I am an activities coordinator in a care home, where I have observed several benefits to carrying a few extra pounds as we enter old age.
People of all ages are obsessed with controlling their weight. Many youngsters are overweight or obese, which may lead to potential health problem like diabetes or heart strain.
If you are more than 25 or so pounds overweight you may like to consider shedding some of those surplus pounds.
Strangely enough, however, as we enter old age a few extra pounds can be beneficial; necessary, even.
I am not a medical person, so run anything I say past your physician; but I have worked in a care home for several years and my observations have led me to several conclusions about the benefits of carrying extra weight in your later years.
First and foremost, I am not encouraging anyone to eat unhealthily. If anything, healthy eating is even more necessary in old age as we become susceptible to age-related health conditions and infection. A younger body naturally has more resilience, although how you treat that body in your youth can impact your health as a senior.
Older people often become less mobile owing to arthritis or even a stroke. In these cases, weight control may become more difficult and could add to their problems. Adding too much weight puts extra strain on the joints, so do be careful.
However, a certain amount of excess fat can be useful as you age, for at least six reasons. You may be able to think of more!
As we progress into extreme old age we are more likely to experience falls. This can be for a variety of reasons, for example TIA’s (Transient Ischaemic Attacks - loss of blood flow to certain areas of the brain causing fainting or seizures); visual problems, dementia or incorrect lenses in glasses. Bifocals can be a particular hazard for the elderly as it is easy to misinterpret information given by the lower part of the lens which is there for close work such as reading. Many a senior has taken a tumble down the stairs because they didn’t see the bottom step or two. Unsteadiness on your feet can also be a problem – your legs just don’t seem able to hold you up like they used to!
If you are unfortunate enough to experience a fall, having some extra padding on your body could help prevent a broken hip, something every older person dreads.
Perhaps you may become seriously ill and have difficulty eating. This could be for a number of reasons, too many to list here. But if you have been able to lay down fat stores beforehand the extra calories stored in the form of fat will help sustain through this difficult time. One lady I worked with bemoaned the fact she had gained about forty pounds in weight after a couple of years staying with us in the care home. However, she became seriously ill and eating became a problem for her. For several months she hardly ate a thing but her fat reserves kept her going and she survived her illness. Look at it this way – if you know there’s a famine coming, or that food will be in short supply for some reason, if you have any sense you will stock up with provisions!
3. Bone Mass
Osteoporosis, which is a loss of bone mass and quite common in older people, especially women, can be a cause of fractures. It is believed that smaller people are more at risk. Being larger encourages an increase in bone density lessening the likelihood of breakages.
It is a well known fact that many seniors feel the cold more than their younger counterparts. This is often due to poor circulation because of vascular problems or heart disease. Lack of exercise can exasperate this. It is vital to try to take some exercise, especially during the cooler months of the year when the body can easily become chilled. Fatter individuals seem to feel the heat more than thinner people. This is partly due to the extra padding they have on the bodies (like wearing a warm coat) and partly because fat itself generates heat. So it stands to reason that if an older person has more body fat they will feel the cold less.
5. Cuddle Factor
This reason is not strictly speaking medical or physiological, but may very well impact on psychological and emotional well being – the’ Cuddle Factor’. Yes, you read that correctly! Aren’t fat little grannies just so lovely to cuddle up to? They’re like soft pillows to rest your head on or plump teddies to squeeze and hug! Everyone loves a cuddly grandma or grandpa. And the more cuddles grandma gets the happier she’ll be. A lighthearted reason perhaps, but true nonetheless, don’t you think?
Just because you're of a 'certain age' doesn't necessarily mean you no longer care about your appearance. Women, especially usually like to look their best, particularly if they are going somewhere special! Being in possession of a few wrinkles can be a sign of having reached a great age, and many communities venerate their elders for their wisdom acquired over the advancing years. But many seniors don't like the way they look, hence the rise in plastic surgery. A fatter face fills out wrinkles in a way that a thin one doesn't. Often a fat face is smooth and youthful looking.
So, if you are an elder in our society, eat well, exercise as much as is possible within your limitations, but please – don’t follow diet fads or try to be as slim as you were in your youth. It just ain’t gonna happen! It is a natural tendency for the body to gain weight as it ages, for hormonal and metabolic reasons. So go with the flow – a bit of extra weight is an insurance policy against infirmity, injury and decline.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Kenneth Avery from Hamilton, Alabama on March 10, 2018:
Hi, Helen -- great hub! And I couldn't agree more with your topic and points. I just ask that you keep up the great writing and stay in touch with me.
Kenneth Avery from Hamilton, Alabama on September 14, 2017:
You are very welcome. I am taking life one day at a time and not worrying that much about weight, calories, etc.
I am again so honored to meet you--and follow you. I would love it if you were to follow me.
I appreciate the work that you are doing.
just helen (author) from Dartmoor UK on September 14, 2017:
Thank you for your lovely comment Kenneth. Sorry to hear you're not too well, and I hope you get better soon!
Kenneth Avery from Hamilton, Alabama on September 13, 2017:
I am so thrilled to have read your hub. The topic spoke to me and now, thanks to you, I am not going to obsess with weight, death, etc.
I mean it.
I am 63, and have Fibromyalgia, been diagnosed with this since 2003, but most people only focus on weight. So right now stops that.
Honored to meet you again, just helen.