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WHAT? Scientists Say We Can Benefit From Aging!

WHAT? Scientists Say We Can Benefit From Aging!

Society at large tells us to fear aging – we have entire industries built upon it (hello anti-wrinkle cream industry and age-related hair-dye conglomerates) and happiness within the media is correlated to beauty, health, and most importantly it seems, youth. However, research has emerged that says that aging gracefully might actually have a whole host of benefits.

Research Shows Mental and Physical Improvements

Research has found that while getting older does have its disadvantages, such as some loss of mobility, and a stronger likelihood of developing some diseases, it also has some advantages – such a reduction in gaining some illnesses, declining allergies, and even increasing and boosting intelligence.

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Many of the benefits associated with aging are to do with the physiological or medical side – for example, the older you get, the less likely you are to catch and suffer with a cold. Research has found that the aging immune system, a topic under strong scrutiny by the scientific community with a rapidly aging population, has a stronger ‘immune memory’; that is, the body’s way of collecting information about how they survived and fought off previous biological attacks (such as viruses, or in this case colds) and adapts the immune system to quicker and better fend off the cold before it can affect you. Simply put, as you age your immune system has more knowledge about how to fight off threats to it, and is better at stopping them before you find yourself with a nasty seasonal cold or flu.

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Aging Helps You Avoid the Next Plague

This ‘immune experience’ as it were, feeds into other benefits – the older you are, the more likely you are to outlive an outbreak of a deadly virus; research into pandemics such as the 2009 swine flu outbreak and the 1918 flu pandemic had more victims in the ‘healthy’ age range of under 65 and 20-40 years old respectively, than older afflicted victims. This is believed to be due to the immune system, strongest in the younger populace, accidentally turning on itself in a ‘cytokine storm’ (when the immune system turns on infectious pathogens, but is too vigorous, killing off healthy cells as well); cytokine storms are, for this reason, less likely in older victims, making them more likely to survive. Older people are also less likely to suffer from less allergies – thanks to lowering levels of Immunoglobulin E which is linked to allergic responses.

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Aging Increases Your Intelligence

Increasing age has also been linked to maintaining or increasing your intelligence levels – the Seattle Longitudinal Study, a study nearly sixty years in the making and still ongoing, has been investigating the mental capacities of humans as they develop throughout their lifetimes, and have found that older people in their forties and fifties are stronger in spatial orientation, verbal memory, problem solving abilities, and vocabulary, than participants in their twenties, at a time in the mainstream when humans are considered to be at their ‘peak’. Researchers in the study believe this is down to stronger collective memory and maybe even a higher level of confidence in their own abilities at this point.

Aging Provides You with Some Fun, Too!

Aging also has some more fun side effects, that might well be enjoyed their younger contemporaries – such as better sex, for example. While this may sound like some incongruous boasting, studies have shown that people in their sixties (74% of men and 70% of women, to be exact) report having more sexual enjoyment and pleasure than they did when they were in their forties. This is believed due to higher sexual confidence about their bodies and in knowing what they want from experiences in the bedroom.

More fun side effects of aging include experiencing fewer migraines, perspiring less – thanks to shrinking sweat glands as people enter their middle age years – and can even cheat death for longer… mathematically at least. The older people get, the more likely we are to see another year, even as we reach the average age for our time. Maybe it’s not the secret to the Fountain of Youth, but whoever said there had to be so much wrong with aging gracefully?

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More by this author

Chris Haigh

Writer, baker, co-host of "Good Evening Podcast" and "North By Nerdwest".

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Last Updated on February 25, 2020

Face Adversity with a Smile

Face Adversity with a Smile

I told my friend Graham that I often cycle the two miles from my house to the town centre but unfortunately there is a big hill on the route. He replied, ‘You mean fortunately.’ He explained that I should be glad of the extra exercise that the hill provided.

My attitude to the hill has now changed. I used to grumble as I approached it but now I tell myself the following. This hill will exercise my heart and lungs. It will help me to lose weight and get fit. It will mean that I live longer. This hill is my friend. Finally as I wend my way up the incline I console myself with the thought of all those silly people who pay money to go to a gym and sit on stationery exercise bicycles when I can get the same value for free. I have a smug smile of satisfaction as I reach the top of the hill.

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Problems are there to be faced and overcome. We cannot achieve anything with an easy life. Helen Keller was the first deaf and blind person to gain a University degree. Her activism and writing proved inspirational. She wrote, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

One of the main determinants of success in life is our attitude towards adversity. From time to time we all face hardships, problems, accidents, afflictions and difficulties. Some are of our making but many confront us through no fault of our own. Whilst we cannot choose the adversity we can choose our attitude towards it.

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Douglas Bader was 21 when in 1931 he had both legs amputated following a flying accident. He was determined to fly again and went on to become one of the leading flying aces in the Battle of Britain with 22 aerial victories over the Germans. He was an inspiration to others during the war. He said, “Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that you can’t do this or that. That’s nonsense. Make up your mind, you’ll never use crutches or a stick, then have a go at everything. Go to school, join in all the games you can. Go anywhere you want to. But never, never let them persuade you that things are too difficult or impossible.”

How can you change your attitude towards the adversity that you face? Try these steps:

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  1. Confront the problem. Do not avoid it.
  2. Deliberately take a positive attitude and write down some benefits or advantages of the situation.
  3. Visualise how you will feel when you overcome this obstacle.
  4. Develop an action plan for how to tackle it.
  5. Smile and get cracking.

The biographies of great people are littered with examples of how they took these kinds of steps to overcome the difficulties they faced. The common thread is that they did not become defeatist or depressed. They chose their attitude. They opted to be positive. They took on the challenge. They won.

Featured photo credit: Jamie Brown via unsplash.com

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