The average life expectancyin world is 77 years. But at the same time, there are people who live up to 80-90 years old, without losing either sharpness of mind or efficiency.
Tells Honorary President of the Association of Gerontologists and Geriatricians of Russia, Academician Vladimir Shabalin.
Lidia Yudina, : Vladimir Nikolayevich, there are several ways to calculate your biological age and life expectancy. How reliable are they?
Vladimir Shabalin: Determination of biological age is an expensive and meaningless pleasure for clinical practice. These studies are used only in scientific medicine. A person’s interest in his biological age is associated mainly with the duration of the coming life. But! Firstly, no one has canceled the element of chance in life (injury, stress, a dangerous virus or an accident). Secondly, death never occurs from old age (complete depletion of vital resources), but more often occurs due to the breakdown of two or three weak links in the body. Predict when this will happen, medicine is not yet able.
Life expectancy is not predicted by genetic studies. The study of the genome of centenarians showed that there are no individual genes responsible for life span. As for the extension of life, today only one reliable way is known – this is constant physical and mental development, continuous movement forward, including in old age.
– In the USSR, the old-age pension was introduced in 1932. At the same time, the retirement age was set at 55 for women and 60 for men. Why was this plank chosen?
– When deciding on the retirement age,in world they were guided by Western countries – in particular, the USA and Germany, where this age barrier was chosen for retirement. Until the middle of the last century, the period of 55-60 years was considered the limit of the active age of a person, since later people have cognitive problems that supposedly make their work ineffective.
— Recently, the retirement age was increased by 5 years. Have people really changed so much in such a short time?
– People really began to age later – this is a fact recognized by the World Health Organization. Today, according to WHO standards, youth lasts up to 45 years (and only a century ago this age was already considered senile), after a period of youth, a person enters middle age – the period of the heyday of professional activity – which lasts up to 60 – 65 years.
We live in a unique time. During the last hundred years there has been an age-related population explosion. In addition to the fact that the average life expectancy has doubled (from 35-40 years – at the beginning of the last century, to 75-80 years – at the beginning of the current), the proportion of older people has increased many times over. As for biological rejuvenation, any person over 40-45 years old can be convinced of this by comparing his photo with a photograph, for example, of his grandfather at the same age. This is explained by various reasons – the success of health care, scientific and technological progress, which has made our life easier, social amenities, etc. However, in my opinion, the matter is different. This is a gift that our “Goddess-Evolution” makes to us. Having solved the problem of increasing the number of people, she concentrated her attention on older age groups in order to enable the human brain, the highest point in the development of living matter, to develop for a longer time. Therefore, today it is the elderly who determine the biological improvement of the intellect of homosapiens.
– However, the opinion of the elderly is listened to only in the East. In the rest of the world, it is believed that an elderly person is no longer able to perceive the new.
– Personality in old age combines a complex composition of the past and the present. At the same time, numerous studies have shown that the process of human development is fundamentally unlimited, since development is the main way of existence of the individual. Intellectual abilities in old age weaken to a certain extent, but at the same time they improve. The weakening of the intellect with age is manifested in a certain slowdown in perception, a decrease in the objectivity of thinking and inertia of judgments. However, when examining memory in people aged 70–90 years, a decrease in mechanical memorization was noted, while logical memory is preserved, figurative memory weakens to a greater extent, but semantic memory remains quite intact. In an elderly person, cognitive abilities are reduced, but creative ones are preserved. An example of this is the fact that most inventions were made by people of mature age. Great works were also mainly created by masters who, even by modern standards, were people of senile age. Leo Tolstoy, Bernard Shaw, Michelangelo, Repin, Aivazovsky and many other outstanding personalities created their best works at the age of 70-80 and older.
It is necessary to abandon stereotypical ideas about older age as a period of survival and exclusion of most life opportunities. On the contrary, this is another period of a full and productive life in all respects. Today, most people who have reached the age of sixty do not consider themselves old and do not leave the thought of continuing their professional activities. And most of them are really useful. The results of gerontopsychological studies convincingly show that workers aged 60-65, when compared with young people, lag behind the latter by 25% in the speed of work, but they are twice as accurate and thorough in their performance.
As for high positions, a person only gains experience over the years, which is necessary for leading large teams. This allows him to avoid many pitfalls that enable the company to successfully operate and develop. Sending executives over 60-65 into retirement is nothing more than squandering a valuable talent pool.
— You are talking about leaders and great masters. What is the point of working for an ordinary teacher, doctor or foreman at a factory for so long?
– To live longer. A long life is always a life for a purpose. People who retire to take a break usually go out of business quickly. A person cannot live without objective labor activity, which gives food to the mind, soul, and body. If he stops working, he begins to invent illnesses for himself and go to doctors, and most importantly, quickly degrade.
Forcing yourself to systematic work is important at any age – from school to gray hair. Laziness is an ageless problem. If children are told that they can go to school if they want, how many of them will go to school? It is also important – for the good of society and the individual himself – to force older people to do their best work. It has been proven that the higher the mental load of a person, the lower the likelihood of developing senile dementia. The brain, like the muscular system, quickly weakens without proper exercise!
Labor is the most powerful geroprotector! The cause of most of our ailments is laziness, lack of will, low physical activity. Not a single lazy person has reached a ripe old age. There is a general biological law: aging affects the least of all and later of all captures the organ that works the most. Everything excluded from action is doomed to rapid degeneration and death.
— But how to maintain their intellectual longevity for those who have already retired?
“Unfortunately, most programs for the older generation are focused on entertainment, leisure – macrame courses, crochet, at best, dancing, Nordic walking, etc. The health benefits of physical activity are undeniable, but for the development of an industrial society, this approach has very secondary value. Another thing is important, it is necessary for a person to preserve not only biological, but also intellectual and professional longevity. After retirement, you can organize either your own business. The current interest of the state in small business provides ample opportunities for this. You can offer your services to big business, or even learn a new profession that is close to the previous one, since today there are a lot of offers for this.
For all that, despite all the versatility of human activity, he himself must bear the main responsibility for the duration and quality of his own life. It is necessary to shift the focus of responsibility for the duration and quality of life on oneself as much as possible, considering health care and social services as only an auxiliary element in protecting, supporting and promoting health. The basis of the psychology of old age should be the motivation for longevity. Longevity is a consequence of the harmony of man with the natural environment of existence. The most important thing in this harmony is psychological comfort in dealing with people and the pleasure of life in general.
Well, in the end, take into service the 7 commandments of longevity.
- Develop deep sustainable personal motivation for longevity;
- Take responsibility for your own health;
- Form a rational mode of intellectual and physical activity;
- Rest assured that the aging process is a mechanism for personal development, not degradation;
- Always remember that life experience allows an elderly person to know and understand himself more deeply, to consciously determine his place in society;
- Cultivate a high spirituality in yourself, develop an understanding of the essence of life, an optimistic outlook on life, a wise, philosophical attitude to all life’s adversities;
- Remember the prayer of the ancient sage more often: “Give me, God, the strength to do what I can do, help me come to terms with what I am not able to do, and teach me to distinguish the first from the second.”