Living Well – How old is old?

Columnist Vicky Trill wonders how age should be measured these days.

How Old is OLD?

I overhead some teens discussing what age they considered old. The consensus was when you hit 40, you are OLD.

Hmm, so according to them, I am in that “old” category, but it’s funny, I feel in many ways younger now than when I was 20. I am doing more physically and am more fit now than in my 20s and 30s and I get less pimples too! I didn’t agree with them, so when is old, old?

As an example, we have two Queens on their Diamond Jubilee (60 years on the throne). The first is Queen Victoria at age 78 who, due to her frailty, stayed in the carriage for the ceremony. The other is Queen Elizabeth, at age 86, who climbed the stairs to the Cathedral un-aided and in heels. So which one is old?

What determines when we are old? Is it our health, abilities and contributions to our world that determine whether we are old? or is it the smoothness of our skin and colour of our hair? Or… is it altogether something else?

Retirement age seems to be anywhere from 55-65, but generally we’ve said retirement is 65. Today however, that age is being stretched out longer, people are working longer, maybe even into their early 70s. Is this a sign that we are staying young longer? They say that our life expectancy has increased. Does this mean that the new 40 is 30 and the new 60 is 50?

I have worked hard at increasing my speed and stamina in running and I still can’t quite keep up to my 73 year old friend and running buddy. On the other hand, we both race by a lot of teens and 20 year olds. So who’s old now?

Okay, so maybe we can’t characterize ‘old’ just based on what we can do physically, but our physical abilities do have something to do with our quality of life. If we are able to move about, walk, lift and even run, we are not limited to the things we want to do. Whether it’s taking care of a child, or enjoying a Sunday playing outside, we are happier when we can do these activities with ease and being physically fit is how we get there.

According to Health Canada, regular physical activity and higher levels of fitness allow daily tasks to be accomplished with greater ease and comfort and with less fatigue. Research shows that as much as half the functional decline between the ages of 30-70 is due not to aging itself but to an inactive way of life.  In addition, physical activity has been shown to reduce the risk of over 25 chronic conditions, including coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, breast cancer, colon cancer, Type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis. With this knowledge then, is it possible for us to stay younger longer with regular physical activity. I believe this to be true.

Okay, so if we stay active with regular physical exercise, we can get out and enjoy the things we want to do, but is this the only deciding factor on how old is old?

In preparing to write this article I asked for the opinions of others on “how old is old?” and I heard some really great responses. Some say it’s how current we are with today’s culture, some say, it’s how young we look, others say it’s how young we feel and still others say it’s how active we are. What do you think? “How old is old?” Do we have any control over the matter?

Send me your thoughts either by Email: trills@telus.net or Phone: 250 457-7038.

Vicky Trill