Two New Easy Ways for Boomers To Measure Our Youth for Our Age and Good Health and How to Maintain These

Two New Easy Ways for Boomers To Measure Our Youth for Our Age and  Good Health and How to Maintain TheseGrandpa and I are on our return home from a trip abroad planned after a few contemporaries died less than three months ago in quick succession. We realized we should celebrate life and our good health. Unexpectedly, a closer friend and contemporary died while we were in Portugal. We know the fragility of life and good health. Increasingly though, we Boomers are being told we should not have frequent medical screenings any longer, such as mammograms and colonoscopies. What should we do to measure our age and health?

Airport waits abroad had me reading foreign newspapers and one article in the British newspaper, The Daily Mail, October 2, 2014, caught my attention, “Could Loss of Smell Predict That We Are Seriously Ill?” This Grandma loses her appetite when a stuffed nose affects the desire to eat. This article is not talking about those periods in which we may have a cold. It says that a University of Chicago Study testing more than 3,000 men and women aged 57 to 85 on the ability to identify fish, rose, leather, orange, and peppermint, the five scents used, predicted whether or not you were six times more likely than others to die within the next five years. The article said, “if food no longer smells appetizing and perfume seems less pungent, there’s a chance you could be seriously ill. . . .almost 20% [studied] only identified two or three of the smells and some 3.5% got one or none right,” and five years later those who failed the test were six times more likely to have died. After taking into account age, gender, socio-economic status, someone without a sense of smell was more than three times as likely to have died in five years.


I am now going to keep the eye mask I was given on the airplane and periodically test Grandpa and my ability to smell those five items. Better yet, I think I will make it a game we play with our grandchildren when they visit Thanksgiving and Spring Break!


Then, when reviewing articles in the New York Times I missed while busy abroad, I came across, “On New Measurements of Aging,” on line September 18, 2014, by Judith Graham. She said, “Warren Sanderson, a professor of social and behavioral sciences at Stony Brook University, is working on ways to define aging other than the passing of years. With colleagues at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria, he recently published a study showing that the strength of an adult’s hand grip can distinguish different rates of aging in people with varying levels of education.”


The study confirmed what this Grandma believes—age 65 that was old in our parents’ generation does not apply to our Boomer generation. The study confirms what this Grandma believes–life expectancy has changed.


Dr. Sanderson said, “We should consider people as old when they near the end of their life: when their remaining life expectancy is 15 years or less. Let’s take two 65-year-olds. Say one has a remaining life expectancy of five years. One has a remaining life expectancy of 25 years. Which one is aging faster? We would say the first one, because she’s so much closer to the end of her life. The second one is still far from the end of her life. She’s effectively younger. In 2010, if you used our definition, men would start being classified as “old” when they reached the age of 69.2 years old and women when they reached the age of 72.3 years old.”


I like this. “Young old” at 72 for me means that GG’s (great grandmother, Grandpa’s mother) saying “old old” for her began at 84 brings “old old” for me to 90! More years for travel, as GG says it is not until you are “old old” do you no longer travel.


Dr. Sanderson’s theory includes a “characteristics” approach to evaluating aging: “We think age has much more to do with how people function than how many birthdays they’ve had, so measuring function is the crucial thing. Our research agenda calls for looking at different measures of functioning because aging is multidimensional.”


They used hand-grip strength in the study as a measure: “Hand-grip strength is an amazingly good predictor of future rates of mortality and morbidity, or sickness. It’s been measured for individuals in surveys across the world. We now have comparable data on about 50,000 people from the U.S., many European countries, Japan, South Korea, China. A substantial body of research suggests that this can be used as a reliable predictor of aging.” A test on 50,000 people is good enough for me.


He continued, “measuring hand-grip strength is very simple and cheap. We think every primary care doctor should have a dynamometer in their office. At every visit, the doctor could check grip strength for older patients. If someone was in the 45th percentile for their age and the measurements were stable, great. But if that person suddenly dropped to the 25th percentile, then that’s a sign that the doctor should look seriously at what might be going on.”


There are so many hand grip exercisers on the market. Pick one, or do as I am going to do, ask my doctor which to use.


Dr. Sanderson predicts there will be measures for lower body strength as well: “It may very well be a measure that looks at how long it takes someone to rise from a chair. Then, we will have an upper-body measure and a lower-body measure, and we can compare the two in terms of how aging goes. We envision one day that physicians will have standard age-related tables for these measures and chart their patients’ progress, just as they do with height and weight for children.”


This Grandma is going to ask my primary care physician to get a dynamo meter if he does not have one and test my grip strength at my next annual check-up as a base line. Until there are measures for lower body strength, I am going to keep up my chair poses in yoga and my squats in Pilates to maintain that ability to rise from a chair.


Smell tests and hand-grip tests are less invasive than colonoscopies but, typical for Boomers, I want to do everything to remain “forever young” and keep close tabs on my health, strength, and functioning as measures of that vitality. I now must remember just two simple things at home: strong nose for smell and strong hand for grip. Games and yoga and Pilates with grandchildren for these make the journey to good health continuing









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