The other day I was reminded of an incident when I was teaching College students in their last couple of years of school. One of the students came up to me to tell me she was quitting. When I asked why she said that everyone was picking on her and she couldn’t take it any more. Today we would recognise it as bullying but fortunately we weren’t using that word then otherwise there would have been a standard response. Instead I told her to take a good look at herself. Her head was down and her shoulders scrunched over; I imitated her. I told her to hold her head up high, hold her shoulders back and look people straight in the eye. About a month later she bounced up to me with a big grin on her face to tell me that it had worked! She was enjoying life again.

I was reminded of this the other day when I heard a comment that as we age our spines can take on a new configuration, referred to as stooping. My own back was starting to hurt so I remembered some exercises I had been given a few years ago and started doing them again. It certainly helped.

I began to wonder if, as we age and begin to stoop, we become like my student, feeling that people are looking down on us. If the rest of our bones lose their strength then it makes sense that our spines are likely to do the same. Worse still, our early ancestors moved with a horizontal spine!

I have long advocated that there should be clinics for older people so that we know what to expect as the years take their toll, and do something about it if possible. Almost 10% of patients over 65 in hospital are there because of falls so why aren’t fall prevention measures available to all in this age group, just to mention one aspect of ageing. Preventative medical care would appear to be much cheaper among older people than the current system of dealing with a problem when it happens but those responsible for our health don’t seem to be able to work this out. Meanwhile is stooping as a result of ageing, and the public reaction to it, just another contributor to ageism?

It reminds me of a lovely story I heard some time ago. A young lady was out with her mother who was muttering “hold your shoulders back” at which the irritated daughter said “Mum, I’m an adult now”. The mother’s reply was “I’m talking to me, not you”.