Trevor Laffan: I’m nearly a pensioner, but not ready to be put out to grass!

Trevor Laffan: I’m nearly a pensioner, but not ready to be put out to grass!

LIVING IT UP: Older people nowadays are fitter and healthier than pensioners in past generations. Picture iStock posed by models

ACCORDING to the Bible, the amount of time allocated to us here on Earth is three score years and ten. That’s 70 to you and me.

It does go on to say, though, that if, by reason of strength, they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly.

I think that means if you should happen to live to 80, you can expect a world of pain.

Sounds like getting older isn’t going to be much fun, and that makes sense when you look at the Mayo Clinic website.

They have listed some of the consequences of ageing, most of which we probably knew already, but when you see them written down, they present a stark picture of what awaits us.

We can expect wrinkles and grey hair, stiffening of the blood vessels and arteries, high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems.

Our bones will shrink in size and density, making them more susceptible to fracture. You might even become a bit shorter.

Muscles generally lose strength, endurance and flexibility affecting your coordination, stability, and balance.

So, basically, we can expect to shrivel up, shrink, and fall over a lot, but that’s not all.

We could also experience constipation and as the bladder becomes less elastic, we may even lose control of it.

The brain undergoes changes too and we might forget familiar names or words, or we may find it more difficult to multi-task. Us men are always told we can’t do that anyway so that’ll be no loss.

We can expect our eyesight to deteriorate too, and we might develop cataracts.

If that’s not bad enough, our hearing might diminish, and our teeth could become more vulnerable to decay and infection.

As our skin thins and becomes less elastic, more fragile, and drier, so wrinkles, age spots and small growths are more common.

There’s not a lot there to be looking forward to, but that’s the bad news. The good news is that there is a lot we can do to keep those nasty things at bay for a while, and we’ve already started.

Older people are fitter, healthier, more energetic and living longer, which is great. Times are changing and while 70 may have been considered the cut-off point in Biblical times, that’s certainly not the case now.

We’re taking better care of ourselves, we’re more health conscious, and we have improved health care, better living conditions and better diets.

We also have a more positive attitude to life so we’re lasting longer: 70 is seen as the new 50 and I know plenty of people in their seventies who could easily pass for 50, somethings which wasn’t the case with pensioners in my grandfather’s time.

He was a small man who looked old to me, but he worked at sea all his life and I’m sure he didn’t have it easy. After his retirement, he spent his remaining years sitting in the kitchen listening to the wireless and as far as I can recall, he didn’t do much else.

I think that was probably typical of many older people in those days. When they reached the age of 65, they more or less threw in the towel. They were reaching the end of their lives, so they gave up and just waited to die. Not anymore.

In two years’ time, I’ll be the same age as my grandfather was when he retired, but there is no comparison between the two of us. 

In my mind, I’m still in my thirties and physically, I’m in good health. I exercise regularly, play a bit of tennis, and generally enjoy life, and I hope I’m not finished yet because I have a lot more to do.

By the same token, I don’t want to be a supercentenarian either. That’s a person who lives beyond the age of 110 and according to an article in the Royal Society Open Science, a new journal, reaching the age of 130 might be a possibility in the future, beating the age of 122 years and 164 days reached by Jeanne Louise Calment when she died in France in 1997.

Most of the article went over my head, but apparently, after conducting years of research, scientists came to the conclusion that it might be possible for someone to reach the age of 130 before the turn of the century. If you like that idea and you’re male, be prepared for some disappointing news; it seems fewer men than women reach high ages.

In the meantime, old age for the rest of us currently begins at 65. That seems to be the magic number and those who reach that age are referred to as old age pensioners.

I don’t think it’s meant to be a disparaging or an insulting term, it’s merely pointing out that those people are older and are in fact collecting a pension. Nothing wrong with that as far as I’m concerned.

Some people are offended by it though and prefer to be referred to as ‘seniors’. Others are objecting to that and prefer ‘elders’, so it’s getting complicated.

Now that I’m getting closer to that stage in life myself, I’m taking more of an interest. In a couple of years, I will officially become a senior citizen, a pensioner, an older, an elder or a wrinklie, take your pick, but I’m hoping to be as positive about my age as Ronald Reagan was.

During a presidential debate back in 1984, he was asked if he thought he was too old to be President at 73 years of age. Reagan replied: “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

I love that.

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