Some smokers may believe they’re too old to benefit from quitting tobacco because the damage to their health is already done.
But we know only too well that research proves it’s never too late to give up smoking.
Evidence shows the positive effects of stopping smoking are seen in all age groups, including those aged 80 and older, and that quitting can help to add years of healthy living to any life.
That’s why ASH Scotland is keen to engage with those who support older adults.
We’re aiming to help organisations working with older people to consider the impact that smoking and tobacco use may be having on the people they support or provide services to.
We want to get the message out that we’re here to offer advice and training to a range of groups: voluntary and community organisations providing direct support to older adults; staff, carers, volunteers, befrienders, home helps and housing associations for older adults; and lunch clubs and church groups.
Lung cancer rates in Scotland are among the highest in the world, reflecting the country’s history of high smoking prevalence, and Scotland is the only nation in the UK where lung cancer remains the most common cancer overall.
Around 18% of people aged 65-74 and nine per cent of those over 75 are still smoking. The overall smoking rate for Scotland is around 25%, but older smokers are likely to have disproportionate tobacco-related health problems, meaning it’s important to tackle the issue among our older citizens.
Even after someone reaches the age of 75, a healthy lifestyle, including not smoking and physical activity, is associated with a longer life. Avoiding risky behaviour like smoking can add five years to women’s lives and six years to men’s.
Advancing age is the biggest factor for developing dementia – but giving up smoking can help. Quitting has the benefit for older age groups of potentially improving mental sharpness and delaying the onset of dementia.
Also, smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke are risk factors for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and stroke, which are, in turn, underlying risk factors for dementia.
Older people who are due to go into hospital need to be prepared for a no-smoking environment. Once admitted, they can get access to nicotine replacement therapy, such as gum or patches, and other types of support.
Quitting brings the benefits of physical health for a stronger old age, helping people to maintain their independence. Then there are the potentially large savings to be made from no longer having to spend much-needed income and savings on expensive tobacco.
So here’s what ASH Scotland can do for those supporting older people:
• we offer organisations a free Tobacco Awareness-Raising Session (TARS), which aims to look at issues relating to smoking and health in older adults and the benefits of quitting;
• we can give ‘Talking About Tobacco’ and/or ‘Tobacco with Cannabis’ training to staff and volunteers;
• we can help organisations to improve their policy and practice to help their clients benefit from stopping smoking or making their homes smoke-free;
• we can connect people to a wealth of research relating to tobacco and older adults.
If you would like to find out more about any of the services we offer, please phone us on 0131 220 9483 or email us via firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s never too late to start encouraging older adults to reap the benefits of giving up tobacco.