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Think twice ... it could be your mother

Xtreme Aging is a three-hour training program designed by Macklin Intergenerational Institute in Findlay, Ohio, to simulate the diminished abilities associated with old age.

Many of us are fine-tuning the system that will allow our elderly loved ones to continue living by themselves, in their own home. Once an elderly person can no longer live independently, there are a number of “assisted living” options available. Frequently, the old person will resist the move.

To become a virtual member of the 5.3 million Americans age 85 and older, the nation’s fastest-growing age group, Xtreme Aging will have you do the following: put on distorting glasses to blur vision; stuff cotton balls in ears to reduce hearing, and in the nose to dampen sense of smell; and put on latex gloves with adhesive bands around the knuckles to impede manual dexterity. Then, put kernels of corn into shoes to approximate the aches that come from losing fatty tissue.

With these newly-acquired “handicaps,” now go through a series of routine tasks, including buttoning a shirt, finding a number in a telephone book, dialing a cell phone and folding and unfolding a map. The result will be a domestic obstacle course.

The simulation is not quite like the aging process, because as people get older, they lose their abilities slowly, and compensate by adjusting their behavior. The simulation is mostly used as a sensitivity training tool for schools, churches, nursing homes, work places and other groups that have contact with the elderly.

What a drag it is getting old, even if it’s just make-believe.

The next time you’re in line at the grocery store and you’re thinking, “You old geezer, hurry up,” think twice. That could be your mother. That could be your grandma.

To take a cautionary view of your future — that could be you.

But let’s now allow ourselves to recede any further from us. Faced with old age, latecomers can take comfort in the news that it’s never too late to start getting fit. Ninety-year-olds respond to training in the same way that younger people do — they get stronger and build up muscle.

From the age of about 50 onward, there is a steady decline in the body’s muscle mass which, if left unchecked, can lead eventually to increasing frailty and loss of ability to perform even basic functions, such as climbing stairs or working around the house.

Let me assure you that strength training can help offset the loss in muscle mass and strength typically associated with normal aging. Studies have shown that older men and women can achieve two- and three-fold increases in muscle strength — not mass — in as little as three to four months. Strength training is an important way to increase levels of physical activity among the elderly. Additional benefits from regular strength training include improved bone health and, thus, reduction in risk of falling and associated injuries and fractures.

As people grow older, many worry that if they exercise, they may do more harm than good and perhaps injure themselves. But the fear is simply not true, even in the case of the very old. Remaining sedentary is more dangerous than any physical activity. However, be advised that those who have been sedentary all their lives should consult a doctor before starting exercise to be sure there are no hidden medical problems.

Twenty years from now, a nation of superfit 70-somethings will redefine old age. The elderly, even though they may not look like, ”Jason Stratham,” will talk not only of grandchildren and ailments and medications, but also of personal trainers and weight lifting and their times in the mile (swimming, running or cycling).

This isn’t an especially bold prediction. The trend already is underway. People 55 and older account for a whopping 35 percent of our recreation center usage. And these members aren’t just stewing in the Jacuzzi. They are lifting weights, playing racquetball with partners half their age, and swimming a mile or more several times a week.

Faced with old age, the latecomers will take comfort in the news that it’s never too late to start strength training. Just remember, old folks respond to training the same way that young people do — they get stronger and build up muscle tissue.

Spring break boom

The recreation center has been bombarded with Wyndham timeshare owners and renters who are here to enjoy their spring vacation. We have been exceeding 400 timeshare users per day. The crowding of the facility and parking lot is temporary — just for the rest of the month.

During the day, there is still plenty of room. It’s mostly in the evening, after our visitors come off the ski slopes, that we feel the pressure. If you don’t like crowds, use the facility during the day. Remember, this is a seasonal business boom.

Now, if you enjoy talking with visitors, come soak in the hot tub between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. They’ll make you feel so blessed to be living here, surrounded by a great deal of scenic beauty and top-notch skiing. Watch them turn green with envy.

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