The UK is getting older. We’re living longer and have the opportunity to make the most of our advancing years. But is 50 really the new 30? You're about to find out!
The UK is getting older. We’re living longer and thanks to amazing advances in medicine, now have the opportunity to make much more of our lives in our advancing years.
But is 50 really the new 30 for those of Generation X? And if so, how can you make the most of life beyond your half-century? In this guide, we’ll find out.
Live long and prosper
The median age of Brits has been on the rise since the mid-70s, growing from about 34 in 1974 to 40 in 2014. This means more than 23 million people in the UK, or around of the third of the population, are now aged 50 and above.
This trend is only set to grow in the coming years, but, as well as challenges, being increasingly long-lived presents a wealth of opportunities for baby boomers.
Medical advances mean that we’ll enjoy a much better quality of life after reaching our half-century than previous generations and with a modest amount of effort, you can look forward to a second wind after your figurative half time.
Like a fine wine, things get better with age
It’s normal to look back on your younger years with nostalgia, but very few of us would actually want to turn back the clock to our twenties again.
With age, comes perspective and research has shown that reactions to emotions steadily decline as we get older. Similar studies have also found we care less what people think about us as we advance in years, offering the chance to focus on what’s right for us, rather than worrying about fitting in.
And while there’s certainly some challenges to overcome, you needn’t sweat the small stuff.
Prevention is better than the cure
It’s never too early to start looking after yourself and with a few straightforward steps, you can enjoy good health for decades to come.
Your mind is like a sword and it needs to be sharpened if it’s to stay in tip-top shape. It’s important to seek out stimuli wherever possible and not fall into the trap of vegging out on the sofa after a hard day’s work.
Whether it’s puzzles, challenging books or new hobbies - it pays to keep things fresh. Video games have also been touted as one of the top ways to boost your multitasking skills and cognitive control.
You should also strive to keep learning new things. Studies have shown that when it comes to your mental agility - it’s a case of use it or lose it. And the fresher and more mentally-challenging the task, the better.
Your ears are full to the brim with tiny hairs that are part of the mechanism that lets you hear, but are unfortunately, quite susceptible to damage. Once they lose function, there’s no getting it back, so limiting your exposure to loud noises is the only guaranteed way to make sure you enjoy good hearing post-50.
While it’s impossible to filter out everything, there’s a variety of discreet earplugs you can buy that’ll limit the amount of decibels you’re exposed to without negatively impacting your regular hearing, whether you’re at a gig, or enjoying a night on the town.
Although the prospect of popping in a set of earplugs before heading out may seem a bit lame, it’s probably better than having to get people to repeat themselves to you for years to come.
The eyes are a delicate tool, but unlike your ears, there’s a range of proactive steps you can take to make sure you enjoy visual acuity well into old age. Some quick tips include:
Exercise: Keeping in shape can help lessen the risk of macular degeneration has you get older.
Fish and fruit: A healthy, balanced diet that’s rich in fresh fruit and fish can help ward off issues like cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
Quit smoking: Not only is this generally awful for your health, but smokers are at higher risk of generating all sorts of unpleasant eye conditions like uveitis and cataracts.
Play video games: Several studies have found video games can help maintain visual acuity, especially action-oriented ones. Researchers speculate this is thanks to the experience ‘exercising’ the visual processing systems of the brain, making them more sensitive.
Try and refrain from binging though, since excessive sessions in front of a screen can cause strain and blurred vision.
Women in the UK typically reach their menopause, when they stop having periods and lose the ability to conceive children naturally, at the age of 51 on average.
Hormonal changes associated with this can bring on a range of unpleasant symptoms, from hot flushes and night sweats to insomnia and mood changes. Fortunately, there’s more ways than ever before to combat these issues.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can help ease physical problems, while psychological treatment like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can be of great help in combatting mood-related changes.
Similarly, keeping in shape and eating a healthy, balanced diet have been found to reduce the severity of menopause-related issues.
Also sometimes called the andropause, whether or not the male menopause actually exists is the subject of much debate in medical circles.
While it’s true that older men will produce less testosterone, this dip can actually start in the early 20s. And while it’s not definitively labelled as a medical condition, many older men will also experience:
- A loss of muscle mass
- Hot flushes and sweating
- Accumulation of body fat
- Psychological problems, sometimes mocked as the ‘mid-life crisis’
- Reduced sex drive
In cases where low testosterone is found to be responsible, HRT can also be offered for men, while psychological and sexual issues should always be addressed with a medical professional as soon as possible.
This can be easier said than done for many, however, since there’s a definite stigma about talking through mental health issues among men, but it’s important to remember - you’re not alone in this and experiencing psychological problems is not a sign of weakness.
Youth is the gift of nature, but age is a work of art
So while 50 may not be the new 30, it’s far cry from being over the hill. If you’d like to share your experiences of getting older, or have any questions about the topics discussed above - be sure to leave us a comment below or get in touch via Twitter or Facebook.
And if you’re looking for expert medical advice on any of the issues we’ve been through in this post, hit the button below to see a UK GP face-to-face within minutes.