Most people see ageing as something to fear and have very low expectations – the sore bones, sagging skin and dulling of the senses, however, studies have shown that there are many benefits to moving into the twilight years.
With more than 800 million people over 60 years and more than 320,000 centenarians, people are living healthier lives for longer. With 60 generally being considered the start of old age, what are some of the benefits to getting older?
Fewer Colds and a better immune system.
It’s not just the brain that gets wiser with age. The human immune system encounters millions of potential viruses and infections every day and remembers and learns to spot the dangers. Our immune system creates a memory for each invader and the next time they turn up, they respond more quickly and effectively with a more rapid response.
John Upham from the University of Queensland says this memory can last a long time. “People who have gone through various epidemics, their immune systems can remember the virus for 40 or 50 years in some cases. It does begin to drop off in your 70s or 80s, but there’s a bit of a sweet spot for people – particularly from your 40s through to your late 60s and early 70s – where the immune system remembers the viruses experienced over the years.”
The older you get the less severe the allergy symptoms can become. Mitchell Grayson from the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin says “Allergic disease peaks in childhood and then seems to decrease throughout late adolescence and into their 20s. In the 30s there is another resurgence until people get into their 50s and 60s when the symptoms tend to get less common.”
Our intelligence increases
An American study has followed the mental abilities of 6,000 people since 1956. It’s the longest-running study of its kind, with the same volunteers tested every seven years. While older volunteers aren’t as good at maths and are slower to respond to commands, for vocabulary, spatial orientation, verbal memory and problem-solving abilities, they were better in their late 40s and 50s than they were in their 20s.
Several studies have shown that older people have more – and better – sex than you might think. A survey of people over the age of 60 found that 74% of men and 70% of women reported greater sexual satisfaction than when they were in their 40s.
Migraines can become less of a headache as we age, too. A Swedish study of patients 18 and older found that attacks become shorter, less painful and less frequent as people get older. Of 374 people enrolled in the study, only four developed chronic headaches.
Sweat glands shrink and become less numerous as people get older. Research shows that those in their 20s can expect to sweat more than those in their 50s and early 60s.
The best is yet to come
There’s no denying ageing comes with its challenges, though the saying ‘it’s better than the alternative’ springs to mind. Whilst we may need to adapt our lifestyle as our mind and body change, there is a lot to look forward to in our twilight years, as we start to have more time to ourselves, slow down and enjoy what we like to do more.