I know this term more from working with physical therapists than I do by observing my own grandparents — my grandfather was lifting weights and riding his bike into his 70s, and my grandma swore by her morning walks into her 80s. But they are not only the exception, they demonstrate how exercise and activity can slow down the slippery slope of aging toward frailty discussed in this post.
Aging isn’t fun for anyone. My grandmother is 90 now and describes herself as “meaner than a junkyard dog.” She can’t hear very well, and she’s pretty much blind due to macular degeneration. But I believe she is able to take care of herself and live on her own due to the healthy life she has lived for decades, one of moderate drinking, healthy eating, and plenty of activity. If I’ve learned anything from her (aside from the value of a good looking shoe), it’s that I will be striving to do the same in order to have a better chance at being healthy when I’m her age.
Sarcopenia and loss of strength
with advice from Daniel Butler, CEP
As people age, they often start to experience sarcopenia, as well as osteopenia and osteoporosis. Having weaker muscles and bones, plus the arthritis caused by years of wear and tear, can make movement more difficult and painful. The pain leads to less activity, which contributes to weaker bones and muscles, making it even more difficult to move. And so on.
Doctors and scientists are still not quite sure what causes sarcopenia, but they have linked a number of factors to its development, according to the Mayo Clinic: age-associated hormone changes, physical inactivity, inflammation, and diseases like cancer and diabetes. Because inactivity can lead to sarcopenia, doctors encourage older adults to exercise more to build muscle mass.