senior man smoking

As people age, we often assume that it's impossible to try to change old habits. For seniors who smoke, the idea of quitting may seem more challenging--and pointless--as the years go by. It's common for people to adopt the attitude, "If it hasn't hurt me yet, it must be okay." According to the American Medical Association (AMA), some older people even feel invincible if they haven't experienced serious health effects from smoking yet.

Unfortunately, these beliefs are false. Smoking has been proven to be harmful at every age, and older people may face serious health risks if they continue to smoke. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says when seniors quit smoking, they are likely to live longer, breathe better, spend less money, and enjoy their food more. What's more, by quitting, older and younger people alike can improve their blood circulation and lower their risk of developing certain health conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and lung disease.

These are just a few of the reasons why it's so important to make the effort to quit, no matter how many years you have been smoking. Whether you want to quit yourself, or you are trying to convince an older family member to quit, it may help to keep these strategies in mind:

Remember the Rewards of Stopping
The AMA has noted that, according to the Surgeon General, older people--even those who have smoked for over 30 years--can reap the benefits of quitting smoking. These benefits are numerous and include having:

  • More energy for daily activities
  • Fewer wrinkles
  • Less chance of a morning cough
  • Better-smelling clothes, home, car, and breath
  • Ability to walk and climb stairs without getting winded
  • Less chance of a heart attack or stroke
  • Less chance of developing lung diseases

Remind yourself often of the many rewards of stopping. When you keep these reasons in mind, it becomes easier to kick the habit.

Recognize Possible Roadblocks
Part of keeping your motivation to quit high is understanding the types of obstacles that you may need to overcome. Think about the particular obstacles that stand in the way of your success. Do you feel like you've smoked so long that there's no benefit to quitting now? If so, counter that myth with the reality of the benefits of quitting at any age. Do certain friends or family members encourage your smoking habit? Try telling them that you're working on quitting, or avoid them when they light up.

Recommit Often
It can be difficult to quit smoking--especially if you've been doing it for much of your life. Give yourself credit for the small victories in your attempts to quit. If you start smoking again, don't give up your efforts to stop for good. Remind yourself that others your age have succeeded in quitting smoking and that you can do so too.

HealthAhead Hint: It's Never Too Late
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reports that nearly 10 percent of Americans over the age of 65 smoke. Yet according to the AMA, research shows that no matter your age, quitting smoking can lead to both immediate and long-term benefits, including less risk of heart attack, better blood pressure, and improved lung function. No one is too old to kick the habit--if you're a senior, it's important to try to quit smoking to protect your health. Do it for yourself, as well as your loved ones. By putting down the pack, you can set a positive example of healthy choices for your children and grandchildren, and increase your chances of being around for them later in life.