IS THERE AN UP SIDE TO GROWING OLDER?

Guest Blog by Chris Wistrom, Independent Living Specialist

I’m a gerontologist.  There are people who look at me like I’m from outer space when I tell them that, but really all it means is that I specialize in what happens as we age.  I’ve always found it fascinating to watch how the human body changes and adapts as we get older…now I’m living it!

There are many good things that come with getting older.   One of them is that we tend to become “more like ourselves.”  By that I simply mean that those things that make us who we are become easier for us to express.  We don’t try to conform so much.   Rather, we are more likely to stand up for our views and express our opinions.  We know who we are and what we want.

Unfortunately, with age often comes disability.  Certainly, not everyone in his or her golden years has a disability, but the likelihood of developing a disability increases with age.  While you only have about a 17% chance of having a disability at the age of 45, by 60 it’s increased to 33%.  By the age of 80, it’s closer to 97%.  Yes, you read that correctly: 97%.

Some of the more common disabilities that come with aging:

  • Diabetes, along with all its’ offshoots such as glaucoma, neuropathy, skin ulcers, etc.
  • Arthritis
  • Hearing problems.  It may not be total deafness, but most of us who are moving into our “golden” years find that younger people tend to mumble!
  • Vision problems.  I never wore glasses until I was in my 40s.  Now I can’t see to drive without them.
  • Heart disease
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Stroke
  • Dementia

The list can seem endless.  There are functional issues too, such as incontinence, mobility issues, weakness, etc.

The big plus that balances all of this is that there are many, many supports in place to help us cope with the problems that come with aging: better medical care, more medications, excellent support organizations, and a wide array of programs designed to help us age with grace.  Let’s not forget that part!