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Why Is Ageing Such A Dirty Word? Being Young Is Overrated

Deal With It is a brand new podcast that boldly addresses some of the most important issues we so often choose to ignore. In our first episode host Ellie Taylor talks about the negative attitudes associated with ageing with Dr Zoe Williams.
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None of us can escape the march of time, and ageing happens to all of us. According to the Office of National Statistics, the proportion of people aged 65 and over in England is projected to increase to over 24% of the population by 2038. With people living and thriving longer, why is society still hanging onto its obsession with youth, afraid of ageing, and reluctant to talk about the final taboo - death?

It’s the topic of conversation in our first episode of the brand new podcast Deal With It, brought to you by Corsodyl Toothpaste, who are on a mission to get us talking about all those uncomfortable issues we choose to ignore – whether it’s getting old or your oral health!

Dr Zoe Williams chats to Ellie Taylor on Deal With It. Also listen on Spotify or Apple podcasts.

Getting to grips on exactly why age has become such a big issue Dr Zoe Williams, GP and media medic shares with Ellie her perspectives on medical and societal attitudes to getting older.

Age is just a number

It’s official - age is just a number, and it’s our culture that defines whether we are old or not. In the 1970s, for example, society considered someone of 65 to be an ‘old age pensioner’. Now, retired people in their mid-sixties expect to contribute and participate in a full and active life, looking forward to living well into their eighties and beyond.

Dr Zoe Williams tackles the stigma associated with ageing
Dr Zoe Williams tackles the stigma associated with ageing

“You can have a chronological age, which is that number and how long you’ve been here, and then a biological age which can be very different. You can’t change your chronological age but there are some things you can do to have an impact on your biological age,” explains Dr Zoe.

Stay healthy and impact your biological age

So, what can we do to slow down ageing? We hear much about free radicals being bad for us, causing inflammation and accelerating ageing, and antioxidants being good for us, slowing down the ageing process. Is it really as simple as exercising and watching our diet? “Absolutely – they can make a huge difference,” says Dr Zoe, “there are loads of things you can do to reduce free radicals and boost antioxidants, and it just comes back to lifestyle.”

Diet: Avoid processed foods, as these can cause inflammation in the body, and eat a rainbow of antioxidant-rich fruit and veg. Cut down on saturated fats from meat and dairy, but include good fats, such as those found in nuts, seeds, avocados and oily fish.

Exercise: A sedentary lifestyle leads to inflammation within the body that can cause cell damage. Regular activity can boost antioxidants and prolong the life of mitochondria – the little energy powerhouses in our cells. Adding 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise a day to your routine can also reduce the risk of heart problems.

Stress and mental wellbeing: Psychological stress has the knock-on effect of causing the body physical stress that in turn leads to chronic, systemic inflammation, DNA damage and ageing. Manage stress with exercise, relaxation techniques or mindfulness.

Brain function: It really is a case of ‘use it or lose it’ as we age. Don’t view retirement as a time to kick back and relax, rather see it as an opportunity to look for new, stimulating challenges that you really have to think about, and being busier than before.

Oral health: Nature didn’t really design our teeth to last for 80 or 90 years. As we age, we are more likely to lose teeth and get tooth decay or gum disease. There’s even a link between gum disease and heart problems, so it’s critical to be scrupulous about brushing, flossing and getting regular dental check-ups.

The final taboo

Arguably, many of us don’t want to think about ageing because it’s the stage of life that takes us to the inevitable: death. And because many of us rarely encounter death, or talk about it, we only hear about the more dramatic, upsetting cases, which in turn makes it scary. Medical professionals have a lot of experience of death, and would agree with Dr Zoe that it doesn’t have to be that way: “Most people who die, when it’s expected and planned, die in a dignified, kind, peaceful and pain-free way but most of us can’t imagine that happening.” By talking more openly about dying and death we can lift the taboo that casts a shadow over ageing.

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Ageing and beauty

The beauty industry and its social media presence has a notorious reputation for overrepresenting youth and underrepresenting seniors, although some brands are making an effort to be more diverse and inclusive of older people. But can we really hold back the visible signs of ageing with antioxidant face creams and procedures? Dr Zoe is sceptical about anti-ageing claims on beauty products. Similarly, she advises caution about cosmetic procedures such as Botox or injectable fillers: Never let someone unqualified stick a needle in your face, and only use a non-permanent solution – one that will only last 3-6 months. But the only reliable way to slow down ageing is with good diet, regular exercise and stress management.

Role models

As we gain a deeper understanding of what is truly important in life, the tide does seem to be turning away from the pursuit of youthfulness, and more towards appreciation of the wisdom, authenticity and style of older role models such as Iron Gran and ‘national treasures’ such as Dames Judy Dench, Vivienne Westwood, Helen Mirren, and Sir David Attenborough. “Own it,” says Dr Zoe, “being old is amazing.”

You can check out the first episode of the Deal With It podcast on Spotify or Apple Podcasts

And while we’re being all open and talking about sensitive subjects, when was the last time you showed your gums some love?
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