What is normal aging anyway? None of this feels normal to me. Challenges that we face every day are often dismissed as just a part of “getting older” (normal aging), but are they?
Many people, despite popular opinion, age very nicely. Most people actually remain healthy and independent, but you don’t hear about them unless they do something extraordinary. What about the rest of us?
Research and studies on aging have yielded positive results, but you still cannot escape the deterioration and decline that are bound to happen. You may already have noticed that some subtle (or often not so subtle) changes have occurred. Your skin and bones, hearing and vision, brain and nervous system, heart and lungs and every other organ in your body will eventually show signs of change. The most obvious is the skin. Smile lines and frown lines all call attention to the fact that your skin is dry and delicate and not as firm as it used to be. Exercise is no longer going to take care of a sagging chin lines ot loose underarm skin. You may have noticed more aches and pains and less spring in your steps. The doctor wants a bone density test, and you may have developed a cataract and your hearing isn’t what it used to be. All signs of growing older. I know you want a quick simple fix for all of this, and indeed medical science has come up with all sorts of replacement parts and cosmetic where-with-all’s, but even more important is finding if what is going on is normal or not.
Over the holiday weekend I read an excellent book by John Whyte, M.D., MPH called “Is This Normal?” I wouldn’t exactly call it nightstand reading but as a guide to middle age and beyond, it is priceless. From a physiological standpoint Dr. Whyte gives you a nutshell version of what is happening or what is going to happen to you, and it isn’t pretty. Realistically, it is a book that everyone over 50 needs to have on his/her bookshelf. The author tells you what is normal and what is not. He follows up the depressing news with advice on how to delay the inevitable, alleviate the process, and treat some of the unwelcome adversities.
My only complaint is (if the picture on the jacket is any indication) that Dr. Whyte looks too young to have experienced many of these changes himself. As a result he doesn’t sugar coat his presentation at all, which makes it rather depressing for those of us who can see it happening to us. It is really rather disturbing to look that closely at what is happening or going to happen, whether you are ready or not. It is still a must read, but take it in small doses and appreciate that it has a positive spin.