be freely available by the time they reach their 70s).
In the former category, the challenge can be working around their current medicine intake. “What’s shocking is that we see people who are on a cocktail of drugs – eight or ten for most people – many of them to offset the side effects of the first one. Often they are not being monitored or reassessed,” said Glenville. “It does make it harder nutritionally because we are balancing what we can offer with the contraindications of the medications.”
For Clarke, who focuses predominantly on nutritional solutions, this presents an opportunity. “There are very few complications and interactions with food, so there’s a lot of scope to help people,” she says. “Medicalized healthcare has left people a bit stranded, particularly around the issue of side effects. There’s a great deal of confusion as to what people should be doing, which is why I have set up a website to help those who are poorly, and their carers, with advice on eating well when coping with specific health challenges, such as cancer, dementia and heart disease.
However, reaching some older people can be challenging. Anita Hatch, manager of Nature’s Corner in Newbury, points out that the store’s growing reliance on social media marketing runs the risk of not reaching their target older customer who is still much more likely to respond to newspaper advertising.
They are also more heavily influenced by mainstream media such as TV programmes, according to Hatch. She cites the example of a sudden rush in demand from older customers for inulin caused by Angela Rippon’s How to Stay Young programme on BBC1 last year, and an unexpected spike in demand for Natures Aid Lutein Eye Complex generated by a newspaper article.
One key way to reach and educate older people, however, is through their younger friends and family members, as highlighted by Tracey Smith, reflexology and research manager at the Association of Reflexologists. Speaking at last year’s camexpo panel discussion she said: “The younger generation are having an impact on the older generation. We find older people come to us not because they thought about reflexology themselves but because a younger person in their family said ‘you should try it’. They wouldn’t necessarily think about it for themselves. It’s education through different channels.”
Hatch supports this and suggests that younger family members are often “more comfortable with the idea of taking responsibility for their health and going beyond the NHS for health support. In 20 years’ time, when those now in their 30s and 40s are in their 50s and 60s it will be very, very different”.
Prevention is better than cure
For people who are just starting to contemplate their senior years, there can be some quite different considerations. Many in this age category are incredibly active and expect to remain so. For example, runners over the age of 40 now represent more than 50% of male finishers and 40% of female finishers in US marathons, and often outperform younger athletes.
Targeting these consumers, is the supplement brand, Prime 50, that was launched 18 months ago by Dr Max Gowland. Ahead of the launch, the company consulted the over-50s extensively, and found that their most commonly cited goal was ‘staying mobile’. The company has therefore focused on products for bone, muscle and joint health, plus a product to help with energy levels.
The company also examined data from many studies including the USA NHANES study, the UK National Diet & Nutrition Survey (over 65s), the German Nationwide Food Consumption Study from the Max Rubner Institute, and a study of Micronutrient Intakes across Europe (over 64s). These helped identify the nutrients that many start to lack as they get older.
“The National Diet & Nutrition Survey found that 82% of over- 50s are not getting enough copper, which is essential for tendons and ligaments, connective tissue health,” says Gowland. “It also found that 33% of this age group do not get the recommended daily amount of vitamin C.”
“We need to act between the ages of 50 and 65 to prevent chronic illnesses,” says Gowland, who is looking to extend the Prime 50 product range next year to include a ‘metabolic range’ that will focus on brain health, vision, digestion and immunity, and heart and blood.
Prime 50 will also be seeking to do more to promote the benefits of exercise to older people. It is working on a partnership with an English University to establish a training course for personal trainers. “There are 40,000 personal trainers in the UK, but only 900 are trained specifically to work with the over-50s,” says Gowland. So we could see a network of Prime 50 personal trainers in this country before too long.
Clearly, the senior health category can no longer be considered a uniform market segment – those aged between 50 and 100 (there were over 14,000 Britons over 100 years old last year) will have huge differences in attitude, knowledge and expectations around health. But a common factor is perhaps a growing realization that mainstream medicine and pharmaceuticals will not always have all the answers.
View from the shop floor
“Almost a quarter of our customers are over 60,” says Anita Hatch, manager of Nature’s Corner, Newbury. “For many of them, products aimed at helping with joint issues are what brings them in and keeps them coming back.
“We get really good results with anti-inflammatory joint products as 80-90% of customers will see some results quickly.” Popular amongst these are Pukka Herbs turmeric products and Solgar’s curcumin supplements.
Hatch is keen to educate her older customers and says a key challenge is moving them away from old-fashioned remedies. “We’ve come so far now in terms of the quality of products and the research available, so we are trying to re-educate them.”
Pam Buckle from Wild Oats in Bristol highlights three product categories that attract older customers: joint health, memory and concentration, and energy. Particularly popular in these categories are Flexicoll High Strength Hydrolysed Collagen drink, Higher Nature’s Keep Sharp, Marilyn Glenville’s Brain & Memory Supplement, and Nature’s Plus Source of Life GOLD Liquid.
“We don’t reach out particularly to older people,” says Buckle, “but I’ve seen many customers age with me, and they are really well informed – a great example to others.” She also says that the store currently has three members of staff aged over 70 – a good example of the way in which ‘seniors’ are as active as they ever were.
Older people are particularly vulnerable to malnutrition, which is both a major cause and consequence of poor health. According to the Malnutrition Taskforce, it is estimated that one in ten people over 65 are malnourished or at risk of malnutrition and, of these, those over the age of 75 are at highest risk – a figure that is projected to double in the next 30 years.
Of real concern is the fact that being ‘looked after’ in residential care or hospitals does not mean malnutrition ceases to be a problem – as many as 37% of older people who have recently moved into care homes are at risk of malnutrition, and of the over three million people in the UK who are malnourished or at risk of becoming so, 5% are in care homes and 2% are in hospitals.
As the Malnutrition Taskforce says: ‘Most people (older people, carers, professionals, commissioners and senior managers in health and social care) do not realize how common malnutrition is or how serious the consequences can be, and so malnutrition and dehydration continue to go unrecognized and untreated’ (Malnutrition in Later Life: Prevention and Early Intervention, Best Practice Principles & Implementation Guide, Care Homes).
“There’s a massive problem in terms of what institutions are doing – from hospitals to residential care homes,” said Robert Verkerk at last year’s ‘Caring for an ageing population’ panel discussion at camexpo. “Part of the reason for that is there isn’t a consensus as to what constitutes healthy eating within health authorities and mainstream medicine. They have delegated nutrition skills to dieticians,” he added.
Nutritionist Jane Clarke agrees: “We often take weight loss and lack of appetite far too lightly, and many institutions don’t prioritize eating nourishing meals,’ she says. “We should do far more to turn the situation around, rather than prescribing supplement drinks as if they’re the answer to everything. Life should be about eating nourishing, scrumptious food, and even more so when we’re older.”
Clarke is particularly concerned about the way in which this can impact dementia sufferers. “I have a real bee in my bonnet about the fact that dementia sufferers’ nutritional wellbeing doesn’t feature high enough on the list of priorities in care homes, hospitals or if someone is living alone. It absolutely should be at the top of the list.”
Clearly, this is an area where the natural and alternative health community has much to offer – whether it be ensuring customers (or there carers) are aware of supplements and foods that can help maintain optimum nutrition levels as they get older or working with mainstream medicine and care providers to ensure there is the best understanding of nutrition for older people and those with particular conditions.
Verkerk is optimistic that things are starting to change and that the opportunities for greater collaboration are there. “There is real interest now from some people in the NHS and residential care homes to start making a difference,” he says.
Clarke meanwhile is seeking to build an online community focused on showing how nutrition can help people who are poorly, including older people. NourishbyJaneClarke provides information based on her experience of working alongside care teams and with clients in her practice. Clarke is keen to see the Nourish community include not only include those coping with illness and age-related conditions but also those working to care for them. Partnerships with groups such as Gransnet and Dementia UK, plus campaigns and events, will also help take this nutritional message out to a wider audience.
Senior Health Products
Senior Probio™ Optimum Gut Health With aging comes an increased susceptibility to infectious, decreased gastrointestinal function, and increased antibiotic use that can lead to diarrhoea and other intestinal ailments. HealthAid SeniorProbio, is a unique formulation especially for seniors; containing a superior blend of 30 billion viable bacterial strains; fortified with a prebiotic (FOS), to maintain a healthy intestinal flora which is usually offset with age. HealthAid® uses special acid & bile resistant strains, which prevent the stomach juices destroying the ingredients before they reach the intestines, ensuring their purity and potency. SeniorProbio™ retails at £24.99 for 30 Vegetarian Capsules. Contact HealthAid® on 020 8426 3400 for purchase and stockist information or visit www.healthaid.co.uk
Helios Rhus Tox and Ruta Cream
Organic plant tinctures of Rhus Tox and Ruta are combined with essential oil of Ginger to produce a warming cream to soothe arthritic/rheumatic aches and pains, including heel pain, and to ease sore and stiff muscles, tendons and ligaments. Helios creams are organically produced and do not contain lanolin, petroleum derivatives of artificial preservatives. For details of Rhus Tox and Ruta cream and others in the range please contact us.
Nature’s Answer Glucosamine & Chondroitin
Nature’s Answer Glucosamine Chondroitin with MSM formula combines Glucosamine with other substances important for the resiliency and maintenance of health cartilage, such as Chondroitin, MSM and other joint friendly nutrients. Quik-Sorb® is an exclusive blend of herbs known to enhance delivery of nutrients to the body. Glucosamine increases the formation of lubrication materials inside the joints and slows the activity of enzymes that cause joint destruction as well as aiding joint repair. Chondroitin sulfate helps cartilage retain water. Clinical studies of glucosamine have demonstrated it is effective treatment for helping with symptoms linked to joint and muscle pain.
Nature’s Answer Calcium & Magnesium Supreme
Nature’s Answer Liquid Calcium & Magnesium Supreme delivers key nutrients in an easily absorbable form. The formulation features Quik-Sorb, an exclusive blend of herbs known to enhance the delivery of nutrients to the body. For Optimal Bone Support as well as calcium and magnesium the product contains microcrystalline hydroxyapatite, zinc and boron. With one of the most comprehensive herbariums in the world, Nature’s http://www.naturalproductsonline.co.uk/Answer® has identified Mother Nature’s unique botanical fingerprint on over 800 plant reference standards. Utilising Advanced Botanical Fingerprint Technology™, these authenticated samples each serve as the standard by which all incoming raw materials are judged.
Ginkgo Biloba 6000mg, Lemon Balm, Sage and Rosemary plus Vitamins and Minerals Refreshall® is a high potency product that, at two tablets daily, provides the full 6000mg of ginkgo that has been used in scientific studies, plus three other herbs, lemon balm, sage and rosemary all at relevant levels. We use the highest quality ginkgo extract available. Ginkgo is the herb most associated with memory thanks to its gentle ability to improve the flow of blood, and therefore oxygen and nutrients, to the brain. Refreshall® also includes selected B vitamins and iodine known to contribute to normal neurological and psychological functions and normal mental performance.
Have you been told to reduce high fat foods in your diet to reduce Cholesterol levels? Cholasitrol® is a unique supplement with proven health effects for cholesterol and the heart. Specially formulated by Lifeplan’s own leading nutritional biochemists to help your heart naturally, Cholasitrol® has recently scooped a Pharmacy sector award.
The formula provides Plant sterols and Red Yeast Rice which have authorised health claims to help maintain normal cholesterol levels. Enhanced with Bergamot, this citrus ingredient also provides antioxidant properties. Help your heart naturally with this botanical supplement. For more information contact [email protected] or call 01455 556281
Brain & Memory Support
Supporting Mental Clarity – New from The Natural Health Practice, Brain & Memory Support formulated in association with Dr. Marilyn Glenville PhD, brings to the market a unique formulation which helps promote concentration, sharpness and focus. Brain & Memory Support is a special combination of carefully chosen nutrients, each with a specific role to aid cognitive performance and support healthy brain function and memory. As well as containing the three most important B vitamins (B6, B12 and folic acid) at their optimum amounts, it also contains vitamin B5, phosphatidyl serine, acetyl carnitine, l-taurine, l-arginine, alpha lipoic acid, co-enzyme Q10, phosphatidyl choline, kelp, vitamin E, vitamin A, selenium and zinc.
OVER 50? As we get older, it is well documented that we are lacking many vitamins and minerals, due to poor absorption , combined with the fact, that we are not getting those key nutrients from food alone. This has been proven via scientific Food Intake Studies on thousands of over 50s across the UK. We know, that looking after the four elements of ‘musculoskeletal-health’ (bones, joints, muscle & energy) is key to staying active and mobile as we age. PRIME FIFTY is the only Brand that has developed tailored formulations, just for the over 50s and beyond, with its “specifically targeted” formulations. Available at www.primefifty.co.uk
Ear Tone ™ combines natural extracts of ginkgo biloba and pine bark with magnesium. Ginkgo biloba helps maintain a good blood circulation including in the inner ear. Magnesium is very important for hearing, because magnesium has an influence on the nervous transmission and the function of the nervous system. Hearing unaccustomed noises and sounds are typical signs of age related hearing loss. We are all exposed to noise during our daily lives, whether it is constant noise from loud music or traffic, machine noise etc. By taking the Ear Tone tablets you can help to counteract the age related problems with hearing. Ear Tone is available in a 30 tablet pack – Take one tablet daily.
Blue Berry Eyebright
Blueberries are well known for their positive effects on eyesight. Blueberries contain flavonoids, which have a positive effect on the microcirculation in the cells of the eye. Research shows that there are other substances in blueberries, which are good for eyesight. For example lutein, which has shown remarkable results in scientific tests. New Nordic combines blueberries and lutein with additional herbal extracts in their Blue Berry™ Eyebright supplements aimed at the eyes. These original Swedish Blue Berry tablets are recommended to people, who want help to maintain healthy eyes and vitality. Choose from the Mega Strength one-a-day tablet or the original formulation of two tablets per day.
Ultimate Flora Critical Care
As we age, studies show that levels of Bifidobacteria in the gut decline, while pathogenic bacteria in the gut increase – this is one of the main reasons why digestive issues increase with age. Ultimate Flora Critical Care is a powerful 50 billion probiotic with 10 strains including 25 billion Bifidobacterium bifidum. This key colon probiotic declines with age, yet is scientifically proven to help destroy harmful bacteria, help manage digestive problems including IBS, constipation, diarrhoea and support healthy immune function. Ideal for anyone aged 50+ and after antibiotics. Our unique enteric coating delivery system ensures 100% probiotic delivery.