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Warmer: In your opinion, how old is ‘old’ when we are talking about people? Do you think you are getting old? If so, why do you think this? If not, why not? Do you still plan to be active once you get past sixty years of age? 
 

Read the text below, and then answer the questions that follow.

 

The future of getting old: rethinking old age

Adapted by Roger Hartopp from an article published April 2018 on www.wired.com, and retrieved 12 June, 2018

 

Right. What exactly is an ‘old’ person? Well, it seems it depends on how old you are.

 
If you’re under 30, studies show that you’re likely to say old age begins at 60. If you’re in your 40s and 50s (erm, like me), you might say 70. (I agree with that.) If you are 60 or 70, your definition of “old” might be 74 or above. So what this tells us is that we tend to feel younger the older we get.


The things that happen to us can also be a sign of old age change as we age too. Now while most 18-29-year-olds say that forgetting names is a sign of old age, less than 50 per cent of those older than 29 think of this as a sign of ageing. Having grandchildren is also something that younger people see as “old”, but older individuals may not. The number of years we’ve lived, it seems, does not have to be an indicator for how much older we’ve become.


Today, what we think our ideas are about getting old, is changing more than ever. Thanks to advancements in science, medicine and technology, we may be living longer – well into our 70s, 80s and even 90s – and as a result we will need to continue to redefine what it means to be “old.” These advances also present an opportunity to start thinking about a not-too-distant future where ageing may not mean losing vitality and functionality physically, mentally and emotionally, but maintaining it or even gaining it as members of a new generation that are making meaningful contributions to society.


Much of what you do might already be going a long way to maintaining your health in the long term. We’ve seen more emphasis on health and wellness, and according to reports, those becoming adults in the 2000s are leading the way. In one survey, 47 per cent of millennials reported they changed their habits to eat more healthily, and a majority of them exercise at least once a week. But that doesn’t mean older generations aren’t concerned with health, too, with many of them doing the same thing.


In addition, our increasing medical advances mean that researchers can now look at ways to slow down the process of getting older and lessen its impact. But it’s too soon to tell which scientific advances will be successful, and even with these advancements, age will eventually catch us up. We will eventually die. However, many of us can expect to benefit from new technologies and treatments that are designed to help us keep moving, and to continue longer in order to live our lives as we want, longer than we may ever have thought possible.


As we age, we need to think about our options for housing. Although there are nursing homes in many countries, many seniors say that they would prefer to “age in place” – that is, be at home or in their communities. The physical limitations of being old can make living at home challenging – but so too can cognitive decline. Cognitive skills like memory and the ability to think about and process information may deteriorate gradually as we age, so for example, trying to remember to take prescribed medications may be a problem. 


Then there’s also dementia, a disease connected with the loss of memory and other mental abilities. Age is a leading risk factor for dementia, and 1 in 9 people over 65 currently have Alzheimer’s, which is the most common form of the condition. Today, the disease is forcing some seniors into living situations like nursing homes for round-the-clock care. But technology can help keep Alzheimer’s patients; motion sensors placed throughout the home, for example, can alert caregivers if an individual makes an unusual movement, such as getting up in the middle of the night and not returning to bed. While dementia can severely interfere with daily life, these technologies may help us balance independence with safety.


In addition to physical and mental health, a sense of emotional fulfilment is critical if we want to live well as we age. Researchers have found that having a sense of purpose in life may slow some aspects of the ageing process. In studies, people who reported a feeling of purpose were found to have kept their hand grip and walking speeds (two common signs of ageing) better than those who felt less committed.


And because we may be living longer, we may have more time to pursue our purpose. Age specialists have identified a new stage of life called gerontolescence, which is defined as age 50 to 75. An increasing number of adults are experiencing this phase of self-discovery and identification as a kind of “second adolescence”. For some, this could mean new careers or pursuing long-dormant hobbies.


Indeed, the later stages of your life can be just as rewarding; by not focusing on being limited by age, you start seeing possibilities – starting a new career, doing something you want to do, or just spend more time with the family – which can help a lot in maintaining emotional, physical and mental health in the process.


Scientists, researchers and technologists are exploring what it means to be old, helping us find ways to live healthier, fuller lives. But we can also take part as individuals by actively rethinking our own perception of ageing and embracing the opportunities it offers.


We can do something now to make sure old age doesn’t only mean living longer, but living well.


1.    What do studies generally show to be the start of ‘old age’?
2.    What are two of the things that younger people suggest are a sign of old age?
3.    In what fields have advancements been made that may help us to live longer?
4.    What group of people are ‘leading the way’ as regards health and fitness?
5.    Where do most seniors prefer to live when it comes to housing?
6.    What challenging problems can seniors have living at home?
7.    What is the most common form of dementia?
8.    According to the text, what is critical if we want to live well into old age?
9.    What term has been given by scientists to the age group of 50 to 75?
10.    How do you feel about getting old? Is it something you will accept, be optimistic about or even be worried?

 

VOCABULARY

tendency/to tend to – here, if something tends to happen, it usually happens or it often happens 
indicator – a measurement or value which gives you an idea of what something is like
to redefine – to consider, to think about something in a new way 
vitality – to have great energy and a lot of liveliness, to be very active 
to maintain/maintaining – to continue to have something, and not to let it stop or grow weaker
meaningful contributions – here, serious, important, or useful actions that help make the person successful
millennials – people who became adults around the year 2000
cognitive an adjective relating to the mental process involved in knowing, learning, and understanding things
decline – to become less in quantity, importance, or quality
to deteriorate – to become worse in some way 
dementia – a serious illness of the mind
motion sensors – small devices that can detect anything moving in a particular area or space
sense of emotional fulfilment – a strong feeling of satisfaction that you get from doing or achieving something, especially something useful
to pursue – to carry out or follow an activity, interest, or plan, to do things to achieve something
to be dormant – something that is not active, growing, or being used at the present time but is capable of becoming active later on
to embrace/embracing – to accept a change, accept and support or believe something

 

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