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Gearing up for the 50s

Published:Wednesday | May 9, 2012 | 12:00 AM

By Dr Tomlin Paul

What's the big deal? So you turned 50 recently or you are well over 50 years! Do you feel that you are over the hill? Are you seeing declining life options or are you re-energised for more of life's journey?

Well at 50, you have no doubt already gone through a lot in your life. Around 50 you begin to look back at life, see where you have been and search for a sense of achievement. Life, however, still has a lot to offer and you have a lot to offer life.

Erik Erikson, a developmental psychologist, describes life in the 50s as being in the stage of 'generativity versus stagnation'. It's the period where you have a need to create or nurture things which will outlast you. So having 50 years on the clock, you can now get into new gear or instead gear down and get ready for the red light! Either way, there's likely to be some potholes.

Diseases surface

After 50, a lot of health issues begin to surface which can make you look at life a bit differently. The risk of the major chronic diseases increases as we cross over the 50 landmark. For instance, just about one in every 100 Jamaicans between 15 and 24 years of age has diabetes whereas 30 in every 100 between 65 and 74 years have the condition.

That's a huge increase over the years! So too is the picture for hypertension, heart disease and cancer.

New disease in your life after 50, however, can often be traced back to a combination of family history and things that you have been doing, or not doing before 50! In her moment of shock, a patient asked me, "So where did this diabetes come from all of a sudden!?"

Looking back, however, she can see where she had been slowly gaining weight for many years before. The effect is that she was slowly developing resistance to her own insulin, making it harder and harder for her body to control glucose levels.

Get a check-up

So in gearing up for that stage of generativity where you wish to do new things with your life, with work, family and relationships, you must reduce the impact of disease. Start with a check-up! By that I don't mean throwing yourself at the doctor for a physical and an executive profile! Put some thought into the whole picture before you set off. Ask yourself the following:

  • How do I feel at my age?
  • Of what achievements am I most proud?
  • What do I want now and in the future in my life?
  • What things might get in my way in the future?
  • What are the priorities to address as I move ahead?

Having reflected on these, you begin to have a clearer sense of direction and should be better able to focus on the journey ahead. Now go see your doctor! As you share with your doctor, you should be better motivated to move ahead and address the challenges. Plan for generativity and not stagnation!

Dr Tomlin Paul is a family physician at Health Plus Associates in Kingston; email: