There is a saying that we start to age the moment we are born. This only applies to our chronological age. Physically we obviously improve as we grow up becoming stronger and more capable. It’s only much later in life that we notice our strength starting to deteriorate and in some cases our health. With some diseases we can ourselves contribute to our health, for better or worse, such as those diseases associated with smoking, heavy drinking and obesity but for inherited ones such as diabetes we often can’t do anything about them. Genetic disabilities and those caused by war and accidents fall into this latter category. In terms of general fitness we can make our later years healthier by getting involved with fitness routines but I don’t think we get enough assistance with this. We are often told to consult our doctors before starting on them but I am not sure that these people are the right ones to consult except to stop us from harming ourselves. We need positive guidance. Given how cost-effective appropriate programs can be it’s an area I feel needs much more government support. For many pensioners the cost of even joining a fitness centre is prohibitive. Maybe at some point in the future an intelligent government will realise how cost and health effective an appropriate physical fitness program would be but I’m not holding my breath.
The other side of health, that of mental health, presents a very different picture. For years it was assumed that as we got older we kept losing brain cells causing us to become more forgetful and senile. The researcher who suggested that our brains can continue to grow if we look after them properly was ridiculed but fortunately the accuracy of his findings are now accepted. The trouble is that older people are still regarded by many as ‘silly old fools’ and treated as such, including by many older people themselves. If we accept that are brains are still capable of learning right up to the end then that side of our health shouldn’t cause us any problems. The difficulty is in finding appropriate food for our brains to keep them active and growing. There are many new programs around which purport to do this but I’m not sure that games with playing cards, which many are based on, or similar, are either appropriate or effective. As we age are we only capable of playing games with our minds? What about all that knowledge and experience we have acquired over the years? Can’t we find anything to do to utilise our talents?
As life expectancy increases our challenge is to show that our capabilities can also continue to extend. Doing puzzles with no purpose isn’t going to get us anywhere and will probably bore us to bits. The only people who can change things are us older people. Otherwise we live up to our reputation as silly old fools. Our bodies may not be as good as they were but let’s not put our brains in the same category. Physically we are not as strong as we used to be but mentally we are as good as ever if we want to be.