UNC Health Talk

Aging: What’s Normal?

a couple walking together
Getting older doesn’t need to feel bad

Just how should you expect to feel as you age? The answer differs for everyone, and genetics, lifestyle and outlook all contribute to your overall health.

The good news is people are not only living longer-with a life expectancy of 78.5 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-they are also feeling better and suffering fewer injuries in their senior years.

Still, at about middle age, the body begins to wear from daily use. You may need to crank up the television to hear better or squint to read the newspaper. Your body may begin to accumulate more fat and lose lean muscle. Some people notice a receding hairline and new wrinkles.

Yet, getting older doesn’t mean you have to accept feeling older. Fortunately, the changes associated with natural aging take place gradually, and most people adapt quite well over time. How you feel emotionally is just as critical in helping you to age gracefully. Having a positive attitude and a healthy lifestyle can do wonders for your mental growth and spiritual happiness and help you truly enjoy your golden years.

The lists below offer some guidelines for what you should-and shouldn’t-accept as natural aging.


  1. Recent memory loss that doesn’t affect quality of life
  2. Gradual loss of stamina and energy level, slightly lower libido
  3. Gradual, slight muscle loss and fat gain
  4. Slightly elevated blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  5. Minor joint or muscle aches and stiffness, especially in the morning or after inactivity
  6. Some trouble reading or seeing distances, a need for new glasses
  7. Slight difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds
  8. Gradual thinning or graying of hair
  9. Some treatable tooth decay and gum disease
  10. Concern about how your body is changing
  11. Fragmented sleep

Not Normal

  1. Mental confusion, disorientation, blackouts, inability to perform everyday tasks
  2. Sudden and severe fatigue that affects the ability to function, loss of sex drive, depression
  3. Sudden weight loss or gain for no reason
  4. Excessively high or low blood pressure or cholesterol that doesn’t respond well to treatment
  5. Sharp or chronic pain, joint or muscle swelling that gets worse with time, bone fractures
  6. Blurred vision, eye pain, dizziness, blind spots, excessive dryness of the eyes
  7. Severe hearing loss, itching or ringing in the ear, pressure, excessive ear wax
  8. Sudden hair loss or graying of hair, sudden facial hair growth in women
  9. Bleeding or receding gums, severe tooth pain, dry mouth, sores or lumps in the mouth, difficulty swallowing
  10. No longer enjoying things you liked in the past, feeling that you’re a burden to others or that you have nothing to look forward to, loss of appetite, low energy that can’t be explained
  11. Insomnia, sleep disturbances every night

We can’t stop time, but we can make the best of it. To stay youthful, strive for constant self-improvement of your body, mind and spirit. Your chronological age shouldn’t determine how young and good you really feel.

Source: BlueSpire Strategic Marketing. Published with permission.