Although many young people fear getting old, for most people the latter part of their life can be a time of great enjoyment, activity and usefulness. As we get older our bodies change, but there are a few things that we can do to prevent those changes from becoming problems.
Ageing brings with it some inevitable restrictions, particularly in respect to physical fitness and mobility. In general this shows up as a gradual ‘slowing down’ process:
- everyday tasks will take a little longer
- muscles and ligaments become less flexible and elastic
- reflexes tend to become slower, and coordination lessens
- the heart muscle can't pump as strongly as before
- less food is needed to provide the energy required for living.
This ‘normal’ ageing process is often not the main reason for many of the things that happen to older people. Often there is a treatable medical cause for what is happening.
"It's just my age, I have to expect this," should never be a reason for you to ignore things that interfere with your life. But it can be difficult to know what is normal and what is not.
When to seek medical advice
It's important to seek medical advice if any of the following happen:
- frequent falls - also see falls prevention
- significant memory loss
- difficulty in walking
- anxiety or depressed mood
- painful joints
- change in your bowel habit such as constipation, blood in your poo (faeces, stools) or diarrhoea
- pains in your chest or indigestion
- breathing problems.
Although some of these problems cannot be cured, they can almost always be helped. If you, or an elderly relative, are blaming the things that are bothering you on old age, you might be wrong. Talk to your doctor.
Senior health Health Navigator, NZ