8 REA­SONS WHY GET­TING OLDER IS GREAT!

We as­sume that it’s all down­hill af­ter 40 in terms of health and en­ergy, but men­tal, emo­tional and even phys­i­cal pow­ers can im­prove with the years, as Lucy Fry ex­plains

Irish Daily Mail - YOU - - YOU WELL BEING - IL­LUS­TRA­TIONS LUCI GU­TIER­REZ

1 SELFCONSCIOUSNESS FI­NALLY DIS­AP­PEARS

Re­searchers from the Univer­sity of Basel in Switzer­land found that self- es­teem peaks at around the age of 60. As you get older, you find that those lit­tle things that used to make you anx­ious – at­tend­ing a party alone or fight­ing your cor­ner with your boss – are no longer rea­sons to fret. You’re con­fi­dent enough to feel OK about feel­ing (or look­ing) dif­fer­ent, so it can be a time when orig­i­nal­ity flour­ishes. Many women view their 50s and 60s as a time of ex­pand­ing hori­zons and fresh ful­fil­ment be­cause they are happy to be them­selves and less likely to feel en­vi­ous of oth­ers. In a sur­vey (by P&G’s web­site Vic­to­ria) of women aged 50-65, three out of five said they had more lust for life, 81 per cent were happy with their self-im­age and nearly two-thirds felt more ful­filled than when they were younger. Think of the age­ing process as a stair­way, urged ac­tress Jane Fonda in her 2011 TED Talk: we keep go­ing up and the view gets bet­ter.

2 YOUR SKIN GETS BET­TER AS YOU SLOW DOWN

We worry about the risk of mus­cles with­er­ing, skin crum­pling and ail­ments tripling once we move into our 40s, 50s and be­yond. But some things ac­tu­ally im­prove with age. First, you can look for­ward to fewer spots, says skin ex­pert Kelly Saynor (re­newaes­thet­ics.co.uk). ‘ The se­ba­ceous glands pro­duce less oil as you get older,’ she says – a wel­come re­lief for acne suf­fer­ers. And given that tired­ness, stress and pol­lu­tion are among the ma­jor causes of a hag­gard com­plex­ion, hav­ing more down­time (con­se­quences of re­tire­ment and chil­dren leav­ing home) will do won­ders for your skin. Also, the discs in your back be­come less ‘bouncy’, so the like­li­hood of suf­fer­ing a slipped disc, for ex­am­ple, is re­duced: ‘ This risk is high­est at 35 and drops off af­ter 50,’ says sports chi­ro­prac­tor and founder of Ac­tiveBacks (ac­tivebacks.com) An­drew Mar­tin. ‘ The key to good spinal health in later years is to stay ac­tive, eat healthily and en­sure you use your back mus­cles.’

3 STAMINA AND WILLPOWER RE­PLACE STRENGTH

It’s true that phys­i­cal strength, speed and power de­crease with age, but stud­ies show that the rate at which this hap­pens is largely a ques­tion of life­style. Pro­fes­sor Greg Whyte, a phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity ex­pert, says, ‘For hor­monal rea­sons peo­ple tend to peak phys­i­cally at 35- 40, but it’s hardly a pre­cip­i­tous drop af­ter that, pro­vided you fol­low a reg­u­lar – sen­si­ble – ex­er­cise pro­gramme and, cru­cially, en­sure you get enough sleep and space be­tween ses­sions [be­cause we take longer to re­cover as we age].’ Bal­let le­gend Gillian Lynne, now 91, re­leased a fit­ness DVD at the age of 88. Put sim­ply: use it or lose it. Be­sides, ‘as peo­ple get older they de­velop the men­tal ap­ti­tude to push them­selves harder,’ says John Brewer, pro­fes­sor of sports sci­ence at St Mary’s Univer­sity. ‘Older peo­ple are good at en­durance be­cause they’re more com­mit­ted and mind­ful,’ ex­plains Whyte. ‘You can’t buy ma­tu­rity. Our abil­ity to cope with pres­sure tends to im­prove with age.’ Co­me­dian Ed­die Iz­zard, 55, ran 27 marathons in as many days in South Africa in 2016, and the old­est par­tic­i­pant in last year’s Lon­don Marathon was 88-year- old Iva Barr.

4 MO­TI­VA­TION IN­CREASES AND FO­CUS IM­PROVES

There’s a com­mon as­sump­tion that brain­power in­evitably re­duces with age – not so. An in­ves­ti­ga­tion at the Max Planck In­sti­tute for Hu­man De­vel­op­ment in Ber­lin sug­gested that older adults’ cog­ni­tive per­for­mance – in­clud­ing mem­ory and speed of grasp­ing tricky con­cepts – was more con­sis­tent across sev­eral days than that of their younger coun­ter­parts. It’s all down to their ex­pe­ri­ence, the study found. The older adults had fig­ured out strate­gies re­quired to com­plete a task, had con­sis­tently high mo­ti­va­tion lev­els and man­aged to main­tain bal­anced daily rou­tines as well as sta­ble moods. An­other study found that peo­ple be­tween 60 and 82 were al­most as sharp in the first hours of the morn­ing as those aged 19 to 30. But you have to ap­pre­ci­ate and ex­er­cise your men­tal as­sets, as with your phys­i­cal ones, to get the most from them in later life. ‘Cog­ni­tive func­tion doesn’t au­to­mat­i­cally de­cline,’ says Dr Lynne Cor­ner, a geron­tol­o­gist – as long as you keep ‘ac­tive,

➤ stim­u­lated and in­ter­ested’. This could mean any­thing from chal­leng­ing your­self with a new job or skill to stay­ing con­nected and in­volved with fam­ily and friends.

5 YOU BE­COME MORE POS­I­TIVE AND AD­VEN­TUR­OUS

Get­ting older is tra­di­tion­ally con­sid­ered syn­ony­mous with can­tan­ker­ous­ness – but many peo­ple ac­tu­ally be­come brighter and more bushy-tailed. In fact, a study by the Amer­i­can Psy­cho­log­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion span­ning four gen­er­a­tions found that the older peo­ple got the more pos­i­tive their out­look be­came. And the more ad­ven­tur­ous: the days of sit­ting out re­tire­ment in an easy chair are over and many pen­sion­ers now opt to take ‘grey gap years’ or head back into ed­u­ca­tion. Travel com­pany Dis­cover Ad­ven­ture re­cently re­ported the big­gest over­all growth in book­ings from cus­tomers aged 50-60, and Saga (which spe­cialises in hol­i­days for the over-50s) has launched trips to ad­ven­tur­ous des­ti­na­tions such as Colom­bia, Uzbek­istan and Ethiopia in re­sponse to cus­tomer de­mand.

6 YOU ARE CALMER AND MORE CON­TENTED

The thing about older peo­ple is that they’re more likely to have been there, done that and lived to tell the tale. This makes them gen­er­ally more peace­ful and re­silient, quicker to re­cover from set­backs and re­gain per­spec­tive. This can, in part, be cir­cum­stan­tial, says in­te­gra­tive psy­chother­a­pist Hilda Burke, as older peo­ple can of­ten look for­ward to a life less bur­dened by re­spon­si­bil­ity.

‘Be­tween their late 30s and early 50s peo­ple of­ten carry a lot of stress, per­haps jug­gling the most se­nior job of their lives with chil­dren who are still go­ing through school or univer­sity,’ says Burke. Then again, this is also an age when many face the chal­lenge of look­ing af­ter el­derly par­ents, so per­haps it’s just that, as sug­gested by nu­mer­ous stud­ies, we’re more likely to count our bless­ings as we get older.

And a 2003 study by psy­chol­o­gist Dr Robert Em­mons found grat­i­tude to be con­nected to all sorts of health ben­e­fits, mak­ing us hap­pier, more for­giv­ing and less fre­quently ill.

7 FRIEND­SHIPS DEEPEN AND YOU ARE LESS AR­GU­MEN­TA­TIVE

Once you’re past your mid-30s you start to be­come a lit­tle pick­ier about your friends, and it con­tin­ues as you age. It’s partly about recog­nis­ing that we won’t be around for ever, that time is pre­cious and that we need to be care­ful choos­ing who to spend it with.

Mor­tal­ity is a great mo­ti­va­tor: look­ing around at our many ac­quain­tances (not to men­tion Face­book ‘friends’), the penny drops that some­times less is more. We don’t make a big song and dance about fall­ing out with them; we sim­ply cull un­nec­es­sary con­nec­tions, and the qual­ity of those friend­ships we choose to keep deep­ens and im­proves. We also spend less time be­com­ing ir­ri­tated with friends and loved ones. ‘As peo­ple age and mel­low it’s pos­si­ble to sim­ply en­joy each re­la­tion­ship for what it is,’ says Pro­fes­sor Ju­dith Six­smith, leader of an age­ing re­search cen­tre.

‘ The nig­gles that tended to spark ar­gu­ments early on in life don’t seem to mat­ter quite so much. It’s all about per­spec­tive… also known as wis­dom.’

8 SEX BE­COMES BET­TER AND MORE MEAN­ING­FUL

Con­trary to the stereo­typ­i­cal idea that sex drive dras­ti­cally di­min­ishes be­yond midlife, a 2015 study showed that there was just one small dip – at around 60 – in the im­por­tance placed on sex­ual at­trac­tion, and noth­ing fur­ther.

‘If there is a sex­ual is­sue then there’s of­ten some­thing else be­hind it, such as de­pres­sion, di­a­betes or car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease, which all af­fect sex­ual func­tion,’ says Mary Clegg, a psy­chother­a­pist spe­cial­is­ing in sex and re­la­tion­ships. ‘It is cor­rect that women hit their of­fi­cial sex­ual peak around 35,’ she con­tin­ues. ‘But who mea­sures that and what by?

‘What does it mean to be at one’s peak? Yes, li­bido de­clines as we get older be­cause of oe­stro­gen and testos­terone changes, but we cer­tainly don’t ex­pect it to dis­ap­pear, and the menopause doesn’t al­ways re­sult in low­ered sex­ual ap­petite.

‘Older peo­ple won’t have sex on a nightly ba­sis, but what they have is a qual­ity ex­pe­ri­ence. A lot of them ap­pre­ci­ate sex more and are more lov­ing to­wards their part­ner be­cause of their in­creased aware­ness of mor­tal­ity.’

NIG­GLES THAT TENDED TO SPARK AR­GU­MENTS DON’T MAT­TER QUITE SO MUCH. IT’S ALL ABOUT PER­SPEC­TIVE”

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