‘The greatest achievement’

AGEING with Vitality was the subject of a fascinating talk at Morpeth U3A’s recent General Meeting.

Professor Jim Edwardson spoke at length of positive approaches to health and wellbeing in later life.

He began by telling the assembled members that he grew up in South Shields and remembers with fondness, as a young boy, seeing brown trout in the river at Morpeth for the first time.

People are living longer and societies everywhere are being transformed.

Average global life expectancy in 1900 was less than 30 years, with almost half those born dying in infancy.

With improvements in sanitation, nutrition, immunisation and medicine, by the 1950s this had risen to 46 years, and by 2000 increased to 60 years.

By 2050, average life expectancy is expected to rise to 76 years, and be nearer 100 in developed countries.

King George V began sending congratulatory telegrams to centenarians in 1917 when 24 were sent out. Last year, more than 10,000 royal congratulations were delivered.

Prof Edwardson explained that only 25 per cent of our longevity is genetically determined and is, in fact, largely influenced by our lifestyle and environmental factors.

He exploded many of the stereotypes around older people, saying that the Newcastle 85+ Study had shown that most 85-year-olds live independently and have a positive view of their own health.

Older people, in fact, make a huge contribution to society.

Activities essential for people’s mental wellbeing were stressed by him, and included physical exercise, staying connected with family and friends, living ‘in the moment’, and giving back to society.

Continued learning, such as with the U3A, provides vital mental stimulation, and, as we all know, we either have to ‘use it or lose it’.

Prof Edwardson ended his talk by saying that in his view: “These continuing advances in life expectancy represent the greatest achievement of human kind.”

Eighty-eight members enjoyed this interesting talk, including three new members who were attending for the first time.

Anyone wishing to know more about Morpeth U3A and its activities should telephone 01670 505899, or visit the website www.u3asites.org.uk/morpeth