What is an old man?
When does a middle-aged man become an old man? Officially of course it's when we reach retirement age but as we all know this is a fairly blunt method of decision making. As life expectancy increases so retirement planning needs to adjust itself to the realisation that being an old man today, or senior if you prefer, is very different from what it was a generation or so ago.
Young old man or old old man?
Sixty five is the new middle aged man. These days people are talking about the young-old, that is ages 70-75, and those over 75 as the old-old. The categories are only useful in the sense that they act as a guide as to what might be expected from men who fall into them. The young-old, for example, frequently continue in good health and maintain strong links with friends and family. The old-old have a much higher chance of poor health and social isolation.
Men's experience of ageing
Despite the fact that men are living longer there are still two older ladies to every old man. This fact alone should stimulate interest about why that should be. Relatively little is actually known about why this is case or about the experiences of the old man in terms of social isolation, role change and so on. Research is also silent on the old man who is gay. Sure, we are aware that the old man experiences anxiety, financial problems, loneliness, and issues with intimacy and sexuality, but that's really about all we know.
Older Men's Health
Contrary to the idea that the old man is a complainer about their health, most actually rate their health as good or excellent. This, despite the fact that most are diagnosed with at least one chronic illness. The physical health of the old man is strongly affected by their health behavior when they were younger. The promotion of healthy lifestyles in older men is another largely neglected area of research, with the possible exception of local initiatives and an increased medical recognition of nutritional needs.
Social steriotypes and older men
Some men believe in and indeed live by the old man stereotype-Age equals stop working, stop learning, stop living and wait for the inevitable. These men could potentially vegetate for around 20 years or so if they feel old age starts at 65.
A popular misconception is that men can't adapt because they are set in their ways and get depressed the older they get. There is good evidence that this is not the case; in fact depression rates in the old man can be half those of women. Also, whilst the old-old man probably reflects the expectations of a society and age now passing, the next generation have no excuses not to get involved in life.
Successful Older Men
Successful ageing is partly to do with retirement planning and the ability to reorientate expectations and life goals. Poor health takes its toll and it can lead to downward spiral. The older a man becomes the greater the chances of poor health, pain, social isolation and less social support.
Successful ageing is a combination of factors. Making a positive decision not to become isolated, offering support, wisdom to others, making yourself aware of what services and social activities are available in your communities will all help keep you younger. The more variety in your life the better as it will keep you mentally challenged and mentally more flexible and adaptable.
Use it or loose it!