‘Age is nothing but a number’
That’s according to Ernestine Shepherd the world’s oldest body builder; Ernestine is 75 – probably 76 by now. She started body building and entering competitions when she was 71. Now her main mission is to help others exercise and keep healthy. See Ernestine in training on video below.
Meanwhile pensioner Brian Goldsmith takes to his bike two or three times a week, cycling between 30 and 60 miles every time. In fact there was a recent report about a number of older cyclists who regularly exercise this way. They keep fit and they get out in the fresh air.
It’s the done thing in Oxford
Of course many other seniors take part in less strenuous exercise regularly. But not every senior citizen is blessed with sufficient good health or mobility to enjoy these really active sports.
Understanding the problems
A senior physician at Berlin’s Evangelical Geriatrics Centre (EGZB) helped her students understand what it feels like to be older. In July last year The Guardian reported that she had built an ‘Age Man Suit’. No not something trendy that everyone wants to wear, but a suit for students to experience the changes that happen to many senior citizens.
You might think this is a drastic measure but it’s a pretty good way for others to get inside your head and understand what it’s like. Her thinking was that if her medical students understood how older people feel, they would be more attracted to geriatric medicine.
The USP of an Age Man Suit
The suit consisted of a yellow visor that blurs the vision, ear protectors to stifle hearing, knee and elbow pads which make the joints harder to move, a jacket style vest which restricts movement and padded gloves. The suit weighed 10kg too.
When the students wore the suit they experienced many of the difficulties which senior citizens have to tolerate as they age. These include shortness of breath when climbing the stairs, difficulty in bending down and the impossibility of picking up a coin from the floor. Getting tablets out of a blister pack is nigh on impossible. This is what it feels like to be old and have less mobility.
“My aim is to turn young energetic people into slow, creaking beings, temporarily at least,” senior physician Rahel Eckardt said. “That way they will I hope, develop a feeling for what it’s like to be old.”
The bigger picture
In the wider scope of things, Germany built the suit to research ‘senior friendly’ products for the over-60s following concerns that their population will be 26% more 65 year olds and more by 2030. Although Germany’s increase was reported as the highest after Japan and Monaco, the ageing population is rising in the UK too.
One report suggests that the UK’s over 65 population will be 13 million by that same year.
This will put a strain on many resources including care homes and the NHS. Wouldn’t it be great if provisions were considered now, so that there are enough places for those who need both day to day and medical care when the time comes?
Surely we all wish that the ageing process could stop before things get out of hand. We’d all want to stop the process whilst we still had ease of movement at least. And when we say stop the process, that’s just the ageing process right. But what we can do is try to make the best of what we have using mobility equipment if we need to.
Hey it ain’t much fun getting old but we can’t change it. It happens to most of us so we’d better learn to grin and bear it. Anyone want to practice in an Age Man Suit yet? Or are you already there?