Immunosenescence: An Important Word to Know as We Age


We know that age is just a number. With a positive attitude and an active lifestyle, baby boomers can age with style. But it’s important to be aware of the processes that are beginning to take place in our bodies, especially when it comes to our immune system. Here’s the low-down on protecting yourself and staying healthy.

The immune system helps to prevent or fight infection and disease.

It’s responsible for producing antibodies that destroy pathogens—harmful things like viruses, bacteria, and toxins.

Our immune systems get weaker with age.

This is referred to as immunosenescence. Since the immune system doesn’t work as well, the body heals more slowly and is less able to fight infections. It may take longer for you to get better from a virus or recover from an injury. Another notable change that happens as we get older is that our immune systems produce fewer T cells, which are specialized cells that recognize and fight pathogens. As a result, it can lower our ability to respond to vaccines.  They might not work as well or protect you for as long as expected.

A weaker immune system increases your risk of getting sick.

It can result in an increased incidence and severity of infectious disease in older adults. Influenza (the flu), for example, is the fifth leading cause of death among those aged 50 and up.

Keep your immune system strong.

Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and limited alcohol intake help to boost the immune system. Smoking, on the other hand, weakens it (yet another reason to quit!).

Get vaccinated to decrease your risks.

Age-related weakening of the immune system may strengthen the case for getting vaccinated in our 50s and 60s rather than later in life. Vaccination helps save lives by reducing the risk of complications, hospitalization, and death. Make sure to keep your vaccines up to date and talk to your doctor about recommended immunizations. The influenza vaccine is recommended every fall for all adults in Ontario, especially for those aged 65 and older. However, not all influenza vaccines are equally effective for this age group. Ask your doctor about the influenza vaccine that’s best suited for you.