We know that life spans are lengthening and more people are living longer. But some people are not entirely happy about the extra days.
Aches, pains and medical difficulties come with this aging. Life adjustments must be made.
Many people look for answers from a geriatrician, specifically a doctor who specializes in aging ailments.
We talked with Dr. Laura Mosqueda, the head of geriatrics at the University of California-Irvine for the past 14 years, about the good and bad of aging:
Q: Let’s talk about age. What happens to us as we get older?
A: There are accumulated changes that occur to our bodies and to our brains. In general, these changes lead to limitations in our physical functions and also in memory or how we process information.
Now, we can choose to be really angry about this and fight it. Or we can be proactive to prevent what we can and to lessen the effect of these changes. We can also choose to adapt to them.
For example, people who are really good about eating healthy and exercising may minimize some changes. That’s good— even if you never did it before there are benefits. You can pump iron and get stronger and improve your cardiovascular condition.
Q: How do you encourage your patients to find happiness and fulfillment in some way as they age?
A: We know no matter what, some changes will occur but maybe you can mask them. The pianist Arthur Rubinstein couldn’t play fast passages like he used to, so he played everything a little slower, which made his fast passages sound faster.
I once had some patients who enjoyed square dancing. That dancing requires really good hearing and the ability to react quickly. They had trouble doing both as they got older. Rather than give up dancing altogether, however, they switched to ballroom dancing.
They are a perfect example of people who adapt rather than just railing against the changes that come with age. And as a result, they found happiness and fulfillment.
Q: Is change always possible?
A: I would think it is always possible to make some sort of accommodation.
Oh, I know it can be rough. Many of the activities we did when we were younger were incredibly pleasant or were activities we took for granted.
Like walking. If you can’t walk anymore, getting around gets harder and harder to do— mentally as well as physically. But don’t go off and sit in a corner. There are some choices you can make. Explore the possibilities.
I’m not trying to sugarcoat anything. It’s not easy to make or accommodate such huge changes.
But here’s the important thing— people have made these changes and they are living well longer.
The longer you live, the more changes you will need to accommodate.
How well you do that, how well you accommodate change into your world, does a lot to impact the pleasure and length of your life span.