We all have our own ideas about what constitutes normal aging, but then we also wonder if that new ache or inability or recent fall is cause for concern. Dr. Thomas Gill, a geriatric professor at Yale University, along with three geriatric experts drew on their decades of practice along with the latest medical data to help identify what are often considered signposts of normal aging. They came up with a guide for folks who practice good health habits and get recommended preventive care along the way. Dr. Gill acknowledged that “the physiological changes that occur with aging are not abrupt but happen over a continuum as the reserve capacity in almost every organ system declines. Think of it, crudely, as a fuel tank in a car. As you age, that reserve of fuel is diminished.”
While you can find a link here to the full article written by Bruce Horovitz in Kaiser Health News, and I would encourage you to click and read it because it is much more informative, the Cliff Notes version would be this:
50’s: Stamina Declines
While our muscles have strong regenerative capacity, many of our organs and tissues can only decline, Dr. Gill said. Dr. Kritchevsky, epidemiologist, also pointed out that cognitive processing speeds typically slow down starting in the 50’s. “I feel I can’t spin quite as many plates at the same time as I used to,” say Dr. Kritchevsky. Physically, things take a bit longer to get done.
60’s: Susceptibility Increases
There is a greater risk to seniors of illnesses that are preventable like flu, pneumonia and shingles. Hearing loss is common, especially among men. The odds of some form of dementia doubles every 5 years beginning at age 65. While it’s hardly dementia, people in their 60s will see a slowing of information retrieval.
70’s: Chronic Conditions Fester
Chronic conditions like hypertension or diabetes or even dementia often take hold. “People in their 70s are losing bone and muscle mass, which makes them more likely to sustain a serious injury in a fall. This is a pivotal decade for physical functioning,” says Dr. Kritchevsky. Another conundrum common to the 70s: people tend to take an increasing number of medications. But these are likely to have side effects on their own or in combination. Our kidneys and liver may not tolerate the meds as well. While the 70’s are a pivotal decade for physical functioning, perhaps the biggest impact is emotional. Dr. Reuben, chief of geriatrics at UCLA, said “perhaps the biggest challenge in your 70’s is to make your life as meaningful as it was when you were working.”
80’s: Fear of Falling Grows
About 40% of folks over 65 will fall at least once each year, and about 1 in 40 of them will be hospitalized. The risk increases with age and the emotional and physical blowback from a fall has a significant impact in the 80s. By age 80, folks are more likely to spend time in the hospital – often due to procedures like hip and knee replacements. Because of diminished reserve capacities, it’s also tougher to recover from surgery or illness in your 80s.
90s & Up: Relying on Others
By age 90, people have roughly a 1-in-3 chance of exhibiting signs of dementia. The best strategy to fight dementia isn’t mental activity but at least 150 minutes per week of ‘moderate’ physical activity such as brisk walking. The toughest thing about being in your 90s (says a subject of the study) is the time and thought often required to do even the simplest things. At the same time most older people seem to be more satisfied with their lives than are younger people, per Dr.Kritchevsky.
We all age in different ways, but knowing how to do so well, is half the battle to successful aging. By using this quick guideline, we can ascertain if we are “aging normally” or if there is truly something worthy of additional attention. There is more information in the full article along with stories from various seniors. Please take the time to read it! Our thanks to Bruce Horovitz for his timely article in the Kaiser Health News.
Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary
How Does Your Garden Grow?
Some folks compare life to a journey, but a garden might be more appropriate. Our first garden in life starts with beautiful annuals for immediate results just like our education. Over the years we enlarge our garden and add more flowers, maybe vegetables to be practical, create a winding path for interest (jobs/friends/family). Maybe we get busy and neglect our garden, or move and have to start over again. We get older and plant perennials to make less work. Some gardens are tended well, some grow wild, maybe in wonderful ways. Some are just full of weeds. Our life’s garden reflects our lives. Have we taken care of ourselves over the years so that our gardens still create joy and beauty? Do we still tend the flowers of friendship and family.
It’s easy after retirement, certainly after life events and transitions, to become isolated and slide into inactivity and non-involvement and not tend to our garden as well. But it isn’t too late…
With plenty of choices available to everyone here at GMC, our garden of life can become active and colorful again just by stepping out the door. Check our newsletters for various activities each month and select something to get started on. If nothing sounds good to you, suggest something to our activities director and see what can be done.
A great way to get something growing again is to help someone else or volunteer. Enlarge your garden by eating with different people. Forgive someone who has become a weed in your garden and watch it sprout a new bloom. Perennial relationships are necessary in life, but annuals make good friends too. Today’s garden may not look like gardens of your past, but it can be just as beautiful and nourishing. Use this month to plant the seeds…
Of all the months of the year, December is the one where we all remember and celebrate miracles: the miracle of light in a Jewish synagogue, the miracle of birth in Bethlehem, the miracle of fire that would not burn a saint (Lucia), the miracle of cycles and seasons in the Winter solstice, and renewal and remembrance in Kwanzaa. That is part of what makes this month and this season so special – the rituals of remembrance and renewal that have become traditions. Read More
Too many times we spend our days focusing on the pain or aggravations of daily living, and we forget to find small things to be thankful for that are right in front of us. Experts tell us that the effort to change our outlook changes not only our overall mental health but our physical health as well. November is the month to focus on those things and people who make us happy. So let’s begin the month with being thankful!
Rev. Swindoll, a wise Texas minister, once said: “We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude… I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.”
By and large, February is a hard month. We’re in the middle of winter, we’re stuck indoors, and we watch too much television. So we humans have invented a wonderful holiday halfway through the month to break the doldrums and put some spark into our days. Valentine’s is a heartwarming tradition, particularly for couples. But it’s too easy to pass this holiday off as a children’s tradition. We should use it for other relationships…like friendships.