It’s not your age… Fighting the myths of aging

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There is a disturbing trend I am hearing in random discussions I am having with people lately. It starts with a certain statement about a difficulty or trouble and ends with ‘because I am too old’ or at least words to that effect.

Now, I am not talking about conversations involving reproduction. Those would be valid and even though our medical technology has advanced tremendously in this regard and I read all about that 60 year old woman who gave birth for the first time, I really do think there is a certain age where someone should consider themselves too old to give birth.

There are very few physical phenomena that are exclusively related to age. Fertility, skeletal maturity, muscular maturity, nervous system maturation – we reach these stages in our life at different ages. Fertility typically begins in our early teens and for women ends in their 40s to 50s. For men, fertility starts about the same age and then tapers slowly throughout the 70s and 80s. Skeletal maturity, where all of our cartilage parts have become solid bone does not finish until we are in our mid 20s for most parts and if we consider the cartilage of our rib cage, does not finish until we are in our mid 30s. Muscular maturity, the point at which our muscles add on density occurs in our mid 30s. Our nervous system remains permanently ‘plastic’ meaning adapting to changes and yet we make some of our most important nervous system connections in the brain in our 30s to 50s.

No, the conversations that have cropped up recently have to do with a perception of age being a barrier to something we desire.

  • “I am too old to _______ (fill in the blank).”
  • “You can’t do _______ if you are old.”
  • “My _____ hurts. Do you think I am just getting old?”
  • “People won’t hire you once your are past ____ (fill in the age).”
  • “Don’t you think _____ (fill in the age) is too old to do _____?”
  • “Once you turn ____ (fill in the age) it’s all downhill from there.”

If you feel this way or if you have said words to this effect, I have news for you.

It’s not your age…

… It’s your conditioning

Physically your find something difficult or impossible to do. You are injured and you are not recovering quickly. You are putting on the pounds and finding it hard to lose body fat. In other words, there is something physical going on or not going on that you want to stop or to start. You think: “This never happened when I was 20, therefore it must be because I am ___ (fill in the age).”

Well, no, because aside from reproduction there is no end to the continuation of most of our body processes. Of the things we can consider that happen specifically due to aging there are basically two. One is a process called fibrosis. Fibrosis is the tendency for the body to put fibrous material in the place of regular body material. We do this anyway in the case of injury. The body repairs the tissue with fibrous tissue. We call this a scar. When we age, not only does the body still ‘scar’ when injured, unused areas of the body begin to be infiltrated with fibrous tissue. It’s the old ‘use it or lose it’ phenomena. Don’t worry though, the process is incredibly slow and activity can stop the infiltration.

One other phenomenon due to aging is a tendency to heal more slowly. What we might have recovered from in a couple of days now takes more time. This processes is more noticeable in the skin where a small scratch will seem to linger before healing. This slight slow down does not jeopardize our health or physical conditioning very much at all. It is just something to consider in our expectations of recovery and should cause us to be a little more careful and spend the appropriate time we need in our rehabilitation.

One thing that seems to be typical as we age is that we curtail the physical activity we enjoyed when we were younger. Things like jobs, family and other interests get in our way. In other words, we are too busy living our lives to pursue the exuberant physical activity we thoughtlessly pursued when we were in high school and college. It may seem that we slow down because we age, but actually we slow down because we slow down. Those who continue to pursue a high physical activity level continue to have the benefits of that activity level.

If you are not meeting the physical goals you have for yourself then look at changing your physical conditioning. If you would like some help, check out my fitness assessment. It may be just what you need to jump start yourself into becoming the new you.

Take it slow if you are just getting started. Don’t try to jump back into the routines you may have done in your youth. Instead, slowly condition yourself to manage a greater activity level and then don’t stop. Keep your activity level sufficiently high and sufficiently varied to cross train yourself to all that you want to accomplish. If you want to be physically different then change the way you exercise. You will be amazed at the positive changes this can produce.

Fighting the myths of aging-older woman in crow pose
It is never too late to be what you might have been – George Eliot

It’s not your age…

… It’s your attitude

Someone else gets that job you want. You can’t do that one yoga pose. Your yoga pants make your butt look big. In other words, something is going on or isn’t the way that you want it to be and you say “This happened because I am _____ (fill in the age).”

Our attitude is everything. What we believe to a very large extent shapes our reality. If you believe that people get turned down for a job due to age then you will find a number of instances where this may have happened. If you are looking for bad news – you will find it. When we begin to tunnel our way down this sort of rabbit hole our whole world sinks with us.

It is true, there are barriers to our progress in this world. The greatest number of these barriers often exist only in our own minds. If we have an attitude of defeat then it is likely we will not achieve success because we just won’t try very hard. If failure is certain then what is the use. However, if we create a change in our attitude where success is possible then we have a greater chance of success.

It may be hard to create an attitude of success or to change our preconceived notions about aging when we are inundated with news reports that talk about the barriers created by age. What makes a good news story is controversy. What makes a good news story is something that disturbs us on some emotional level. Bad news sells more newspapers (pre-internet) or gets more page views.

For every story out there about someone having some trouble due to their age, there are ten times that many stories about someone of some advanced age doing something fulfilling and wonderful. For every story showcasing some young person being wonderful there are countless stories of those with wisdom and maturity being wonderful. If you look for it, you will find it. You can even find stories trumpeting the incredible beauty of some ‘older’ person (ie. past 20) who maintains their good looks without artificial means.

What do you want your attitude to be? Aging is not some horror story. Getting older can be the best thing that ever happens to us and as I constantly remind my students – If you are getting older then you are doing it right.


It’s not your age…

… It’s your excuse

You don’t apply for that position. You sit on the couch watching TV instead of going for that walk. You think the surgery options sounds like a better solution than months of physical therapy. In other words, you don’t want to do it so you are going to blame it on you age.

I get it. Sometimes we just don’t want to try. Sometimes the things we want to do take a lot of effort and we just don’t want to do them. If we say to someone, “Nah, I can’t do that because I am too old,” then it is not our fault is it?

Being a ‘victim’ of our age can remove the guilt of our decisions. The problem is that when we don’t accept responsibility we often feel like we are a victim. It is one thing to use our age as an excuse to get out of doing something we don’t want to do. It is another thing to believe our age limits us. Remember – don’t believe everything you think.

There is a great little magnet in my office that has this caption on it: “What age would you be if you didn’t know what age you are?” Let’s all be ageless together.

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