Whenever I sit down for dinner with like-aged seniors, I usually hear a chorus of complaints usually blamed on aging. The range is from lost sleep to low energy to more delicately said, “lagging libido.”
I could echo some of those plus others that I blame on the ticking of the clock. I’ve shrunk perhaps four inches (bad) but lost weight from 150 to 130 pounds (good). And I don’t ski as well or as often, and when I do ski, I stick to the easy blues or easier green runs. And I don’t do the old three or four easy mountain trails hikes I used to enjoy monthly, and I miss the old Dead Man’s Creek hike over by Washoe Lake State Park, particularly since that lake now stretches out to the highway, should be lovely.
Yep, I figured Old Man Time has put a finger on me.
But Consumer Reports magazine “On Health” begs to differ. In Volume 28 it reports that experts debunk the myth and offer tips on helping us live better.
“People often blame things on aging that are really due to an underlying medical condition that can be treated or to a side effects from a drug they are taking,” says Dr. Sharon Brangman, a geriatrics expert and former president of the American Geriatrics Society.
And attitude also can have an effect. A study showed that older patients think that aging problems are unavoidable have more of them, including memory loss and slower recovery from an illness. That may be because thy are less likely to engage in healthy behavior that can protect them from disease. Many doctors have outdated ideas about older patients because of scanty early medical training and just offer another pill.
Here’s some of what “On Health” wrote:
“Sleep patterns change as we age,” going to sleep takes longer and we waken often. You also get less delta or slow wave sleep. That deep stage helps consolidate memories. And without enough sleep you feel tired, irritable and forgetful during the day.
But many sleep problems for seniors come from meds used for other reasons. Diuretics can cause one to waken more often for bathroom trips. A psychologist can help with cognitive behavior therapy, better than medications for sleep problems.
Watch out for sleeping pills, about one-third of older patients are prescribed them but they help people stay asleep on a few extra minutes a night, and the drugs can induce next-day sleepiness, grogginess, confusion and memory problems.
Another myth about aging is one becomes frail and prone to falling. About a third of older people over 65 fall every year. That’s partly due to a natural decrease of blood flow to the cerebellum, the brain’s balancing center, as well as to the inner ear, and vision changes that make orientation more difficult and increasing the risk of falls. Dr. Mary Tinetti says the decline is often worsened by arthritis and poor eating habits which can lead to nerve damage of the feet. Tinetti says to check balance and strength — even “at age 75; patients should be able to get up from a chair without using the arms, walk across the room, turn quickly and sit down without any unsteadiness. A vitamin lack such as B12, a slow heart rate or cataracts, ask your doctor about those,” Consumer Reports said. I take B12 daily.
Another aging myth is a lack of in sex. For women levels of both estrogen and testosterone decline during menopause which can lower the drive and make sex physically uncomfortable. “May older men still have sex drive but they may have erection problems because of low blood flow to the penis as a result of clogged arteries and blood pressure levels,” Consumer Reports wrote.
If you’re not happy with your sex life (and not everyone isn’t), talk with your doctor. You should also be screened for mood disorders, as 90 percent of those with untreated depression have low libido. Taking more testosterone is sometime prescribed but it’s no magic cure. It has been linked to heart disease in men and breast cancer in women.
Prescription drugs to treat erectile dysfunction, including Viagra, may help but may have side effects of dizziness, headaches and blurred vision.
Confusion and memory problems are often linked to aging and our mind does slow down a bit, says Dr. Ronald Petersen at the Mayo Clinic. Brain chemicals change over time, which explains little glitches such as where you put your keys of the name of an old friend at a party. But only 20 percent experience more serious problem with thinking or memory, studies suggest.
What one should do is make sure your doctor screens for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, sleep apnea and untreated depression which can cause cognitive changes. Watch out for antihistamines such as Benadryl, Nytol, Sominex and generics such as diazepam (Valium) and antidepressants.
A final myth is seniors become lonely and depressed. That’s prettily true. As we age we lose friends, lose work identity, and physical vigor declines and they can’t do all they used to do. (My case exactly.)
Ask your doctor to screen for depression. If you’re mildly depressed, increasing physical and social activities may help, education may help.
Watch out for anti-anxiety drugs; they may not be appropriate and carry the same risks as sleeping pills.
‘Logan’ brings Jackman back to work
The action film “Logan” brings back Hugh Jackman as Wolverine in the ”X-Men” franchise, possibly the last in the series according to Jackman and co-star and film mentor Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier. He’s suffering from seizures and needs near-constant medications, which Wolverine administers.
The time is 2029 and no mutant births have been recorded in 25 years. Wolverine has been living quietly in a Mexico border town in an abandoned factory.
Make no mistake, this is not a plug for retirement. Seems like most of the cast have and wear those deadly three-pronged fit-in-the-hand knives that are used by almost one and all.
We don’t need to delve into the complex plot other than to note that Wolverine has an 11-year-old named Laura to protect (Dafne Keen). She’s up to the acting challenge amid Jackman and Patrick.
Also on hand is Caliban (Stephen Merchant), a light-sensitive albino mutant.
Scenery is lovely; Dafne is a scene stealer as she leads them all to North Dakota to a supposed center of good mutants.
Wolverine is getting old, wears glasses, drinks and is generally limping. But he still can fire up friend and foe in this R-rated film (for language and violence). Don’t skip it; this is hard-core violence.
This is the 10th go for Jackman in the role and it couldn’t have been a better final tribute.
In the closing scene kids stand in awe of Wolverine, even making out of his burial cross a crooked “V” as a tribute.
Make no mistake, director James Mangold includes tributes to family values that almost softens the R rating.
There’s good and bad in the film with a winning cast and a tough and winning story to tell.
Maybe an “R” rated movie we can all enjoy.
Sam Bauman writes about senior affairs, among other things, for the Nevada Appeal.