As a primary-care physician with more than 25 years of experience, one of the most frequent concerns people mention during their appointments with me involves memory. The age of the patient doesn't matter much. I've had people in their 30s ask me, just like I've heard it from people in their 60s and beyond.
Rightly, sarcopenia is becoming increasingly recognized as a serious health threat to aging populations everywhere. The gradual loss of physical strength can lead to greater risks of injuries, debilitation and overall frailty. Because there is no single cause for this deterioration, countermeasures are to be multifold.
You don't have to be a senior to experience a "senior moment," meaning you forget an otherwise familiar word or name, or can't exactly remember what you planned to do the next minute. It happens throughout life, it just seems to happen more frequently with age. But it's not always due to mental decline in our later years that we lose track of things.
I did not get to usher my parents into old age, or really even into retirement living. My grandparents had all passed away by the time I was 19 years old. I have no direct experience caring for elderly people. As a result, I'm not sure what I can expect my own day-to-day life to look like when I am "old."
Being able to extend life, of course, is a great success. But simply adding years of sickness, frailty and decline is not a very appealing prospect. Unfortunately, the progress we are making in terms of keeping people around longer is not always matched by advances in personal health and fitness -- both physically and mentally.
What was traditionally considered a time of well-deserved rest and leisure now became "the power years," where people could finally realize their true potential. But clearly not everyone has bought into this concept. There is a new yearning for rest among today's older adults, although not quite in the same way their predecessors envisioned it.
One of the most dramatic consequences of age-related deterioration is loss of independence, and it is more feared by seniors than almost any other outcome. For many, even an untimely death seems preferable to becoming beholden to others, according to surveys. "Aging in place," as it is now widely called, is particularly popular among seniors who cherish the lifestyle they have become accustomed to and wish to maintain for as long as possible.
Cultivating a gratuitous and appreciative attitude can be advantageous in almost any situation. People with a positive disposition tend to cope more efficiently and constructively with life's daily challenges. It's like they are getting a boost from a source deep within that gives them greater strength and resilience.
In other words, the way we think of ourselves as we grow older determines at least to some extent how well or how poorly we fare. If we perceive aging purely as a loss of vigor and vitality, nature will probably help us along on that path. If we see it as a chance to continue with life's journey, albeit perhaps in different ways, we may reap unexpected rewards.
Do creative and artistically inclined people have advantages over the rest of us mere mortals who can barely draw a stick figure or whistle a simple tune? There are indications that individuals who are able to use their talents also tend to fare better in other ways, including their physical and mental health, compared to others whose existence mainly consists of repetitiveness and routine. Still, scientists have never been able to prove that creativity is indeed a contributing factor to humans' well-being.