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Posted by on Mar 11, 2013 in At TMV, Featured, Guest Contributor, Health, Mental Health, Passages, Society | 8 comments

Is There A Better Way to Think of Age: Pro-actively?

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by Dr. Kevin Purcell

Over the years, my mom has changed in my eyes; from being the best mom ever, to being one of the most amazing women I have ever met. In the picture above she is eighty.

Today I would invite you to take a moment and think about our families and friends as we age. It is something we all experience and share.

How we deliver a message greatly affects the level of cooperation we can expect from them; anyone.

Judith Graham from the Chicago Tribune, wrote, “Videotapes of elderly men and women showed aides helping patients bathe, brush their teeth, dress, eat and take medicines, among other things.

A frame by frame analysis of the tapes found that when nurses or aides communicated by using language that assumed a state of dependence, patients were twice as likely to resist their efforts to help. The older men and women would turn or look away, grimace, clench their teeth, groan, grab onto something, or say no. These behaviors might be viewed as indications of distress at being patronized.”

Let’s consider older people who do not suffer from dementia or physical disability. What is it like for the older men and women who work to stay healthy through diet and exercise? Too often, they feel those around them are not supportive. Some are even told these activities are negative or harmful.

During my swim this morning I was thinking about dementia and heart disease and many other physical and mental maladies that we or our families will face. It is important that we encourage older men and women to explore limits by remaining active.

We know for a fact that mental stimulation maintains plasticity in the brain. We know that learning new skills or a new language will lay down new neuropath ways. Physical activity is a proven method for keeping the brain young and even reversing signs of aging.

We know that a positive mental outlook is one of the driving forces behind maintaining overall health; especially as we age. In some cases, it appears that the loss of choice and a sense of powerlessness risks setting in motion physical decline. Confidence adds to a sense of well-being. We should be asking, “How can we encourage older men and women to stay active?”

Some people see an older athlete with degenerative joint disease and assume it is from a lifetime of running but fail to consider that the arthritis might have been present whether the athlete ran or not.

In fact, it is my opinion that a lifetime of exercise often lowers complications of the disease. Some medical experts are of the opinion that activities such as running and biking actually stimulate growth of new cartilage in those areas that are wearing out.

What does give us a peek into the future (beyond family history) is a patients past history of acute injury and subsequent rehabilitation. Trauma can lead to adhesions, inflexible scar tissue, decreased blood flow, ligament damage and aberrant motion.

Loss of normal motion and optimal circulation do seem to be predictors of wear and tear. In other words, maintaining motion and restoring normal motion and function is the key to recovery following injury/trauma and as prevention.

There is a need to have increased discussion among older adults and health care providers that explores the benefits of regular exercises (both mental and physical) as a way to maintain long term quality of life. In the last year I have witnessed the rehab of family members who are the victims of stroke or traumatic brain injury.

Once stabilized, a common variable when it comes to recovery among this community is focused exercise (mental and physical). Each of us should strongly encourage elderly family members to adopt that focus before a critical event.

Health is our most valuable asset. If we need confirmation of that, we only need just ask anyone who has lost their health.