Aging With MS

Older Man drinking coffee and reading a paper

2 Dec 2015 | ~1:55 Engagement Time


Gail Hartley , MSN, NP, MSCN


Approximately 25% of people with MS are 65 and older. The average older person with MS has been diagnosed for 20 years and MS in older adults is more likely to be more progressive. However, older adults with MS are less likely to have a regular MS care provider. In addition to MS symptoms, older individuals experience the typical aging changes, including more physical health conditions, fatigue, weakness, pain, cognitive difficulties, and need for assistance with activities of daily living. In order to manage this, a variety of strategies for healthy aging with MS are recommended.  

General Strategies for Healthy Aging with MS

1. Healthy diet 

Eating a healthy diet reduces the risk of diabetes and osteoporosis and maintains healthy cholesterol levels. 

2. Exercising  

Physical activity reduces the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure and maintains strength and mobility.  

3. Sleep

Getting adequate sleep is the key to a longer, healthy life. Not only can insufficient sleep lead to a host of problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and neurocognitive dysfunction but it can also lead to a worsening of MS symptoms.   

4. Regular check-ups  

Older individuals with MS should also maintain a relationship with an MS care specialist and pay special attention to fall prevention.  

6. Paying attention to your mental health and cognition 

Mental health and cognitive problems are not uncommon in older individuals with MS. Depression is particularly common in those with more impairment in mobility and cognitive problems. However, older individuals are less likely to report mental health problems–it is important to be aware of and report any symptoms to your physician. 


Despite these changes, many people aging with MS report that their quality of life and mental health are as good as those of younger individuals with MS. Some report that accepting aging is easier for people with MS because they are now more on par with peers who are also aging. Those who report better quality of life tend to be more receptive to using assistive devices, pace themselves, and accept support from others to enhance mobility and socialization. Many also indicate that quality of life is improved by reprioritizing what is important, spending more time with family and friends, and giving back to others in some way. 

While we can’t predict the future, we can be proactive. In addition to utilizing these strategies to maintain your health, it may be useful to consider planning for care and discussing end-of-life issues so that future needs can be met in the best way possible.