A prescription for old age

Lynne McTaggart

Aside from rushing around to ready ourselves for the festivities, this time of time of year gives most of us pause.  It’s a time for good cheer, but also for assessing our lives.
Most of us in the West assume that if we’re lucky enough to exceed our threescore and ten – the Biblical estimate of our lifespan — we do so at the expense of our bodies.  We’ve come to expect that the long path to our death is accompanied by an inevitable decline in our physical health. And, of all the things we fear, perhaps the most terrifying is the prospect of decay.  We live with the certainty that we will grow progressively more feeble, forgetful and immobile.
The latest evidence would suggest that this perception of old age has largely resulted from the interfering hands of modern medicine. 
Medicine that ages
The fact is that old people are drowning in unnecessary medication.   The over-60s make up just 8 per cent of the population. Nevertheless, they are prescribed more than a third of all medicines dispensed by doctors. In fact, the average person aged 60 years or over is prescribed at least six drugs – all interacting to unknown effect.
Recent research has shown that the major drugs routinely dispensed as just-in-case medicine for the over-60s from cholesterol-lowering drugs to aspirin, cause all the conditions that we now associate with old age: physical instability, forgetfulness, incontinence and dementia.
At least five major classes of drugs routinely prescribed to seniors cause falls;  many cause incontinence. And virtually any drug - even those sold over the counter - is capable of causing some sort of cognitive impairment or brain fog – with all the hallmarks of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. 
Sam’s decline
I saw this situation close to home with our neighbor ‘Sam’.  This remarkable man handled all the gardening and physical labor around his daughter’s house well into his eighties.  One of his party tricks was to race around his garden with his small grandson in a large wheelbarrow.
As he turned a bit forgetful, his doctor prescribed him powerful antipsychotics.  His decline was precipitous.  In short order he had completely lost his memory, become paranoid and difficult, landed in a nursing home, refused his food and finally just gave up.   
Our neighbor’s situation begs the question of which came first – the problem or the ‘solution’. If seniors given drugs evidence symptoms, doctors are quick to reach for the prescription pad to hand out yet more drugs to handle what are simply side effects caused by a drug the senior likely doesn’t need in the first place.
Medicalizing the elderly
This situation also raises the issue of whether the conditions we associate with old age are truly inherent to the aging process or largely the outcome of our medicalization of the elderly.  How much cognitive decline is inevitable, and how much the result of preventative medicine and a misunderstanding of what the body needs as it ages?
A clue comes from examining the very oldest people on earth in the so-called   ‘Blue Zones’.  In areas like Sardinia, where there are more centenarians than other places on earth, men and women in their tenth and eleventh decade continue to work and remain highly mobile.  A full and active day, locally grown, fresh, organic food and strong social ties are the usual prescription for a long and healthy span of years. 
We would do well to understand that a prescription drug could never take the place of a productive, well-connected and purposeful life.  
May you treat your body well this holiday season and surround yourself with loving friends.

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Lynne McTaggart

Lynne McTaggart is an award-winning journalist and the author of seven books, including the worldwide international bestsellers The Power of Eight, The Field, The Intention Experiment and The Bond, all considered seminal books of the New Science and now translated into some 30 languages.

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29 comments on “A prescription for old age”

  1. I always enjoy your blogs and I pray for the people on your intention list, even though I haven't been able to log on at the specified times.
    In this blog, you affirm my decision to eschew prescription drugs. Fortunately, I am blessed with good health.
    Blessings on you, your team, and your good work.

  2. YES Lynn! I totally agree - I take no prescriptions - and I'm 78 years old - I'm a little wobbly - but that's all...my mind is fine and if I did more exercise I wouldn't be wobbly - my fault - I wish more people would take their emotional and physical health in their own hands.

  3. I am 82 years young and I swim everyday in the beautiful Rainbow River in Dunnellon, Florida. It is spring fed , 72 degrees year round. I have refused medication from the doctors and eat only organic food. As a licensed massage therapist I see clients who are on a merry- go-round of medications from doctors. They start with one and then the doctor prescribes another med to counteract the other. It goes on and on. Added to this is all the junk that is put into our food...let's read the ingredients carefully and be healthly!

  4. Very true Lynn! in my neighourhood, there lives a lady, must be 80, very hardworking, and till date living a very active life.......away from medicines, a lively personality who loves music, movies on television....an excellent cook, and a very generous helping hand for others.........so, my dear its positive attitude towards life, active daily routine, and that's All!!!
    Good Luck or All your positive effforts!!

  5. As a contrary type, I'll stand up for the drugs.
    This in spite of the fact that I have been trained & use Native American medicine successfully against modern sicknesses like cancer.
    I'm 86, and still active. I disagree with the docs about some of the stuff they Rx, but Celebrex &
    others help me keep on going, physically & mentally. I'm still teaching & in there swinging!

  6. Thank you for this article Lynne.
    I have 3 women in my life who are absolutely amazing when it comes to aging. One is 80, another 95 and another 83. They are all completely coherent and have memories like proverbial elephants! Two of them are completely active, still drive, travel abroad and conduct their own business completely. One works whenever people will hire her - she is a retired University Lecturer. One has borne 10 children and even though she has osteoporosis and limited mobility, otherwise is as healthy as an ox. To the best of my knowledge, only one (the 83 yr old) is on any medication!
    Historically, none of these women have been 'pampered' in their lives and have all had to make their own way - two of them as single mothers, one of which a widow raising nine children in a Third World country.
    I myself suffer from chronic depression and sometimes a day doesn't go by when I don't think of dying. What amazes me with these women is their continual state of optimism and their ability to still look to and plan for the future despite the societal and cultural notion that they 'will go any time now'.
    To support your statements about medications and side-effects - I have indeed witnessed just this situation with one of them in the year following an angioplasty for clogged arteries. Now that she is off the 20+! medications she was on, to talk to her you would never know her age.
    Keep up the good work Lynne. I love your commentaries and insights. Seasons Greetings to all who celebrate this time of year.

  7. Thanks for this article .
    I myself was on medication for High blood pressure as the Doctor told me mty family could sue him if he didnt presribe them for me.Ater 10 year when I was experiencing difficulty breathing and severe incontinence I looked up the tablets on the computer. How I wish I had done this before .I realised I had been suffering from white coat syndrome due to incident in child hood .I now practice EFT, and stopped the tablets and my breathing difficulties are slowly improving .I am only now occaisionally incontinent ,and am feeling so much better .My Blood pressure is fine .love joy and abundance to you and your team .

  8. It's amazing anyone takes modern prescription drugs. In the length of drug commercials on TV,half of them are warnings of "mild" and complex side effects some of which may lead to death. C'mon..what a crock! Scares the heck out of me. Glad I don't take them. BTW,I've heard vitamin B15 actually rejuvenates cells and keeps you younger. The med establishment would rather not let you know about it.

  9. Thank you, Lynn. Wise and timely information and comments. I'm 68 years old and was on Vytorin for cholesterol for years, as it was "a genetic tendency". Indeed, my cholesterol was perfect with medication, but now I have gall bladder stones, which probably spell Vytorin. I told my doctor I'm taking myself off the medication and I hope that my levels will continue normal without the drugs. I eat healthy and exercise and have no stress now that I'm retired. My husband takes no drugs whatsoever. He has high cholesterol, too, but just tries to watch his diet. As you mention, love for life keeps you going and there is no better motivation for living than doing something for others, loving and being active. Best wishes for the holiday.

  10. More than 50% of people in the west over the age of 75, has Alzheimers disease.
    This " walking dead " disease is actually No 2 villain -- after heart attack ( not cancer )--
    -- it is surprising how little attention is paid to old parents and grand parents who deserve a better deal, from their ungrateful children.
    All of us become old .
    Heart attack can be controlled by consuming " living water " with low surface tension and just being happy.
    Alzheimers is an unknown disease in India --where 1/6 of the planets population resides. It is due to the magic of circumin.
    punch in QUANTUM MEDICINE TURMERIC in google search-- it might change your life.

  11. Love the blog and love the comments. I am only in my fifties but feel very fit. I never take any drugs or drink and eat fresh raw organic food as much as I can. The other day since I had a little lower back pain I took an Ibuprofen on the strong recommendation of a family member. I really disliked the feeling of having a drug inside me and for the first time in a long time felt in a bad temper. I could not wait for the feeling to wear off and won't do that again in a hurry and would rather have the back pain that previously I've eased with a little self-healing reiki. I totally believe that we can and are meant to feel great for many decades and we are being robbed of this spiritual right by a huge cultural commercial con. But one at a time we are awakening and becoming aware and thanks Lynn for accelerating that process.

  12. My mother is 89 years old. She is healthy, lives alone in an appartement and is doing everything of her housekeeping, she cooks, cleans, goes to the shop, using her bike, walks with me long walks when I visit her 1 day in the week, sleeps well, uses no drugs at all. She is healthy in her thinking. The only thing I do for her is cleaning the windows, She is a strong woman.

  13. The notion that excessive meds cause more problems than they're supposed to cure is quite possible - could the reference(s) for the "Recent research has shown..." be provided please?

  14. lot's of exercise, sunlight and good food seems to be the universal prescription for long life...
    although I'm sure some of these "blue zones" use herbal and local medicinal ingredients for common ailments?
    we would do well to follow their example...
    Write On!

  15. This bloc and all the comments remember me of my granddad who ended up in hospital for a minor thing when he was in his 80ties.
    He got medication and became paranoic or demented. So he could'nt go home and was listed for a mental institution, nuts house? Whatever you call it.
    Then my Mom got angry and said: stop the pills, no more pills. The week after, he was able to go home as a sane man. Lived supported for another 10 years in his own house.
    Then old age got him and he had to go to a nursing home. This is in the Netherlands a long listing story, but because of the old listing 'a demented old man' he got a place right away. So they brought him to this asylum.
    I never forget his tears when I visited him.
    'They are all nuts here', he cried.
    The story has a good ending. He was eventually taken into a nice old peoples home and became the bird feeder of the doves of Roermond. He loved birds all his life and his photo was on the citymap.
    I still wonder what would have happened if my Mom hadn't forbidden the pills.

  16. My father is 86 years old. He does take a few drugs every day and is aware that they have side effects but is too scared to get off them. However, he is in great shape. Why? Because he has a purpose in life. He lives with my middle aged sister and her two young adopted children ages 9 and 7. Between helping with school runs and homework and soothing childhood fears and being a great cuddler he has plenty to keep him occupied as well as transforming a wilderness into a beautiful garden over the past seven years. As Viktor Frankel put it so well in his book 'Man's Search for Meaning', without meaning and purpose in our lives we are going nowhere. We all need to work proactively towards meaningful old age. The wisdom of the third age is a grossly under-appreciated and under-utilized resource. We have great teachers and mentors all around us. We need to find new ways to channel all that wonderful energy.

  17. @Aaron #16 you said Are you sure wholesale condemnation of medication for the elderly is appropriate? Should BP meds be stopped? How about cardiac meds? Diabetic meds? Are you prepared to live by your words, even when your own life depends on it?
    I am 55 years old. And I live by those words. A had strokes, a heart attack, angioplasty, between the ages of 50 and 52. High blood pressure meds destroyed my singing voice. And a combination of them that I was given was shown by British research in 2007 to provoke diabetes. Maybe that is why my presciptions were discreetlly changed when I was in the hospital after the heart attack. I threw away the diabetes meds (which were not insulin) that I was told I would have to take for life after finding out that they were making me hypoglycemic. I control my blood sugar with diet. I want nothing to do with drugs for chronic illness. The doctors never talked about a plan to heal me, only manage my symptoms.
    I refuse to be another profit center for Big Pharma.
    I an mot saying that I am restored to perfect health, but that meds are not the way to go beyond an acute period. And I would be better if I didn't have so many financial hassles. That ruins health more than anything.

  18. At 90 I take no pharmaceuticals. I have taken powdered Chinese herbs morning and evening for twenty years, prescribed and prepared for me by a Chinese medicine specialist and acupuncturist. I have for many years taken an array of vitamins, minerals, and other supplements. I teach at the college level and in adult education settings every day of the week. Aside from a gimpy right knee of many years past, I'm fine. The herbs prevent a return of bronchitis from 20 years ago. I believe that circulatory issues slow us down, but that exercise and supplements reduce those effects. I have for many years been committed to "The Field" worldview. Of vital importance to me is my daily routine of prayer, meditation, following the Julia Cameron "morning pages" writing routine, and practicing a companionship with God, so to speak, often during a typical day. I am not dogmatically religious, but still love and endorse the group worship of the Episcopal Church, with its wonderful language and music. I have many friends, and always a loving family near. Only one other family member of my generation survives, but none of my school generation. One must continue to make new friends. Life, and the world go ever onwards, change is constant, but the essentials of life do not change, as the French remind us. One must choose love as the ruling principle of life. To live in fear is disastrous. Beauty is everywhere: one sees it constantly, if one stays alert to its presence. Health is one's most precious possession.

  19. If I have understood, correctly, the work of Lynn (The Field, etc), Michael Talbot (The Holographic Universe, etc), Dean Radin (Entangled Minds, etc) and many others, then, all this talk about the reality of dis-ease and the effects or ill-effects of medicine is nonsense.
    As I understand it, the MIND (whatever that is, either conscious or subconscious) creates it's own reality out of the Conscious, Holographic, Field that both animates physicality and, at the same time, produces the physicality which it animates.
    Just the belief in the idea of sickness, as a reality, is cause for it's manifestation in form. Of course, the opposite is also true.
    However, the conundrum created by this logic is best demonstrated, to my mind, in the following:
    "A famous and talented stage magician promises to turn any object presented to him, on stage, into pure gold in full view of everyone... Provided that no one THINKS about the gold."

  20. I'm 68 and had an experience with medications at a HMO that I can laugh about now because I no longer take medications of any type and are generally healthy. But, back in 2000, I hadn't gone to a doctor for 13 years and when I injured a knee falling over a friend's dog, I knew I'd need to have it looked at so I went to Kaisers. They fitted me with a knee brace and gave me some pain pills which immediately caused stomach problems. So, then, they gave me medication for the stomach pain and it caused a bladder infection. Then, I was given medication for the bladder infection which caused incontinence. Finally, I went in and a doctor looked at the brace and told me it was the wrong one and not fitted right and took it off. She wanted to give me another prescription. I put my hands on her shoulders, looked her in the eye, and told her I was getting out of there before she killed me. Fortunately, she had a good sense of humor and laughed. She told me that I was probably making the right decision. Everything cleared up and no more medicine for me (or doctors, thank you very much). And, when I attend my exercise classes regularly, no more knee problems. It helps that I also do Reiki, of course.

  21. Der Text entspricht genau meiner Auffassung. Ich bin 63 Jahre alt und werde teilweise bis zu 20 Jahre jünger geschätzt. Ich habe noch nie Schmerzmittel genommen und lehne, das auch ab. Belasten tut mich nur in diesem Deutschland, das ich auf Grund meines Alters keine Arbeit mehr zu bekommen. Man darf das aber keinen Arzt sagen, sofort bekommt man irgend ein Medikament gegen Depression verschrieben. Die Gesellschaft ist doch krank.

  22. My early Catholic upbringing had something in it about the remission of sin( praying for it, or something). Lynne, your previous blog theme has stirred up something. Another of your topics had to do with meditators having an impact on crime statistics. Just wondering how many mindfulness practitioners meditative intenders etc. it would take to cause a societal level spontaneous remission of drug dependance and so on.
    Given the recent strikes in France in opposition to the government's plan to prolong the working life of it's citizens, I find it interesting that Mr. Heiland would wish that his German government would permit him to work longer. This I applaud, however, and wonder if it wouldn't make sense for him to write to Angela Merkel asking her to consider making early retirement optional. As regards confiding in a doctor regarding depression, it seems one might seek out a naturopath or an acupuncturist or take a course in taichi or qigong.

  23. I totally agree. I lost my precious mother to over medication. I believe many doctors have invested heavily on Big Pharma and have no sensitivity for the elderly. MY mother passed away on August 29th after being given no hope by her doctors. They poked holes into her and aggressively medicated her to death, but she still survived 18 more days at hospice while I followed her around from one place to the other in hoplesslessness. Even though I advocated for her loud and clearly, I was not able to stop the massacre. Regardless of how much I fought for her, and that I hardly left her sight, the system managed to kill her. More attention is paid to dogs and pets than to the aged humans. I witnessed horrible things that I will never forget.
    Shame on all!!! It still hurts too much and it is such a long and gruesome story to share. I have no strenghth to continue expressing what I feel and how it tore us apart. PLease be leery of BIG PHARMA and all that is attached to IT!

  24. Two years ago I started having terrible palpitations one night. I had to walk all night long to make my heart get into a regular rhythm. Every time I sat down it started to sputter like a motor boat. After a terrible two weeks I found out that the manufacturers of Digoxin, which I take for a heart problems, had sent out a double dose in each pill. Some people died from it, unknown how many, as it's hard to prove. Recently I was advised I must take cholesterol medication. I asked the endocrinologist if it would affect my heart, she said "no". I asked the pharmacist if it would affect my heart, she said "no." I actually put one in my mouth, while I was reading the brochure which came with it. It said "may interact with digoxin". From here on in, I make my own decisions about what pills I take. I'm trying to use mostly Chinese medicine. I've never had a problem with any of the herbs my TCM doctor/acupunturist.

  25. Given the ongoing revelations and research about mind/body health it is not far fetched to conclude that aging and its effects is not a cause and effect dynamic but instead a deeply embedded story of the cultural mindset/belief system. The Big Question shifts generally require re-cog-nition.

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