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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Myth on Aging

Myth #1: Aging is normal and we should not wrangle with it.

Growing up in the Philippines, I have noticed many Filipinos and Asians do not appear to their age and I may assume and conclude it may not be universal nor expected.

Dr. Malgalhaes noted that a number of complex species, such as lobsters, rockfishes, and tortoises, do not show signs of aging. Therefore, aging is not a prerequisite to life. In the amazing and diverse forms of life found in the planet we can find equally fascinating and diverse forms of aging. In this essay he describe the aging phenotypes observed in an array of species and how these compare to human aging. By studying the aging process of other animals and comparing the way different species age, it may be possible to gather novel clues about the human aging process, as further described elsewhere. Many of the species mentioned in this essay are present in the AnAge database, which is now a major resource in the comparative biology of aging (de Magalhaes et al., 2005b)

As counselor, I must consider my client's health, first and foremost. I must find out what kind of lifestyle and daily undertakings does my clients have that may accelerate their decline in health: career, goal or purpose in life, emotional stability, adaptability to change, physical activity, sense of freedom, mental or creative ability, etc.

Many of these activities were proven to help our stamina and be able to feel healthy and strong reflecting healthy physical and mental image known to be associated for younger age.

Myth #2: Older people become more inactive.
Observing my 70 years old mother back then 7 years ago (together with her typical woman with the same age) walks miles to work back in the Philippines where transportation was limited. Until she moved to the US (particularly in California) where she needs my transportation to go shopping and her exercising (walking to groceries) was declined and socialization was a minimum forced her to be inactive. It was the environment that brought her to inactivity and ultimately affected her aging. She is now 78 and was diagnosed with nominal dementia. My assumption is, the environment of "less action" made her physical stamina and physiology more fragile where some people would say, she "aged" faster.

The view for older people is more positive recently. The myth that older people always become inactive or experience great loss of mental and physical abilities is being dispelled as researchers identify some of the keys to successful aging. At the same time, however, we are learning more about a tremendous threat to the health and well-being of all older Americans: Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. (National Institute of Aging, website)

Guiding our clients towards healthy lifestyle will help facilitate reverse “aging”. Bodily aging is inevitable and always associated with “growing old”, therefore, a bolstered body and mind will enhance excitement to movement. Use of activity or busyness and daily exercise should be part of routine physical care in every institution (Butler, et al, 1998, pp 88 and 340). I would refer my clients to a group where regular daily activities are part of the goal such as: local YMCA or gym, Among Friends (where my mom attends a group of 65+ age and have their three times a week 20 minute stretch and workout).

Myth #3: It is universal to live to be 120 years old or greater in few parts of the world.

We see news about centenarians from different countries (mostly in Japan and some in the US) but the facts do not support stories of communities.
Resourceful, educated, wealthy and democratic society should be the most ideal place for longevity of life, living healthy means long life but the three principal candidates for such long-lived status are none of those description.

Dr. Stephen Juan published his study in Biology Journal that the Abkasians of Georgia, the Hunzas of Pakistan, and the Vilcambans of Ecuador are the places of where these principal centenarians are. But other peoples from Tibet, India, China, and elsewhere are sometimes suggested as extremely long-lived. Recipes for their longevity usually include being members of a small population from an isolated region, living an outdoor existence, following a simple subsistence diet (usually high in vegetables and fruit but low in meat), having a lean body mass, holding a cultural disapproval of excess body fat, being physically active (especially by walking), working in a job that is not too strenuous, following a stress-free life, not smoking tobacco (but alcohol consumption is OK), and having a strong cultural respect for old age (Juan, 2006).

The bottom line is there is no exact prescription on how to age ideally for health or longevity. Each individual has its own capacity or way to grow “older” but based on resources I have read, living healthy is a sure way to grow or aged ideally. And as a counselor, I should lead by example and reflect a healthy lifestyle that I can prescribe to my more mature clients and ask me: “How old are you? You don’t look your age?” and open up a more direct healthy counseling.

References:
Butler, R.N., Lewis, M.I., & Sunderland, T. (1998) Aging and Mental Health

de Magalhaes, J. P., Costa, J., and Toussaint, O. (2005b). "HAGR: the Human Ageing Genomic Resources." Nucleic Acids Res 33 Database Issue: D537-543. PubMed

Juan, S. (2006) Is long life related to where you live? A recipe for longevity. Retrieved on October 19, 2008, from http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/06/16/the_odd_body_longevity/


National Institute on Aging. Retrieved on October 19, 2008, from http://www.nia.nih.gov/NR/rdonlyres/79B381EA-3EC9-4429-8F17-45074459CCAB/2390/script_and_notes1.pdf
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