Perhaps you know the English poem; “To an Athlete Dying Young”…Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears:…
It is a poem lamenting the death of a young hero written in 1896 but made famous during the World Wars because it described so many young men too soon in their graves. A contrary reading of the poem is that while death in a young person is tragic, it also means the hero will never know the failures of old age. Those who live to 80 or 90 would not likely trade their extra 60+ years on earth, but, they know that age has challenges.
The challenges for those in their later senior years can fill a book. There is an entire branch of medicine dedicated to the elderly body and mind. To keep this brief we will discuss three key areas that are a particular challenges to seniors.
The Body. On a cellular level, simply put, the body does not heal or build as quickly. This means any injury lasts longer. Your nerves do not react as fast as they did in a younger version of yourself. The brain is sending the message but it takes longer to get to the body and this may mean you can’t stop in time to prevent an accident. Organs too lose strength from the heart to the liver to the bladder to the immune system.
Most seniors are living with medical conditions relating to these breakdowns. With good diet and exercise and attention to your body you can keep it running well far longer than if you abuse it. You can medicate for most situations now but beware the side effects. It is important to work on brain and dexterity exercises to keep in shape where you can. You can not turn off how age changes your body but you can do your best to balance it – elder care at home is an option to consider.
The Mind. For some at a certain age we starting to lose track of details, for others the mind begins to fail in more extreme ways. This deterioration is the fear of most seniors and is unfortunately the brain is one of the hardest parts of the body to fix. Research is going on every day to try to arrest dementia and hopefully reverse it but until then it remains a key challenge.
The Soul. Regardless of religion and faith a key challenge for many seniors is processing the losses all around them. The losses of friends who pass. The loss of a spouse or a child. Sadness over the ending of a career, an era, the loss of mind and body. Depression is a key concern and challenge in seniors. There are support groups and medications to help depression. Building a good social group and keeping active will help.
We all wish that we could be the same at 80 as we were at 18 but the key might be to hold on to all the happiness that happened in between. There is a reason “Dying young” is so tragic because regardless of the challenges of age you still get to enjoy far more of the ride.