Growing older with MS

Of the 2.8 million people living with MS across the world, about 1 in every 10 is at least 65 years old. Most of these older people have lived with MS for 20 years or more.

As we get older our bodies change, which can bring new challenges for living with MS. We also become more likely to develop additional health conditions and MS symptoms tend to progress over the years. For these reasons and more, it is important that people with MS can access reliable information about how they can maximise their physical and cognitive abilities, manage their MS, and get the most out of life as they get older. That’s why we have published ‘Living well with MS as you grow older’.

About the resource

‘Living well with MS as you grow older’, is a booklet for older people with MS or those thinking ahead about managing MS alongside the effects of age. You can now download the full guide in English, Spanish and Arabic on the MS Resource Hub here.

The resource, developed with MSIF’s International Resource Group, is an updated adaptation on the 2015 edition of the MS in Focus magazine ‘Ageing with MS’. To make sure the adaptation was useful and relevant, we surveyed people with MS to find out what was and was not useful in the original MS in Focus. We also held a workshop with the MSIF People affected by MS Advisory Committee, who helped to identify key areas within the topic of ageing and MS that were important to people with MS.

The new guide covers six key areas of living with MS as you grow older;

  1. How age, MS and other conditions can affect your health
  2. Basic steps to managing your health
  3. Taking control of your health (Self-management)
  4. Independence and identity
  5. Cognitive health
  6. Mental health

Find out more about what each section tells the reader here.

The information in each section can be used both on its own and as part of the wider resource. This is to support MS organisations to use parts of the guide to address the information gaps on different areas of ageing with MS that exist globally.

Tips for healthy ageing with MS

Based on a survey in Canada; connecting with others, attitude and outlook, lifestyle choices and healthcare, are all important to living well with MS as you age. Encouragingly, most of these themes are things we have the power to change. These themes are addressed frequently in the guide.

In ‘Living well with MS as you grow older’, you can read about positive steps one can take to protect their health, wellbeing and independence as they get older. Each section has practical advice on ways to actively manage your health and wellbeing, such as these tips below on caring for your mental and cognitive health.

Text reads: TIPS how to care for your mental health Get professional advice and support. If you think you might have a mental health condition, or want more support dealing with a current one, speak to your doctor or nurse. They can assess your needs and refer you for support. Talk to others. Speaking to others can help you realise how you’re feeling and the effect this is having on you. Support from others can also give you the courage to seek professional help. Have regular mental health checks. You might not realise how much your mental health is affecting your daily life until you do a questionnaire. You can ask your doctor or MS specialist for a mental health check. Simple ones are also available online: be sure you use a reliable source. Practice relaxation. Getting sufficient relaxation and sleep is important for your mental and physical health. Relaxing properly takes practice. You can find a variety of ideas and techniques in self-help books, on websites and through apps. Boost your self-management skills. Mental health problems should not be managed alone. However, good self-management can support your mental wellbeing and improve your sense of control. See the earlier section ‘Taking control of your health’ to learn how. Image: A graphic of two characters, a man and woman sat on a sofa relaxing. The woman is reading a book.
Text reads: 'TIPS how to look after your cognitive health Stimulate your brain to improve your cognitive abilities. For example, you could read, write, paint, do craft, puzzles or games, or learn a new language or instrument. Join a club or group. Talking to and doing activities with others gets your brain active. You could join a book club, support group or faith group, for example. Get sufficient rest and sleep. Fatigue can reduce your cognitive abilities. Take the breaks you need during the day and get plenty of sleep. Chat to your doctor or look online for ways to improve your sleep. Look after your mental health. Depression and anxiety can both affect cognitive function. To learn about caring for your mental health, see the next section of this guide. Have formal checks on your cognitive abilities. It can be hard to spot cognitive changes if they occur gradually. Make use of any formal tests your doctor, MS specialist or cognitive specialist offers you to keep track of your cognitive health. Set up routines that aid your memory. Have a set place for items you use often (such as your glasses or keys). Use a calendar to keep track of appointments and tasks. Put reminders in places you’ll see.' Image: Graphic of two older people playing cards

Using and translating the resource

If you are an MS organisation and would like to translate this guide or a section of it for use in your country, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Each section can be translated for use as stand-alone content and you can find a breakdown of each section here.

If you are interested in translating please email for more information.

We also welcome you to use any information from this guide on your website, if you choose to do so please reference the MS International Federation as the source and link to the full resource here.

Download now!

Click here to download the full guide in English, Spanish and Arabic on the MS Resource Hub.

Please email us if you are interested in downloading the print version of the guide in English, Spanish or Arabic.

We are grateful to everyone who contributed to this guide including people affected by MS, subject specialists, researchers and neurologists, the International Resources Group, and a special thanks to Dr Hannah Bridges who wrote this 2022 adaptation of the 2015 magazine.

Picture of Marie from Canada, diagnosed in 1996, smiling whilst outside walking with an assistive walker. Quote reads: 'Be proactive in planning your future needs.'