“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter.”
- Mark Twain
I decided to cover this topic, having survived the tormenting Covid-19 pandemic. In the meantime, I have grown older. Am I afraid of ageing? Are rest of the people who daily touch my lives in so many ways, also afraid of ageing? The honest answer is: Most of us are afraid of ageing!
As much as people wish to stay youthful and no matter the lengths, they go to remain young, some unpleasant thoughts about ageing persist in the minds of most people. Over the past thirty-nine years of active medical practice, I have come across many people who get acutely anxious and fearful about ageing as they approach their 40s.
Morbid fear of losing independence, as one grows older is a key concern across the ages - whether that could mean losing memory, being in poor health, or not having financial security. For those in their 30s, 40s and 50s, the top common worry related to ageing is financial security. Loss of memory is a major ageing concern among those in their 60s and 70s. We have succeeded in educating our people on how to prevent Diabetes. However, they don't know what to do to protect them from dementia.
So let me recount some patient concerns below:
“By now I have already lost my parents, grandparents, and few more loved ones. I have watched their prolonged suffering and am morbidly afraid of growing old.”
“As I enter my thirties, I may develop a midlife crisis, inadvertently go for drastic, irresponsible changes and make my later years miserable.”
“I am frightened of not moving even an inch without uttering a painful 'ouch'.”
“I am distressed about waking up one day and not recognizing myself in the mirror! I detest losing beauty, love, and respect”
“I shiver when I foresee losing most of my teeth, not being able to eat properly.”
“I dread medicines replacing my staple diet.”
“I become pale at the idea of becoming perennially dependent on someone else for my daily chores.”
“I am scared of being an object of deliberate neglect by my children.”
“I abhor the nagging idea that I will become irrelevant as I age”
“The loss of dignity.” Not only is my body failing me but also it is as if I am regressing into childhood - at least in other's eyes. I'm 61 and already my daughter talks to me like I'm the child and she's the parent
“I have a morbid fear of spending my last years in a shelter home or in a hospital.”
“I panic at the thought of suffering from dementia, urinary incontinence, vertigo, impaired vision, deafness, falls and fractures.”
“I don't want to end up in diapers with people having to take care of me.”
Getting older may cloud your mind with anxieties about falling sick or dying; fear of death is unfounded yet very common.
People who live well are usually in their prime at 40. But do remember:
“Forty is the old age of youth; fifty the youth of old age.” - Victor Hugo
I put this question to myself: What is the most terrifying aspect of aging to you?
Let me honestly answer this from different angles:
I am 66 years old
I have worked in the field of health and social care with 'older people' for over 39 years
I have studied bereavement and pratcised counselling skills
I have worked with people who are old at 30 and young at 90!
I try to make sure that life moves on along with me;
I avoid living down the memory lane.
I love to live in the 'now' and adopt as many new things that our culture brings as possible. This helps my brain to remain healthy and keeps my outlook on life positive.
Health care spending is on the rise, with 75 per cent of the spending due to chronic disease.
Of adults 65 and older: 67 per cent go online, 80 per cent own a cell phone and 40 per cent own a smartphone
One in five households provides care to an elderly or disabled individual who requires assistance. The number is expected to grow to one in two by 2030.
85 per cent of adults 65 and older want to stay in their home and community as they age.
Source: Healthy Aging in a Digital World, UC
Davis' Big Ideas
Remember that there is a silver lining. Ageing gracefully with the use of assistive technology (AT)
Seniors and innovative technology is not a pair often associated with each other. Yet, assistive technology (AT) can make ageing a graceful experience for seniors and enrich their lives by addressing their primary concerns - fighting loneliness, maintaining independence, and surmounting healthcare challenges.
Imagine a 75-year-old woman staying healthy through balance exercises with feedback from sensors built into a wristwatch that also connects with her family in case of a fall. Or a 60-year-old man who ensures that he's taking his Diabetes medications appropriately with a smartphone app that connects him to his clinician.
Assistive technology (AT) is any product or service designed to enable the independence of disabled and older people. At present, more than one billion people need one or more assistive devices. Products based on assistive technology include:
Mobility assistance aids - wheelchairs, mobility scooters, crutches and canes, patient mechanical lift handling, and walkers and rollators
Assistive furniture - medical beds, riser reclining chairs, railings and bar and door openers)
Bathroom safety and assistive products - commode chairs, shower chairs and ostomy products (an ostomy pouching system is a prosthetic medical device that provides a means for the collection of waste from a surgically diverted biological system (colon, ileum, bladder) and the creation of a stoma.)
Communication aids - speech and writing therapy devices, hearing aids (canal hearing aids, Receiver-In-The-Ear (RITE) aids, cochlear implants, Behind-The-Ear (BTE) Aids, Bone Anchored Hearing Aids (BAHA), and In-The-Ear (ITE) Aids), and vision and reading aids (reading machines, video magnifiers, and Braille Translators)
End-user - hospitals, elderly nursing home and homecare
Some of the greatest barriers to adoption of these innovations include resistance to change and being unsure of how to use a device. Health and home service professionals help in adopting new technology by educating the seniors on how to use the device, choosing simple-to- use software programs and choosing devices that are easy to hold, have an adaptable screen resolution to adjust for vision deficits and are very simple to operate.
Advanced models of healthcare technology do not just track steps but also monitor daily activities, send alerts and even prevent falls. Smart wearable technology gadgets come in varied forms: pendants, watches, and shoe soles.
The new Apple Watch app called Alert aims to keep elderly family members safe. The app works as an emergency aid, allowing the seniors or others who might need assistance to contact a caregiver for help with the touch of a button. The app can pay attention to physiological signals and suggest that seniors might want to request assistance before an issue actually arises. The app can especially help those with medical conditions that limit their mobility or speech.
The new Apple Watch SE (2nd Generation) can reminds you when it is time to take your medications, vitamins, and supplements. Maintain a log with just a tap. You can wear your Apple Watch to bed and learn approximately how much time you spent in REM (Rapid Eyeball Movement), Core, or Deep sleep, as well as when you might have woken up. If you have been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, you can track an estimate of the amount of time your heart shows signs of AFib.
We now have sensor-enabled packaging that can track the number of pills left in a container and send alerts via a smartphone app when it is time to take more or reorder a prescription! Many free applications are available that buzz the phone when it is time to take pills.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) occupies not only space and production but also impacts human interaction. AI in hospitals can help clinicians identify medical risks, predict when to provide targeted, life-saving interventions, create treatment plans for people with rare health conditions and deliver precision medicine.
For example, letting seniors know about social activities in their neighbourhood may encourage them to step out of the home and interact with others, reducing social isolation. AI can suggest healthier food choices and encourage them to stay active. AI can also update seniors about their children from social media websites and keep them more involved with their families.
The prevalence of visual impairment among the elderly is much higher in developing countries like India. The most common causes of vision loss among the elderly are age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataract and diabetic retinopathy. Following assistive technologies help the visually challenged elders:
A screen reader is a software/program that produces an auditory output of the text/messages displayed on the screen with the help of a Text-to-Speech Engine. All Android-based touch screen phones and the iPhone produced by Apple, come with pre-installed screen readers. Thanks to screen readers, people with blindness no longer have to depend on sighted persons for reading messages on their phone, looking for a person's phone number, taking quick notes, using the internet, etc.
Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is a technique, which converts scanned images into text that can be later read out by the Screen Reader.
Digital audio players/recorders allow persons with significant visual impairment to read digital talking books and audio material, as well as record information.
These types of devices are very beneficial for elderly blind persons as they can record their appointments/calendars and contact numbers, which minimize their dependence upon sighted family members.
Never feel your age; and always look at your features as achievements (those forehead wrinkles are like Zebra stripes; you have lived a fabulous life to earn them!).
“Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.” - Mark Twain
Though I am 66, I am still 34 in my head. I have continuously retrained and updated myself over past four decades of active medical practice. My children have started to talk to me as an older person, but they get short shrift! I am not old and to be quite honest never will be. I remain oblivious of the fact that one day I will be no more.
Some mental and physical decline is a part of the natural ageing process - no one can escape it. Still, if you are taking care of yourself comprehensively by exercising, eating right, saving money for retirement and most importantly, maintaining positive self-perception, you are doing enough to live your best life long-term.
“Embrace uncertainty. Some of the most beautiful chapters in our lives won't have a title until much later.” -
Dr Vinod K. Abichandani is a Diabetes and Endocrine Physician in Ahmedabad.