After 75 years old, it all goes downhill from there, right? Well not for everyone. For the past twenty years or so, the average life expectancy has climbed significantly. Instead of retiring and relaxing, many older adults are staying active as long as possible. Priorities are being placed on healthier habits, engaging leisure activities and spending quality time with loved ones.
As an occupational therapist working with the active adult and aging population, this “second wind” lifestyle has become very evident. I see a lot of patients coming in for joint replacements so that they may continue to be active, instead of slowing down and dealing with chronic pain. Just the other day there was an 88 year old asking when he could ride his bike again. Some even want to resume having intimate relations with their boo-thing…yes, we discuss safe sex positions because if they still can, why not?! More power to them.
Here’s a great example: a few weeks ago, the NYTimes did a piece on an 85 year old man who finished the Toronto marathon in under 4 hours! I can barely run 4 miles…
Older adults who have entered the end stage of their life can still have hopes and dreams before they leave this earth. As the natural process of aging takes over, their priorities do shift. It’s our job as occupational therapists to help them live life to their fullest. This may be as simple as being able to water their plants on the porch, hug their grandchildren, or continue to hand-dance with their spouse of 50+ years. We never want to take away someone’s independence if their goals are still achievable. “Quality of Life” is subjective, and we are all entitled to define it.
So don’t throw all older people in the same category. You’re as young as you feel.