Aging well and how to do it.Updated 10.28.2015
Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter ~ Mark Twain
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) notes that thinking you're old and decrepit can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. WSJ articles are behind a paywall, but if you do a Google search for the article title, "To age well, change how you think about aging," you will be able to read the article.
I'm highlighting the article because it offers links to studies that it cites. It has long been my contention that a good deal of physical and mental health comes down to "use it or lose it." I watched my father choose to sit down and vegetate in front of the TV for his final years rather than remain active. Yes, he was ill with a progressive disease and the end point was never in doubt. But I remain convinced that his path to that inevitability was made more painful by the choices that he made. They were his choices to make and I respected them then and now, but I did not and do not agree that they were the right choices.
This wasn't the first time I've had to watch a family member suffer through the consequences of his or her choices, which in part explains my blunt assessment of my father's end. I will choose differently, just as I've made different life choices to avoid similar mistakes. Of course, what I've done is make different mistakes, but that's part of life. No one gets out alive, and all you can do it try and do as much as you can to extend your allotted time. In my case, I have tried to convince members of my family of the benefits of choosing differently, but with vary few successes. It's difficult to change habits, even in the face of demonstrated, positive results.
The article, however, doesn't focus on changing habits. Too many people start to blame age for every little ache or pain, or any moment of forgetfulness. If you start to think you're losing your faculties and can never improve, then you speed that inevitable process up. Along with not thinking that you're old and decrepit, the article notes that regular exercise is a good way to keep your faculties. All of that said, there are changes that happen as you age that can't be denied, and shouldn't be. Rather its best to acknowledge the changes and accept them. Don't mangle yourself with surgery or pop "magic" pills that promise to extend youth. It's best to be comfortable in your own skin— which I realize can be easier said than done.
This New York Times blog also makes that point that any amount of exercise helps keep you young. It also makes obesity doctors (Yoni Freedhoff) and cardiologists (Aseem Malhotra) who are telling people they don't have to exercise look even more moronic. Not only are they wrong about exercise not helping in weight loss, but by downplaying the importance of moving more they are actively hurting the people's health. It may be mostly about what you eat, but it's not only about eating. Moving is essential, and these doctors should know better.
Will tech help in aging well?Maybe not, if designers don't understand the elderly market they are trying to serve. I have a bit of personal experience here, as my family tried a variety of technologies to assist my aging and unwell father continue to function as he declined. The devices will only work if they are used, and they won't be used if the person doesn't want them, or can't properly use them. My father's illness affected his ability to focus his vision and coordinate his movements. Using the phone, and, for him, more importantly the TV remote was a tough assignment. In addition to phones and remotes, we bought him a high end walker that helped, at least when he used it.