Natural shortcomings of ageing are not the problem they seem

Posted on: 19 March 2013 by Lynda Shaw

Macular degeneration, short-term memory loss and reduced sense of taste and smell are all part of the natural ageing process – and here’s how we’ve learned to cope!

Ageing wellThe natural shortcomings of ageing are not necessarily the big deal we think they might be. In fact, we could say we are amazing as we age because we naturally compensate – both unconsciously and consciously, for the usual shortcomings that occur with ageing.

We compensate for slight memory loss by consciously using diaries and calendars more avidly but we also compensate unconsciously. An experiment by Salthouse et al (1984) studied a group of copy typists aged between 19yrs and 72 yrs. In a laboratory setting the older typists were slower in their response speed, but they typed just as fast as the younger typists. It was found that the older typists unconsciously looked further ahead at the script they were copying so therefore processed longer chunks of words.

Age-related macular degeneration

Many of us have to start wearing glasses between the ages of 40 and 50 because of problems with our eyesight. Reading without glasses by the time you hit 60 might be considered fairly rare because of the common deterioration in the eye's ability to focus due to the hardening of the lens and sometimes the weakening of the eye muscles. But it is not all doom and gloom. As our eyesight deteriorates unconsciously we might simply hold what we are reading in a better light. We also selectively (consciously) accommodate visual decline by perhaps choosing not to drive at dusk or at night or perhaps at rush hour.

Taste and smell

Our sense of taste and smell may both fade with age. Diseases such as Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's may have an effect on both senses, but drugs and medicines can also interfere with taste and smell. Rather than lose our interest in food, many of us use different herbs and spices or enjoy citrus and perhaps other sharper foods. You may also unconsciously brush your teeth more effectively or drink more with a meal to ensure you don’t have a dry mouth that can interfere with taste.

Stay pragmatic and positive

So, yes, we have to accommodate ageing, it’s going to happen whether we like it or not, but being the amazing creatures we are we can compensate for normal age-related decline. Could it be ageing is, in fact, a triumph not a disaster?

I'd love to hear your stories of how you have adapted to ageing and how you've overcome obstacles to maintain an active and enjoyable later life. Add your comments below or post in the 50connect forums.

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