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					Ageing, with special reference to Menopause.

A two part analysis of physical emotional and societal aspects of

aging, of interest to men and women, with an emphasis on health,

on all levels.

Part One social and psychological aspects.

We‟re all getting older! How are we managing the process? In the

bloom of youth? perfect skin, supple limbs, sound lungs, good

muscles teeth and eyesight. Taking it all for granted? Burning the

candle at both ends? Sometimes careless about regular food and


Or In one‟s prime? Downplaying the odd niggle, because you‟re

physically strong and active, creative and productive, attractive

and beautiful (both genders). Maybe some concerns about the

future, finances, job security, Overworking maybe, and still

careless about eating and sleeping at times, but have invested in a

juicer and a blender, even use them quite a lot?

Or have reached official state-registered crumbly status, or well

beyond it, and still productive, creative, though a bit stiffer, and

wearing specs, maybe a few crowns or root canals? And looking

back, wish that we‟d set a few different priorities in youth and
middle years, and wondering how to change the balance now,

maybe regain some ground?

Believe me I know all these stages, am now in my eighth decade,

and have got quite a lot of it right sometimes. I‟ve also become

aware how much better I could have done. This piece is to help

you to plan for the smoothest transition through the stages,

wherever you are now, looking ahead to the healthiest and most

productive later years you can achieve. Let‟s ban here and now

that horrible phrase “old age”, with all its connotations of has-been,

socially insignificant, powerless, unattractive, third class citizen.

And that‟s where one of the most annoying and difficult-to-combat

social perceptions has an effect. For some people it even has the

power to make them feel unhappy with themselves and turns them

from independent beings into evaluating themselves in these

degrading and insulting terms. Unfairly, this is more so for women

than men. We‟re a very long way from real gender equality yet,

and maybe the raw community, with an emphasis on health and

creativity, rather than on merely youthful beauty, could be a strong

voice in getting nearer to that.
We are all aware there is a very unequal situation in social

perspectives on the aging process. We see this in the media

particularly on screen where lined and elderly, even short

tempered! men are seen as attractive powerful interesting and

creative. At the same age or earlier, women either drop out of sight

or are dismissed as some kind of second or third class citizen. It is

not the same in medicine, law, teaching or nursing, plumbing or

engineering. Anywhere you can do a good job you can get a good

job! What the screen, magazine and some newspapers‟

inequalities both reflect and influence is a very deep seated social

perspective, which has its roots in the view of female as being at

the service of the male. I won‟t attempt to summarise the feminist

perspectives and the continuing struggle around this issue. But I

do want to say especially to younger readers, that although there

are a few more social freedoms for women now, these are

probably more down to good contraception than the willing and

conscious intentions of our society! We have some token equality

of opportunity legislation, but the employment and career statistics

tell the real story, and in this country we see some extreme results

of this view, in the position of some of our Asian or Middle Eastern

residents. As I heard Germaine Greer say very recently, the
“battle for gender equality is only just beginning”. I believe it is

down to young men and women to tackle it together.

It is this very powerful social perspective which can make life

rather hard for women as they grow older. I suspect that this is a

very live issue for many people who follow a high percentage raw

and living foods dietary. Looking back a few years in our

comparatively new specialised literature, I‟m conscious that a lot of

it started out purely talking of health benefits. The word

rejuvenation was used in the context of detoxing and renourishing

the body to prevent disease and preserve vitality and energy.

Gradually, that word, rejuvenate, has taken massive hold of the

mainstream beauty industry, to include surgery and wrinkle creams

and drugs like HRT. Disappointingly, some of that perspective has

crept into “our” literature and makes me wonder if some of the

motivation for going raw now comes from a desire to delay the

aging process, not just for health but also for youth and social

acceptance „beauty reasons‟ also. Can I say, as firmly as I can

that Dr. Ann Wigmore‟s original Living Foods Programme, was

about regaining lost health, and improving and prolonging

excellent health. Words like vitality, energy, and clear thinking,

sprinkled the books. Nowhere did you read about youthful beauty

standards, weight loss for its own sake or reducing wrinkles. Nor
will you find such concepts in the most reputable Living Foods

Centres around the world today. If our so called “Raw Movement”

is to stand out from the rest of the also ran health and beauty

industry, we need firmly to underline and restore that former


In any case let‟s look at some exceptions to this image of older

people being past it.

I think that we all know examples of elderly people in their 90‟s

having always smoked two packets of cigarettes a day and eaten

all kinds of foods but still have a healthy, in the sense of energetic

and comparatively disease free life, late into their tenth decade.

Other people much more obviously look and feel weary and go

down with many minor and major problems from their fifth decade

onwards and this is certainly not limited to women.

Is this down to genes? To a happy and contented outlook? Do they

eat less than the rest of the population?.

There have been several studies on calorie restriction and how this

seems to affect the aging process (slows it down) done with mice;

reducing their calories by half and finding that the disease resistant

genes seem to switch on and they get up to 30% more life. Good

quality life that is fertile, energetic, disease free. Other studies
have monitored restrictive calorie diets in humans, cutting intake

by 30%. There was a study done 15 or so years ago where

people had to be very, very hungry before they ate and they

weren‟t allowed any cakes or biscuits. They had lots of greens,

grated cheese, etc. They also had to limit their exercise. They

found they had no aches or pains, however such experiments

seem to lead to the conclusion that it isn‟t simply what you do with

your diet, but it is also a matter of your genetic inheritance.

Scientists have experimented with the theory that the important

process is basically how efficiently we use or “burn” food. This is

an idea going back to the 1950‟s/60‟s that a leading cause of aging

was related to a faster heart beat and that the need for oxygen for

all energy generation was crucial. However they found that the

conversion of energy into oxygen actually causes the free radicals.

In experiments done with different kinds of mice bred to withstand

oxidative stress, they found the results were unexpected and after

10 years of this experimentation they finally came down against

the oxidative stress theory. That doesn‟t mean that we don‟t need

exercise by the way! We still need to get good oxygen around the

Later a so called longevity gene was discovered which led to the

design of a very expensive pill by a researcher who is currently

trialling this on himself and his family, at vast expense. At the time

of writing the results are still out. We don‟t know whether there will

be side effects, whether it might cause cancerous overgrowth for

example. However there are a few people out there apparently

taking the risk along with some very expensive anti aging pills.

The tips of our chromosomes, which we need for regeneration of

the cells, get shorter as they divide and that means that eventually

no more cell division can happen and at that point you have death.

There is an enzyme timolerese which combats this chromosome

shortening when it is inside the cells. This is actually produced in

the body by the reproductive cells which in fact don‟t age the way

that other cells in body do. There‟s a hopeful scientist in Nevada,

aiming to live 500 years, who is taking an enzyme (called TA65 if

you have $25.000 dollars a year to spare). This produces

timorelese to go into the cells, and presumably allow cell division

for very much longer.

Yet another theory is that aging is caused by an abnormal protein

which occurs in the cell, owing to mutation, and the damage
caused is less easily repaired in older people, though it is not

known why. This doesn‟t mean that we can ignore the fact of

chromosome shortening however, as this is an established

process, and once the chromosomes are too short for cell division

then that‟s it, there isn‟t any more leeway left.

So much for some recent research into cell behaviour, but are we

all entirely happy with this approach?

Is there anything in all this rather futuristic research which we can

use to understand our own longevity health status? Not really.

Lets look instead at our here and now health status and work to

maintain and improve it naturally. How much do we need to look

at our exercise and sleep and relaxation and rest and work and

thought patterns in order to maximise out own individual potential

health and longevity? And how much can that be aided by a

superb diet and what is a superb diet? Does it mean 100% raw or

living foods for some people, for all people? Maybe not?

Maybe the first thing to look at is our parents. What sort of

illnesses do they have? What are their joints like? What are their

hands like? Their knees? Apparently, at the moment 1 in 10,000

people live to the age of 100. But when you look at very specific

population groups, some people live much longer, active lives. . we
are all familiar with the old studies of population of the Hunzas in

looking at their mineral intake and the whole of their lifestyle to see

how it was that most of the 80 year old men could happily live in a

mountain climate where westerners couldn‟t get enough oxygen,

and can run about with big packs on their backs or play football for

recreation and so on. A complete contrast to what‟s going on in

the rest of Western Europe.

A newer study is one looking at a group of 100 year old Ashkenazi

Jews. The point about that was that there was a genetic pool in

common but they were not health obsessed. 30% were actually

obese. Quite a lot of them smoked. Not many were vegetarians

and they certainly didn‟t eat loads of yogurt and they didn‟t

exercise spectacularly either.

The generally accepted idea is that your health and longevity is

about 80% down to life style and environment and about 20%

down to the genes. However, when you study groups of

centenarians in this way they seem to be able to do as they wish

during their life time and they still live to 100. So it looks as though

there are some genes which are specific to longevity and there are

obviously more of those found in people who live to 100 plus.
There is a small experiment which was done with a few volunteer

Alzheimers patients. For one week they had to live as if it were 20

years in their past. They had no carers, they had to live a 1950‟s

environment speaking in the present tense. They watched 1950s

films and ate 1950‟s food etc. In short, they lived in the

environment they had actually lived in 20 years earlier.and they

had to cope with it. The question was would they actually become

younger on the assumption that they were…. The interesting thing

about this little study of Alzheimer‟s patients is that two days into

the trial they all became actively involved in their daily tasks as

autonomous individuals. Their physical activity and their cognitive

ability improved, they added weight, they had increased IQ

readings, better vision and hearing.

This is an experiment we can use! The message being “act young

and competent” and you will become young and competent. And

the overall message coming out of several studies is that we

probably will live as long as we think we should. Now we are

approaching an understanding of aging that goes far beyond

tinkering with the cells. If thinking old or thinking young is so

powerful it is even more important not to subscribe to superficial

fashion and media perspectives on youth and age.
If we do, as we all age we will measure ourselves against

destructive attitudes which devalue us as individuals.

I would just like to mention some amazing role models. Think

about that beautiful tomboy Bridget Bardot and the photogenic

Sophia Loren. Bardot was famous for untouched and relaxed and

informal photographs, appearing in shorts in publicity photographs

and casually dressed in public. And Sophia Loren was 72 when

she posed for a Pirelli calendar not so long ago, 2006. In the

music sphere Shirley Bassey keeps on recording and Cleo Laine

recently gave a performance in her late 70‟s, immediately after the

death of her husband John Dankworth.

So we have plenty of role models from football playing 80 year old

Hunzas to amazing Africans, Georgians and even a few examples

in our comparatively degenerate western European tradition. So

what are we going to do to cope with the social and emotional

pressures of the signs of aging?

We definitely need to look at overall lifestyle because you can

wear yourself out faster than you need to. You can over tax the

digestive system and the whole of the physical organism and on

the plus side you can certainly switch off from negative social

perceptions of aging especially for women. One day they‟re wolf
whistling from the scaffolding, and seemingly the next day you are

invisible. What do you do? Not turn to cosmetic remedies and

concentrate on how you look, I hope. Rather take stock of your

health and fitness, check your diet and exercise are the best for

you, and review the balance of work and play, the richness of

friendships and interests. If you have got into a rut, get out of it or

at least start looking over the edge. What is the more important

thing about you, your looks or your inner life and the creative and

productive social life that you lead? By all means get a new haircut

and a gym subscription, not to please the onlookers, but because

they make you feel good in yourself. They have an effect on your

self regard and therefore help your emotional and mental outlook

just as much as the healthy diet and lifestyles. The truth is that

feeling comfortable in your skin starts at an early age, so start now

to value yourself for who you are, not how you look. I am speaking

specifically to women here. If the first half of your life depends on

your relationships with men with women trading on their looks and

their attractiveness then adjustment is going to be very much more


To be a successful and happy social being, it‟s really important to

keep up with your friends, cherish their differences, differences

between each other and from you, and if you have moved away
and lost touch or find that after a few years you seem to only know

your partners social circle, then carve out a new section for

yourself now.

It is true that older women and men can become an essential part.

the family Not as unpaid, unseen, unappreciated helpers and

carers, but also as a very valued and popular element of social

contact with the third generation down. This is what age should

be, passing on a relaxed and easy way of communicating and in

the loosest possible sense of the word, educating and teaching

young people. Simply by being around them and swapping ideas,

I find that grandchildren as they grow become much more

appreciative of interested and interesting older relatives.

. Men also will have a lot less energy, less muscle power as they

age and drugs are no more an answer for men than face lifts and

drugs are for women.

Women however experience specific discomforts and symptoms

with menopause itself. I will deal with all the things we can do

about this physically next time. This time however, I believe it is

more important to emphasise the psychological and emotional

shifts we experience with aging; without a balanced response to
these, any amount of rejuvenating techniques, clever drugs or

surgery, can possibly deliver a serene outlook, allied to a lively

sense of self value, and an eternal curiosity to learn about the

world and other people instead of oneself.

From personal experience I can tell you that yes, life does begin at

50. It renews again at 60 and yes, it opens out again, differently,

at 70. I‟ll let you know what it‟s like at 80 when I get there.

Next time I will look at the specific things women can do before

and during menopause for a smoother hormonal transition, and

measures for both men and women for maintaining general health

throughout a long life.

Interestingly, this may not be by eating 100% raw for everyone!

However if you are not using a juicer daily for a green juice, and a

blender also daily for a power packed energy soup/smoothie, I

suggest starting there. Summer is the easiest season to step up

your good eating habits.

Meantime stay out of the midday sun, but get enough for your

vitamin D. Smoking and coffee do far more wrinkle damage than

moderate sun exposure, as do late nights and poor sleep..

A shortened version of this article “Aging Gratefully” appeared in

Fresh Magazine summer 2010

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