Everybody ages differently and nobody actually understands how they wound up at their own 60th birthday party. For most of us, “old” will always be 20 years down the road from whatever age we are now. But there are some surprises in store for some young-ens, some things that nobody warns you about. We asked our friends and Huff/Post50 readers what caught them off guard about the aging process. Here’s some of what they said:
1. Hair relocates; who knew?
Yes, men — and often women — go bald as they age. According to the American Hair Loss Association, by age 35, two-thirds of men experience some hair loss. By 50, about 85 percent of men have significantly thinner hair. Among those who lose hair, 40 percent are female.
But aging also brings with it hair growth in places you don’t really want there to be. Menopause — and certain hormone replacement products you take to beat back its symptoms — can cause facial hair to grow on women. Let’s face it: Thick black chin hairs and a coarse mustache are no friends of womankind.
While there is no scientific evidence to prove this, many a women’s book club has discussed whether the chin hairs appearing are somehow connected to the eyebrows disappearing. Yes, eyebrows go MIA and in many cases, take your eyelashes with them. Truth. Prozac taken for depression and Atenolol for hypertension can also cause it. How big a deal is losing your eyebrows? A pretty big one. Some people have even taken to having eyebrow transplants.
And lastly, there is a change to pubic hair. It thins out to a shell of its former glory and will turn white or gray just like the hair that remains on your head. Don’t sweat this one too much because the extra belly roll that many middle-agers sprout generally blocks our vision of what’s going on down below anyway.
2. Our bellies can beget more bellies.
On men, we call those protruding pouches that spill over the top of trousers “beer bellies.” But women get them too and they really don’t come from drinking too much beer. They are belly fat and they are the enemy of good health. Regardless of your overall weight, carrying around a spare tire on your middle will increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. The National Institute on Aging says belly fat comes from the age-related slowing of your metabolism.
Reader Helen Pardoe, who is nearly 70, has put on some weight since she retired five years ago. “While working I was always very slim,” she said. “It could be that I sit more, or I have less stress or that I enjoy my food more…” She added, “I am not complaining. I am healthy and I can put up with dieting every so often, just to keep my fat under control.” Same thing happened to reader Sue Burroughs, who just turned 69 and retired two years ago. “I always took the stairs and frequently used them multiple times every day at work — 42 steps! Now with about 15 additional pounds to carry around, I realize what a good thing I was doing!”
3. For some, the days fly by.
Remember how, after you had kids, you’d tell people how you only thought you were busy before they came along? Oddly, that’s what some retirees say about retirement. Reader Burroughs wrote, “Before I retired I always got annoyed at retirees who said, ‘I don’t know how I ever worked! I wouldn’t have the time to fit work into my schedule now.’ And now I find that there aren’t enough hours in the day …” Posting as Nature’s Medicine Cabinet came this in agreement: “Time certainly seems to speed up each day I grow older.” Staying busy is good for us. Busy people are happier people.
4. But that is not a universal truth.
Loneliness sucks at any age, but not having interesting people or things to fill your days in retirement can lead to depression. So can illness, pain and chronic medical conditions. Depression impacts older people differently than it does younger people. In the elderly, it lasts longer and is associated with an increased risk of cardiac diseases and an increased risk of death from illness. Studies of nursing home patients with physical illnesses have shown that the depression substantially increases the likelihood of death from those illnesses.
Instead of going straight from the rat race to the bingo game, the new trend is a gradual ease into retirement. It even has a name: phased-in retirement. You basically shift to part time and train the younger workers how to do your job. And besides, who still plays bingo anyway with Candy Crush just a screen click away? Games and puzzles are actually good for aging brains, studies have shown, and online gaming is an inexpensive form of entertainment and it doesn’t require driving at night.
5. Aging hurts sometimes.
A few readers said that no one warned them about the multitude of aches and pains they would experience as they got older and their body parts begin to fail. Reader Tom Stowe said he is plagued with “daily joint pain that limits the amount of things you can accomplish in a day.” Reader Elaine Vallo could do without the “sagging skin.” And Ilene Whitehead just wrote “aches and pains!!”
Attitude, it’s a wondrous thing. The true fountain of youth may be found in having a positive attitude.
6. You finally shake off middle school.
What you’ve heard about not caring what others think is absolutely true — and a great part of aging. You wear comfortable shoes. You never ask what the expected attire is anymore. You will go to the grocery store without wearing makeup. It isn’t that you don’t care about how you look; it’s that you don’t care how others think you look.
There may be nothing more liberating than the freedom not to care.