Dr Darryl Marsh writes… In this blog entry I talk about age relating to health and how vitality doesn’t necessarily have to be something you bid farewell to with each passing birthday.
In our own minds, of course, we all think that we are younger than what the calendar keeps telling us. From a superficial perspective old age is inevitable. And with the passage of time comes the consequences of ageing: greying hair; sagging skin and wrinkles; loss of muscle tone and muscle mass. By age fifty about half of men will be bald and 90% of people will need some vision correction such as glasses. By age 65, 60% of people suffer from arthritis. Yellow, chipped and missing teeth are just part of this ‘age’ landscape.
Even though none of us can change the fact that we are all getting older, many people are now focusing on how to delay as many as possible of the physical manifestations of ageing until the end of life. So whilst it seems foolish to search for a “fountain of youth”, to search for a “fountain of vitality” so one could live a full life right to the end is an attractive and often achievable goal.
“It seems foolish to search for a “fountain of youth” when one could instead search for a “fountain of vitality” to live a full life right to the end. The latter is an attractive and often achievable goal.”
I was recently at my uncle’s funeral. Uncle Artie passed away at age 99. For over 95 of those years he was a vibrant, healthy and somewhat “feisty” man who was also kind and lovable. Artie was First Grade Rugby Forward who loved to play the violin. A renowned hard worker, he was real inspiration to his family and is missed dearly by all.
What struck me most at his funeral though, was a lady who is a member of our extended family I had not seen for over ten years, Anna. Anna is my cousin’s mother-in-law. Anna was saying how the recent hot weather had curtailed her bike riding, but she still swam and walked every day. In conversation she mentioned that her son was picking her up tomorrow to take her to her apartment at the Gold Coast. She was looking forward to getting back to doing some surfing on her boogie board. Anna is involved in charity work and is a vibrant member of the ‘Dante Allegheri’ society, an Italian cultural group. Anna is 93! My wife commented that she looks and has the demeanour of someone who is at least 20 years younger.
Being a dentist of course, I could not help but notice Anna’s smile and her teeth. Anna had all her own teeth. No dentures pinching or slipping around while she was snacking on the crusty Italian bread and prosciutto. Anna was able to not only enjoy eating whatever she wanted. (She told me she wouldn’t have any of the sandwiches because she doesn’t eat butter.) She could also chat away without giving a second thought to having teeth problems.
Anna did not have a blindingly white ‘Hollywood’ perfect smile that was popularised so much by the ‘makeover’ TV shows of recent years. That would have looked out of place on a 93 year old, even a 73 year old. Her teeth were even, but a little worn. The colour was not the brilliant white that you see on a nineteen year old. Her smile was attractive, but natural. And her face lit up when she smiled. Anna’s smile added to her look of vitality and good health.
No matter what stage of life you are at, a healthy beautiful smile is always an asset. Thankfully when it comes to teeth your ‘best years’ do not have to be behind you, even if you are 93. Many people end up frustrated and angry that they have lost their teeth and now the foods they eat are determined by what they can manage with their dentures rather than what their bodies or their taste buds really want.
Researchers are now saying that if you are fifty and have taken good care of yourself, you can expect to enjoy an extra ten years of health and vitality compared to a person of the same age in the 1960’s. Some people are calling this decade the ‘bonus round’. Of course this ‘bonus round’ will only go to those who look after their bodies right now.
There is a saying: “Life can turn on a penny”. After age 50, this is often a health care “penny”. The so-called “Baby Boomer” generation are on the cusp of a health care revolution. So many diseases and afflictions which caused early death or disability are now not the scourge they once were: polio; tetanus; and even some forms of cancer. These so-called Baby Boomers may be the lucky first generation to have such a level of control over their own health.