Story of ageing
Let's start on a hugely positive note! Let's regard the older population as a growing natural resource, one of few these days.
What can be better than an emotionally stable, knowledgable and experienced generation. Sustaining the health, independence and endurance of this generation becomes vital.
Now for our story!
Most stories have a villain and so there is in the story of ageing. From about our mid-thirty's, all our body systems start slowing down. The tissue in our bodies takes longer to repair after damage due to illness and injury. Our energy level drops. Ageing comes on slowly and we hardly notice the changes. After ten years we realise we are no longer as fit and fast as we were. Friends we rarely see, pick up on our looks, sad to see the signs of wrinkles and sagging features.
Let's look at some of the changes:
- Our muscles become weaker and less flexible.
- Connective tissue such as ligaments and tendons shrinks.
- Our bones start to become brittle, making them easier to break.
- The joints stiffen, making movement difficult.
- Balance declines.
- Our senses become less sharp. Eyes dim and hearing
declines, both of which shut us off from life
These changes make our daily activities slower and sometimes painful.
- Our hearts and lungs become less efficient, making us breathless on less effort.
- Nerve impulses travel more slowly, making our reactions slower.
- Functions of our digestive system may be affected, leading more
easily to constipation and indigestion.
- We may develop a measure of incontinence, a highly embarrassing condition.
- Depression may follow as we sense our decline.
- We may socialise less and our circle of friends may shrink.
The less we do, the quicker the process of decline. The less we go out, the weaker we get and the less we have purpose and meaning in our lives. Some studies have shown that once 40 is reached people tend to let themselves go. How sad and unnecessary. The changes of ageing are inevitable. How we view and shape them, seeing them rather as challenges to change ourselves and the lives we lead, is decisive to our well-being.
The good news! There is another side to the story.
Now for the fairy godmother to work her magic. If only it did involve a mere wave of her wand. It is more like a conductor's baton bringing all the parts together, working harder more often. We don't have to do a set of strenuous exercises, rather spending a NEAT day. Going to the gym can be helpful and enjoyable for those who like a workout. However it is not the only way. In everything that you do take the most active path, using your body with as much effort as you can. Set tasks for yourself and work at them with vigour.
In therapy circles these days there is what is called 'mindfulness', being aware of yourself, body and mind. Picture what is happening in your joints and muscles as you climb the stairs or clean the windows. The fluid flowing freely, keeping joint surfaces well nourished and intact, sucking up and destroying little bits of debris.Or maybe the muscles shortening and lengthening, enabling the blood to flow freely and relaxing tightness in the fibres - as good as a massage!
Bake your own cakes, clean your own windows. Go upstairs every time you need to take something, rather than putting a pile at the bottom of the stairs. Use machines as little as you can and your body as much as you can. Today we have lazy bodies and lazy minds and often very depressed and lonely people. Beat it all with a NEAT day. Click here for more.
Using our bodies productively is excellent for beating depression.
Walk or cycle to the post office or station, rather than using the car. Having a goal in walking is so much more effective and can also save money. Those of you who experienced the privations of the war will remember how active you were. Your generation are still very hardy. Those of us who are not so active may not fare so well.
According to research done in Cambridge by gerontologist K-T Khaw, unbelievable as it is, is that we may stand to gain an extra 14 years of improved health through a change in lifestyle. Researchers have discovered little string-like things in the muscles called telomeres which shorten as we age. Regular movement appears to slow this process down. It is never too late to age slower and in better health.
We want to help you retain the dignity of independence, leading a healthy and fulfilled life as you age. The best way is to move and use your body productively as much as you can. See everything you do as a chance to get and keep fitter. Appreciate your body as it adds value to your life and you will reap many rewards.