I am still perplexed at how, in our supposed evolved society, we undervalue our aging populations’ ability to contribute to society. It defies logic! When you have accumulated a lifetime of skills, knowledge and wisdom, society says you are less valuable? Unfortunately, there are lots of myths around aging and age is unfairly blamed all too frequently. Most days I hear the all-too-familiar complaint about the struggles of aging. But don’t get me wrong, I am not denying that there are changes as we age, my rapidly changing hair colour is proof of one such change! The changes with aging can be a big challenge but there is a lot we can do to help.
What we need to do first is sort out the myths from the truth and then we can get on with making the best of what we have.
Osteoarthritis (OA) is caused by age
While OA is obviously more prevalent in the aging population, it is a disease of wear and tear. Most often due to a joint not moving correctly, over a period of time. I know this from personal experience after wearing my knee caps out at the ‘old age’ of 18! Old injuries never treated correctly often lead to OA. If they had proper treatment following injury they could often have prevented OA being an outcome. The important thing here is to get injuries seen to ASAP instead of the classic ‘she’ll be right', mate attitude.
It’s too late to do anything to help now
It is only too late when you have left the planet. There is usually something that can be done to help. Some gently stretching/massage/exercise/heat or ice and so on can be very useful. There are very few cases that are beyond all help. The key is finding what the best thing is that you can do for your problem.
I am getting older so I had better do less
As we reach the later years we do, of course, have to stop some activities. But I have seen too many aging people withdraw from activities that they were well suited to which they could have safely continued for many more years. As people do less physically, things deteriorate faster (especially strength and balance). Unless what you are doing is unsafe, please keep going. There are lots of great clubs and groups that cater to the aging population that can be very worthwhile. I knew of a nonagenarian who was leading a tramping group!
On the subject of keeping safe, one of the most critical aspects is keeping strength and balance working well. There has been great research into this specific area and if you ask Mr Google about ‘The Otago Falls Prevention Programme’ you can see this directly. In my opinion, this is a highly under-valued resource and classes for such programmes should be available nationwide. Please keep on moving!
Eugene Sims, Warkworth Natural Therapies wnt.co.nz