Tips on Aging
As a geriatrician who has cared for thousands of older people, I've learned that the key to aging well is having a sense of what to expect, while maintaining an open, flexible attitude to accept and adapt to that change.
I’m not ANTI-aging, I’m PRO-aging.
I'm too old for this!
Getting older comes with one clear benefit: you're less insecure about yourself. You're more likely to say what you're thinking and do what you want than when you were younger.
Everybody ages. It's inevitable.
Do you know anyone who looks and acts the same, decade after decade? From birth onward, life is changing, and that's a natural thing. Resistance is futile. Being in denial about aging is guaranteed to make you miserable. Creatively adapting to changes as they occur will allow you to do what matters most to you.
Some changes ARE due to "normal" aging.
Needing glasses or hearing aids, or having trouble remembering proper nouns is to be expected as you age. These changes don’t occur in the same order or to the same degree in everyone. What's "normal" doesn't mean that you will like these changes, nor does it mean that there’s nothing you can do about them.
Some changes are NOT due to "normal" aging.
Learn a lesson from my patient, Harry, who went to see the orthopedist because of pain in his left knee. When the doctor said, "What do you expect? You're 90 years old!" Harry replied, "My right knee is ALSO 90 years old, and it feels fine."
Get a doctor who knows the difference between caring for 80-year-olds versus 50-year-olds.
Regardless of how well you’re doing, there are physiologic changes that occur with age. Heart attacks can present as shortness of breath without any chest pain, certain medications should be avoided, and the benefits and risks of screening tests and procedures may differ from those for younger people.
Brain health is heart health.
There has been a 25 percent decline in dementia over the last decade, which accompanied a significant decrease in heart attacks and strokes. Controlling your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose, optimizing your diet and physical activity, stop smoking, and losing weight can all decrease your chances of developing heart disease, a stroke, or dementia.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
Older people run "dry." Changes in the ability to feel thirst and the kidney’s ability to concentrate urine and preserve salt puts older people at high risk for dehydration, lightheadedness, heat stroke, and confusion. But don't hydrate with alcoholic or caffeinated beverages, you'll just urinate more!
You'll become a cheaper drunk. With alcohol and many medications, you get more "bang for the buck," meaning that you will have a greater response to previously well-tolerated amounts. Medications taken at the same dose for years may begin to cause problems because of age- and disease-related changes in the way the body processes and responds to them. Your brain also becomes more sensitive to medications, affecting your memory and ability to pay attention.
Right-size your expectations.
Learn what to expect with aging. For example, everyone walks more slowly and loses some strength. Exercising will make you faster and stronger, but it won’t get you back to where you were at 30. All of the runners in the Boston Marathon are in top shape, but 59- to 75-year-old men finish about 1½ hours later than the 18- to 39-year-olds.
Remember to S.O.C.
When you find you can't do everything you want to do, SELECT what matters to you, OPTIMIZE by practicing and rehearsing what you are able to do (use it or lose it), and COMPENSATE by embracing alternative methods and equipment.