On Getting Old

Courtesy of Paul Stevenson, Flickr Creative Commons

It’s Saturday afternoon. As I type this every part of my body is throbbing with the dull ache of stiffness, fatigue, defeat, and aging. On Thursday night, my basketball team was thoroughly trounced by our younger, sprier opponents. The nine of them defeated us by 18 points and even had time to split a pack of cigarettes at half-time; oh, and they didn’t so much out play us as they ran faster than our team did.

To say the least, it takes my body a lot longer to recover from intense exercise. Plainly, I’m getting old.

And it’s not just the basketball game that has me thinking about mortality and the like. This morning I attended the Open Minds Symposium at the Chan Centre Auditorium at BC Women’s and Children’s Hospital. The morning’s final presenter, Dr. Wendy Loken Thornton, delivered a very exceptional talk about how people can understand and improve memory in older age. Essentially, it was a lecture about how to sustain our cognitive abilities as we get older.

Dr. Thornton’s subject matter was not lost on me at all. I have two grandmothers who are in possession of 90-year-old minds and bodies (and all that such a thing entails) and two parents who are North (and almost North) of 60 years old. And, one day, I’ll be a senior citizen, too. More importantly, that afternoon I was feeling like an old person.

In conclusion, Dr. Thornton’s research shows that, more than anything else, healthy diet and exercise – combined with social engagement – represent an effective recipe for a deliciously aged life. In particular, brisk walking followed by a meal of fish, flax, walnuts, butternut squash, citrus fruit, red wine, and dark chocolate represent some of the most important ingredients in the recipe of aging mindfully. Oh, and consider covering everything in turmeric.

Personally, I’m going to embrace it all. I want to play sports and board games that are leisurely and competitive – ideally this will eventually involve besting younger men with my speed, skill and smarts. I want to continue to eat well, and I thank the lovely, talented and healthy Michelle Burtnyk-Horn for keeping my other life partner, cheese, at a healthy distance. Finally, I will continue to be engaged in my community in myriad ways. After all, healthy minds thrive in – and are products of – healthy communities.

Oh, and I will absolutely embrace any kind of memory lapses and/or senility with the best sense of humour and “old-man-curmudgeonly-spirit” as is possibly imaginable. Friends, I long for the day when my grandchildren roll their eyes at “Old Man Horn” stories…

Because healthy communities respect their elders!

Healthy Communities Need Healthy Guys, Too!

According to Wikipedia, ‘gynecology’ is defined as “the medical practice dealing with the health of the female reproductive system.” There is a male counterpart to this field called Andrology, but, for the purposes of this article, I’d like to talk about ‘GUY-necology.’

GUY-necology is defined (by me) as “the study of why men wait until they are broken before doing something to fix it.”

In my dozen years in the healthcare field, I have noticed that most of my patients are women.  Admittedly, I work as a Massage Therapist, and many guys have hang ups about being touched by another guy (thank you Seinfeld), but I have worked with other healthcare practitioners for most of my career, and have noticed that women just tend to be better at health maintenance.  So I asked myself “why?”

Perhaps we can attest this phenomenon to the early days of man when the men of a tribe went out in search of big game. If you were regularly tackling mammoths and wooly rhinos, you wouldn’t expect to be alive for very long, so obviously self-care was a bit of a waste. Nowadays, the scariest thing in our day is usually our overflowing email inbox, and yet the apathy towards healthcare amongst males continues. Most men usually know more about their car, their computer, or their favorite sports team than they do about their own bodies and how to best take care of them.  Maybe it’s time to bring our healthcare thinking into the 21st century.

To begin, here are a few common health misconceptions that I’d like to clear up:

-Headaches are not a normal part of life

-Getting older doesn’t have to mean getting fatter

-Although fine in moderation, beer should not be used to hydrate

-Many ‘normal aches and pains’ are in fact not normal and can be prevented

So guys, here’s the challenge: build your own team of healthcare providers. Massage Therapy, Chiropractic, Naturopathic Medicine, Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine all have ways to improve your health and your life, both directly and through education. So take up the challenge because healthy communities need healthy guys and gals!