CAN WE SLOW DOWN AGEING?
The life cycle is a product of nature that regulates the survival of the human species on the planet. In essence, we are born and live by the laws of nature. Each stage of the life cycle has its characteristics and features that represent a challenge to which the correct answer needs to be given. We grow old from the moment we are born. The third age is a particular stage in a person’s life when we try to summarise everything we have done in life, but not only that. We wonder if there is room for some new plans. When we understand what is happening with our organism and what we can do to harmonise the biological ageing process, we can slow down ageing and strengthen our organism by our active actions.
What happens to our body when we reach later years?
The ageing process first affects the cardiovascular and nervous systems. Accumulation of cholesterol in blood vessels during the ageing process leads to a gradual weakening of the supply of cells of various organs with blood, tissues - nutrients and excretion of spent metabolites (waste substances) from the cells.
The nervous system is the most sensitive to the accumulation of waste substances in the body, which consumes the most energy and requires a continuous supply of oxygen, glucose, calcium and other nutrients. In older people, due to the worsening of nervous processes in any system, enterprising spirit, ability to work, attention are reduced, the ability to switch from one type of work to another is complicated, emotional instability, and sleep disorders occur.
Does love help us?
According to Janne Moreau, Age does not protect us from love, but love protects us from old age. Love is the initiator of many positive changes in the body that affect general health and overall quality of life. Emotional relationships in old age, including having sex, have a very positive effect on an organism, positively affecting a person’s metabolism, reducing stress, improving heart function, strengthening bones and muscles, and improving the overall immune system. Sexual relations in old age are taboo in our society, so the elderly themselves avoid it, so research on this topic in our country is very modest. Research practice in large countries such as the USA, Canada, etc., is significantly richer. According to research by the Kinsey Institute, 25% of men over the age of 50 say they have sex several times a month, while 10% of men say they have sex two to three times a week. It is true that interest in sex and sexual activity decline with age, but sexuality still has an important place in the lives of the elderly.
We are certainly aware that some of our functions decline with age, which are sexual urges and opportunities for their realisation. However, this does not mean that interest and ability for sex are entirely lost, as shown by numerous scientific studies. The partnership significantly affects sexual desires. Many older people, because of existing prejudices, begin to behave accordingly and experience themselves asexually. In the literature, this phenomenon can be found under the geriatric syndrome of the disappearance of sexuality.
Can we slow down ageing by practising healthy lifestyles?
Healthy lifestyles with a particular emphasis on exercise significantly reduce the potential adverse side effects of the ageing process. Older people should engage in any form of mental activity and physical exercises, such as reading books, newspapers, solving crossword puzzles, walking, stretching, brisk walking, swimming, and other recreational activities that include staying outdoors and in the fresh air. Numerous studies have shown significant differences in the organism’s health and the quality of life between active people and those who are not.
Physical activities performed with measure and continuous significantly strengthen the skeletal and muscular muscles, which causes better and more accessible mobility of the organism. All this affects a person’s stronger will and readiness to be active in various spheres of his/her interests.
Before a person decides to start the rhythm of exercise, it is essential to visit his/her chosen doctor and check his/her general health, especially the cardiac system, to prevent the counterproductive effect of exercise on a person’s health. The chosen doctor should give a set of recommendations regarding the type and duration of physical activities, taking into account the clinical picture in terms of the general health condition of his patient’s organism. Some data show that the optimal time weekly, which an older person should spend in exercise, is about 150 minutes of moderate physical activity. Indeed, the general recommendation is that you should not overdo it with the time spent or the intensity of the exercises. Quantity, in this case, does not give birth to quality! It is necessary to monitor the biorhythm of your body and, taking into account the advice of the chosen doctor, adjust the type and pace of exercise. Walking is undoubtedly the most straightforward exercise and has multiple effects. Let’s try to influence healthy ageing and a quality third age with healthy lifestyles!
The professional text on the elderly is part of the activities of the HEART OF THE PLANET project, which aims to improve social responsibility and integrative approach and encourage social inclusion, increase the quality of life and use the capacity of the elderly for independent living.
For the NGO Center for Rural Development of Montenegro
Gordana Bošković, Adult Education Specialist