I remember a gentleman who was in his late seventies coming to see me several years ago, “I’ve got terrible sciatica in my right leg” he said as he limped into my treatment room. “Is this the sort of thing I’ve got to expect at my age?” “I’m not sure” I replied, “let’s just check. How old is your other leg?”
The chuckle that answered my question was the beginning of his recovery.
While there are changes that occur with changing age, (I guess my hair will never be brown again) it always strikes me as a bit of a cop out to blame a health problem on a person’s age. Because we can’t change a persons’ age, it lets us off the hook of having to deal with the problem.
If another part of the same person, or for that matter another person of the same age, doesn’t have the same problem, then we are stretching credibility a bit to suggest that the problem is due to age alone.
Even if age is a factor, we still need to look for the reasons why one person of this age suffers from the problem, while another does not. Undoubtedly there can be other factors contributing to the problem that we also cannot change, such as our genes; but often the important part of that statement is “contributing to the problem.”
Most problems are multi-factorial, in other words the resulting problem is dependent on a whole range of things, usually at least some of these things will be amenable to change. So rather than concentrating on the unchangeable, and so disempower ourselves, why not spend more time finding those aspects that are changeable, and then changing them.
One of the consequences of later years, is a loss of muscle mass and strength, so a loss of function because of this is often accepted as normal. Yet in a study carried out with residents of a retirement home in their seventies, eighties and nineties, it was found that the percentage increase in strength after performing a weight training program, was exactly the same as would be expected for people in their twenties.
Subjects in this study whose limited mobility was due to frailty rather than illness, all showed improvements in their capabilities during a training program that lasted several weeks. Those who had been wheel chair bound were able to use walking frames; those who had used frames could now get about with two walking sticks, those that had used two walking sticks could give one up, and those that had used one walking stick could do without. Had these people just accepted their “age related” infirmity, a significant degree of independence would have been lost needlessly.
Once people get to whatever they think of as “old” I’ve noticed a great tendency to expect and therefore to experience significant limitations in their ability to function. This can cause them to loose confidence, so they begin to limit even routine tasks.
I often make a point of questioning the limiting beliefs that people have adopted, then suggesting some progressive rehabilitation to help them regain important, basic functions. Losing these functions has a significant affect on normal daily life. Once people have trouble getting upstairs, are afraid to walk without a handrail for fear of falling, or can’t reach to put on shoes or socks, it will have a major impact on their level of independence. If those limitations are avoidable, how much could those peoples quality of life be improved?
So to recap –
- Don’t take “It’s your age” as a good enough explanation for any problem
- Be prepared to question beliefs that you may have accepted without realising
- Get help to restore or improve your function