Magazine article USA TODAY

No Stopping the Sands of Time

Magazine article USA TODAY

No Stopping the Sands of Time

Article excerpt

WITH 76,100,000 AMERICANS born fight after World War II, a groundswell of baby boomers are in midlife transitional stages. A critical transition that affects all aspects of our lives is the aging and death of our parents. For one, it implies our own aging and mortality. As we age, inevitably, we arrive at a crucial crossroads, with paths pointing in different directions. Crowding the road is a thicket of tangled emotions. Who am I at this age? Who have I been at various ages? Who will I be as I grow older? We have choices to make. Succumbing to the anxieties--maybe even fears--of aging are easy enough. Dread of death and the unknown dovetail with the aging process. While it takes considerable effort, a journey of self-exploration can be exciting and rewarding, serving to illuminate the road ahead for a smoother, more enlightened experience. This can be a turning point, a time of self-transformation, of re-creating your world, of embracing your age. It can be a time of hope instead of dread.

Before coping with aging parents, it is necessary to deal with one's own aging process. Indeed, as the signs of aging encroach, fears may swirl around and settle in a person's psyche. Forgot the name of the movie you saw last week? No big deal--or is it? Parents suffering from dementia raise a red flag. Is this a forecast of your future? Not really, not rationally, but fears are fears.

So it is with physical symptoms as well. Sun exposure, environmental impurities, stress, mental anguish, and hormonal changes affect health and cause damage, appearing as wrinkles--or more serious degenerative diseases like heart ailments, arthritis, diabetes, dementia, and cancer. There are, however, medical treatments and health food supplements to protect us, but that is only one part of the secret to aging successfully. One's frame of mind and choices for a healthy lifestyle are vital, too. A positive outlook, exercise, sensible and balanced diet, meaningful work, creative endeavors, learning new things, and enjoying loving relationships are essential pieces of the puzzle.

Hormonal changes coupled with psychological issues are related to emotional chaos. Some people endure wide mood swings, over-reacting to commonplace events. Yet, once the underlying issues and conflicts are confronted, much of this distress is likely to be ameliorated. Indeed, aging can be unsettling, hence, individuals have a tendency to deny their aging and subsequent psychological dilemmas. Avoidance of these issues may manifest as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, even adultery.

Alterations in physiology may affect sexual functioning. Pre- and post-menopause bring hormonal changes, and some women experience discomfort during intercourse. Women may avoid sex. This only worsens the situation and is the first step to the decline in the quality of intimate relationships. Over-the-counter lubricants are one solution. Plenty of tofu coupled with health food supplements may be another. Hormonal replacement therapy, on the other hand, can have side effects. So, exercise caution and research the issue.

Many men, too, experience unwanted changes in their sexual performance as they age. I encourage my male patients to speak to their partners about their concerns, rather than avoiding them. Express some ways that your partner can help you. She will feel closer to you and that is what intimacy is all about. If you have enjoyed an active sex life until now, chances are good that you will continue to do so. New medications, meanwhile, may or may not be for you. A urologist will inform you of benefits and drawbacks. Everyone is different, but inevitably, we grow older.

The attitude you have about your aging self will be of the utmost importance to the quality of your love life. Instead of fearing the decline of your sex drive, a discussion of these concerns with your partner can act as foreplay and sex can become an arena for greater communication and intimacy. …

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