Things this business has taught me about growing older

I see or talk to a couple hundred seniors every week. Fifty or so of those are members that I dispatch rides for. The others are people I meet at social or informational events all over town. I’m totally struck by the differences in “age” amongst people who are around the same calendar age, and it’s totally changed how I think about living my next fifty years.

Dr. Michelle Dhanak, a geriatric specialist with ElderConsult, finally tied my thoughts up with a bow when I saw her speak a couple of weeks ago. She taught us that there are five “geriatric giants,” or markers of aging:

My mom picked up water fitness and Pilates immediately after retirement, and she sits more easily on the floor than I do.

  • Immobility
  • Instability
  • Incontinence
  • Intellectual impairment
  • Iatrogenic (which means adverse effects of a medical procedure)

The key takeaway from her talk is that all of these are “manageable, modifiable and reversible.” In other words…to an extent we CAN control how we age if we’re proactive in recognizing our likely outcomes.

And it’s never too late. Dr. Dhanak shared the results of a 100-person study of people between the ages of 72 and 98 who were subjected to “progressive resistance exercise training” (so…. hard workouts) for ten weeks. The end result was an average increase in muscle strength of 113 percent! Gait speed increased by about 12 percent and thigh muscles increased by almost three percent.

If someone is starting to pump iron in their 80s to remain stable and mobile, surely I can take steps now to make my own 80s a little easier on myself. I’m going to start sharing these little life changes on our blog, because no one should have to work in senior services to pick up these tips. I want to be the Arrive Rides member who can get in and out of any car that shows up to get me (self-driving, at that point) and going to yoga class, like Amanda.