The Social Diary ~
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on Health” - Age and Ageing
the Social Diary Health Columnist Ruth S. Jacobowitz
Column #5, January 30th, 2006
I have a cartoon in one of my lectures
that shows a frankly late middle-aged woman dressed to the nines
speaking to her frankly middle-aged husband and exclaiming,
“Seventy is the new fifty!” I put it into
my lecture a couple of years ago to make the point that we are
living longer and healthier lives.
Then, on a CBS Sunday Morning—there
was a long segment entitled “Seventy is the new Fifty.”
I was really interested in the program because my friends of a
certain age seem more active and vibrant than I ever thought individuals
in those years were in past generations.
I remember in my youth there was always
an old Aunt or Uncle that we were supposed to visit and remember
on special occasions. Now Aunts are in their Pilates or Yoga classes
and Uncles are lifting weights and entering marathons. It has
long been rumored that the late great actress Helen Hayes
once said, “Rust is rust!”
Well there is nothing rusty about the new 70 year olds.
I meet couples on cruise ships all the
time that are 70 or much older who are sailing with original partners
(or new ones if illness or fate intervened) who work out each
morning, tour all day, and dance half the night away. So what
is it that changed our lives so dramatically?
We have to give medical advances lots
of credit for this unique change. Drugs to combat high cholesterol
and high blood pressure, stents to widen and hold open clogged
arteries, advances in cardiac surgery, advances to combat cancer,
and to forestall Alzheimer’s disease all have contributed
to this groovy middle age. I say middle age, because I believe
middle age begins around the age of forty and goes on for as long
as one is healthy.
Creativity seems to come alive
when we have more time and my painting class is filled with people
of all ages. Many are really talented; others are expressing themselves
in oils for the first time and loving it. Knitting, needlepoint
and crocheting are more popular than ever, and many knit shops
not only have classes, but invite customers to drop in, not only
to figure out how to pick up a stitch, but to pick up a conversation
with a new friend. I’ve even heard of knitting clubs in
Manhattan. People now are also taking more time to play bridge,
work crossword puzzles, and to volunteer their time helping others.
And many of these young, aging adults have become community activists
helping their communities, our country, and the world.
Living arrangements have also changed
and retirement communities are all the rage. These communities
offer all sorts of activities--softball, water aerobics, fully
equipped fitness centers, tennis, golf, health and beauty spas,
classes, lectures, and trips to theatre, shopping, museums, etc.
I remember learning of a group of friends who wanted to be together
as they aged and not have their children take care of them and
so they pitched in and bought a large house with bedrooms for
all the participants where they could live together taking turns
with housekeeping and bookkeeping chores. Some live there full
time now, others part time, and still others visit, but they’ve
all been friends for years and have each other to count upon as
their lives change as they age.
On that CBS Morning show, Robert
Butler, M.D. the president of the International Longevity
Center and the physician whom I consider the guru geriatrician
said, when asked to describe the aging population in America today,
“Well, it certainly is a lot healthier, more robust and
vigorous than it used to be.”… “ I think
health is the central issue. People define the beginning of old
age when they feel a decline in function: a decline in physical
function, a decline in cognitive function. So function and health
are at the heart of it.”
Ruth S. Jacobowitzis a health
advocate, lecturer, and the author of five consumer health books.
Her newest book is Final Acts—a
Visit Ruth at her web site www.ruthjacobowitz.com
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