What does it mean to be old? And when does a person receive that moniker? The youth often do crazy things, but who can consider such things when they are ensnared by time?
What’s a Geriatric?
Geriatrics is the study of aging, including biological, sociological, and psychological changes, especially with regard to their health care; an old person is one receiving special care. Gerontology is the study of aging.
When is one considered geriatric? To a teenager, 30 might be geriatric. Perhaps the autumn of life is the age at which a woman is considered unable to achieve and maintain pregnancy? The Oncofertility Consortium at Northwestern University web page writes: “Originally the term ‘geriatric pregnancy’ was meant to describe the pregnancy of a woman who was 35 years or older. At some point (probably after being verbally and physically assaulted by hormonal mommies-to-be) the medical community decided to change that term to ‘advanced maternal age.’” But these days, even grandmothers are having babies! Meet Maria del Carmen Bousada de Lara, a Spanish woman who gained worldwide attention when she became the world’s oldest mother on December 29, 2006, when she gave birth to twins when she was a few days shy of 67 years old.
Is a person old at 40? How many of us were teased at our 40th birthday with “Over-the-Hill” stuff? I was sitting in a restaurant recently when the people in the booth behind us found my wife’s reading glasses. That started a discussion and a man in that booth who looked to be over-the-hill said, “I used to have young eyes but now I need readers.” Is he old or is it just his eyes?
If age is indeed a number, where do Americans draw the line between middle-aged and elderly? Is it at the half century mark? How about saying one is broken down when osteoporosis rears its head? Is a person old who receives their first senior citizen discount?
Some might say a person is “seasoned” at 60; or at the age of pension or retirement? Older? How about basing the age of being past-one’s-prime or the number of medications one takes? Well, by that guideline many of the “young” people I treat would already be considered worn-out.
The Merck Manual, in its Introduction to Geriatrics suggests: Geriatrics refers to medical care for the elderly, an age group that is not easy to define precisely. “Older people” is sometimes preferred but is equally imprecise; older than 65 is the age often used.
The answer to this difficult question is that there really is no specific age where one becomes senior. The World Health Organization states that, “Although there are commonly used definitions of old age there is no general agreement on the age at which a person becomes old. The common use of a calendar age to mark the threshold of old age assumes equivalence with biological age, yet at the same time, it is generally accepted that these two are not necessarily synonymous.”
Age is Relative
A person’s age is relative. Younger people have a sense of what is old until they reach that age, and then they look back and consider themselves to be much younger than their chronological age.
Geriatrics knows no specific age. Old is all about your health; how do you feel? My Geriatrics teachers taught us that “elder” starts at 40. Based on some of the more recent definitions, others say that the threshold of old is growing younger. A recent survey of more than 1,000 U.S. adults, done by The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, asked people age 45 and younger to define “old or middle-age.” They said 61. Not surprisingly, people who find themselves on the far side of age 61 considered that to be young.
Similarly, a survey by the Pew Research Center found that older people felt younger than their chronological age, while younger people defined “old” as much younger than did older survey respondents.
Perhaps the age of special care begins when a person’s nervous system can no longer maintain normal function; when the brain allows things that shouldn’t happen or keeps things from happening that should happen. Is that even possible? In fact, I see it all the time.
Keeping Frailty at Arm’s Length
A 2005 paper published in the Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry entitled, “Cortical release signs in psychiatry” found that the human brain eventually loses control over certain neurological reflexes essential for its normal function. In health, these reflexes are kept intact by an energetic brain. But these cortical release signs appear when the brain loses its oomph allowing a breakdown that can be measured. Symptoms such as forgetfulness, foggy memory, depression, attention deficit disorders of various kinds, dementias, and many other complaints are all-too-common in people who do not think they need a doctor. The prevalence of these brain conditions increases with age; the age of debility is directly proportional to the amount of functional disrepair.
Unconventional academic training and decades of clinical experience have proved that these reflex patterns can be reorganized with specific functional neurological treatment and rehabilitation. My two books are dedicated to rethinking what it means to be old. What Your Brain Might Say if It Could Speak, and Receptor Based Solutions™; Functional Neurology Every Doctor Should Know teach that when people take care of their brain they may never be accused of advanced years despite their age; they can keep their frailty at arm’s length. We now know that what was once considered unspecific or uncertain is now an established clinical expectation: old is relative.
Your sustained youth depends that you have a healthy brain. It only takes a few minutes to do some simple neurological tests that reveal if your brain might have a potential functional breakdown. Call my office today and determine your brain’s condition before you prematurely reach your age of special care.
For more information, watch the HealthBuilderS® videos that describe some of Dr. Allen’s examination procedures. Go to: http://bit.ly/1JRbSfe.