July 23, 2012 Leave a comment
Constantly we read sweeping and often misleading generalizations in the press about today’s over 50s. Take these two articles which appeared in one recent issue of the Daily Mail:
First was a story about the development of a new ‘polypill’ which Professor Sir Nicholas Wald of the University of London maintains should be given to all over-50s to prevent heart attacks and strokes. Tests showed that taking the tablet every day for 12 weeks gives those in their fifties, sixties and seventies the blood pressure and cholesterol levels of twentysomethings.
The proposal is that we should all be taking it. ‘It is specifically designed for healthy people to keep them healthy,’ the professor commented. ‘It is like taking anti-malarials if you are going to Africa – you take them in order to reduce your chance of contracting the disease.’
The second story focused on the rise of eating disorders in older women which apparently have increased by 42 per cent in the past 11 years — leading to all kinds of health problems such as osteoporosis, heart, liver, digestive and gastro-intestinal problems, not to mention depression. Surprisingly, women over 50 — average age 69 — comprise 78 per cent of all deaths from anorexia.
So, on one hand we are all thought to be eating and lazing our way to disaster and in need of mass preventative treatments that will keep us physically as young as in our twenties, and on the other we – women at least – are being criticized for wanting to counteract the signs of ageing and being told to resign ourselves to the inevitable: “our mothers at [this] age would have slipped into a skirt with an elasticated waist and indulged in another cake,” the journalist comments.
While the author of this piece maintained that a desire to emulate impossibly beautiful women celebrities has led to a new anxiety and discontent in older women, I don’t think it’s that simple.
One of the biggest challenges for us all today as we age is that we have unprecedented amounts of choice. And exercising that choice and making those decisions about what we want and need and have to do is hard.
Should we choose to take the easy option and decide that polypill protection is an easier path than living a healthy lifestyle? And should we, men and women, choose to disregard aspirational role models that perhaps in earlier years encouraged us to up our game and slump into invisible comfort rather than taking a robust stance against some of the unwelcome signs of ageing such as grey hair, increased weight and lack of flexibility?
As a nation of elders it’s surely time we grew up, got a grip and took greater responsibility for ourselves and our futures – physical, financial and emotional – so that attitudes such as this become irrelevant.
Yes, we’re ageing, and yes it isn’t always all great, but aren’t we lucky to be alive for longer to enjoy it?