By Martha Nottingham (Reprinted from the 6/18/13 edition of the Senior Citizens’ News)

In an effort to provide information that may be of interest to the senior population of our community, this writer has been pondering the determining factors that help confirm our senior citizen status. Must we reach a certain age; and if so, what is that magical number? Is it the amount of gray that shines in our hair or perhaps the number of wrinkles appearing on our faces that establish us as members of the older generation? Or, could it be that each individual is responsible for making this determination, and are we then influenced by the perception of others? For example, do we consider ourselves elderly simply because the young lady at the checkout counter automatically applies a senior citizen discount to our purchases? Have we joined the ranks of the aged because the application for AARP membership has been delivered to our mailbox? 

From a personal perspective and based on these criteria, this writer may have achieved senior citizen status. This conclusion was reiterated by my 6-year old grandson, Traegan, as he requested prayer during his Sunday school class for Nana because she is ‘old and brittle’. In his defense, he was parroting my own description having previously graced me with a huge hug for which I was extremely grateful, even though it caused sharp twinges of pain to my aging shoulder and neck. To further support my assumption that I may be a senior citizen at the age of 50, my gynecologist, Dr. Carlotta Evans, recently encouraged me to undergo several preventative tests. The good news is; however, that these tests can be performed ‘close to home’ by the caring staff at my own Braxton County Memorial Hospital. 

Dr. Ron Pearson, General Surgeon, and our exceptional surgery staff are available to perform the colonoscopy, and I have been routinely seeing Shawn Hunter, RT (R)(M), (pictured with Martha on previous page.) for screening mammograms for the past several years. Following Dr. Evan’s instructions, I have now experienced my first Dexa Scan, commonly referred to as a bone density test. This writer can attest that the procedure is indeed quick and painless. Known for her ongoing efforts to increase breast cancer awareness, Shawn is also passionate about promoting bone density tests when appropriate. According to informational material provided by the BCMH Mammography Department, bone mass can begin to decrease as early as age 30 if preventative steps are not taken. ‘Osteoporosis is the exaggerated loss of bone tissue that makes bone weak and more likely to fracture.’ It is described as a ‘silent disease’ with postmenopausal women and those having had a hysterectomy with no hormone therapy at greatest risk. 

The WV Osteoporosis Prevention Education Program publishes the following suggestions for preventing Osteoporosis:

R Eat a diet high in calcium and vitamin D.  (Most women need 1,000 mg of calcium daily until they reach the age of 50 when 1,200 mg is needed to achieve optimal bone mass.)

R Weight bearing exercise

R No smoking and limited alcohol intake

R A bone density test when appropriate 

Just prior to Traegan’s birthday, he asked me if he would be ‘grown-up’ at age 6, and if not, when. I recently heard a story about a 90-year old lady who does not yet consider herself a senior citizen. In thinking back to my own childhood, age 50 seemed much older then than it does today. Whether we are just starting out in life, approaching the end, or find ourselves somewhere near the half-century mark, may we consider Philippians 4:11 - Not that I speak in respect of want; for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. Young children tend to wish they were older; and sometimes, the elderly dwell on times gone by. As a 50-year old senior citizen, I hope to be content in this current phase of life and count each day a blessing, all the while taking care of my health in anticipation of more hugs from grandchildren in the future. Currently, this means increasing my calcium and vitamin D intake as well as walking more. For additional information regarding bone density testing and other services at Braxton County Memorial Hospital, call (304) 364-5156.                                                                                                                       

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