I get angry and shout at the GPS when the voice gives me weird directions.
En español | You're normal, and join the club! You’re on a schedule and coping with traffic. And then that voice tells you to take that Highway to Hell. That’s when — like pretty much everyone — you bark back. “People unconsciously treat interactive technologies as if they are people,” says David Miller, a Stanford University doctoral student who specializes in human-technology interaction. “We get confused and angry because we don’t know what the GPS is ‘thinking.’ It’s telling me to take the 101, but I think that’s a bad call. So I get frustrated and maybe yell.” Evolving technology may alter the dynamic. “In the future, when your GPS gives you directions, it may give you a rationale,” Miller says. “So you’ll have a better two-way relationship.”
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Some days my ankles puff up. But other days they don’t, even though I do about the same things.
That's normal. Blame gravity. Sitting or standing in one place for a while can make things difficult for your second heart. Not the ticker in your chest, but ticker No. 2, in your calves. Doctors often refer to these lower leg muscles as your second heart because they help pump blood back up from your lower extremities. When they can’t do their job so well, fluid can build up in your ankles. But gravity can also be the solution. “When you put your feet up, the swelling should go away,” says internist Aba Barden-Maja, M.D., of Penn Presbyterian Medical Center in Philadelphia. There are other ankle-swelling culprits: A visit to the buffet (excess sodium) or a day on the beach (excess heat) can cause water retention or make your vessels dilate. Medications — including some blood pressure pills, diabetes drugs, antidepressants and anti-inflammatories — can cause fluid retention, too. And your second heart is susceptible to glitches with age. “As you get older you can have venous insufficiency — the valves in your veins don’t work so well, so fluid pools,” Barden-Maja says. “Compression socks help.” Never blow off lingering swelling, especially if it’s sudden or in only one leg. Barden-Maja advises: “It could be a symptom of heart, kidney or liver problems, a blood clot, or an infection.”
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I used to bungee jump. Now I worry about driving in the rain.
Not normal. The Evel Knievels of this world don’t usually go from launching over canyons to a life in the slow lane once their hair has gone gray. A recent study of 528 men and women ages 18 to 93 found that recreational risk-taking drops most sharply from 18 to 43. Then it holds steady into our older years. Some who were daring may bow out when their joints fail. But if fear prevents you from doing things you’re still capable of, that may signal an anxiety disorder, says geriatric psychiatrist Breno Diniz, M.D., of the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. Seek help: “Most conditions, whether general anxiety disorder or something like cataracts, interfering with your vision and causing anxiety, can be treated.”
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I love my grandchildren, but I’m not particularly interested in spending a lot of time with them.
According to traditional expectations? No, you’re not normal. But according to reality? Yes, you are. Increasingly so, as the grandparent age gap widens. The median age of first marriages is rising, and for the first time in history, the birth rate for American women age 30 to 34 is higher than that for women 25 to 29. So while the average age of first-time grandparents is around 50, it isn’t uncommon to find the grandparent-grandchild age difference to be as high as 60 or 70 years. “Grandparents today may have less in common with — and less energy and patience for — their grandkids,” says Ronald Jay Werner-Wilson, chair of the Department of Family Sciences at the University of Kentucky. It’s OK to be guilt-free, he adds. “Explain to the children’s parents that you’re at a time in life in which you want to put your energy into doing some things for yourself, and that you love your grandchildren but just can’t always be there to watch them. Then work out whatever arrangement works for you.”
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As I get older, time seems to just fly by. Every year seems shorter.
That's normal. Blame it on how your brain marks time — through novel experiences that create memories. Growing up, you’re learning and changing and making memories. Then, as an adult, you settle down into a routine, which makes the days, weeks, months and even years start to blur. “When those days don’t change, they meld together until something — such as seeing a friend’s grown child you haven’t seen since age 2 — shocks you back into memory mode,” says British psychologist Claudia Hammond, author of Time Warped: Unlocking the Mysteries of Time Perception. To keep time from flying by, you need to deliberately create new memories, Hammond explains. “Go somewhere different and do new things this weekend. On Monday, when you look back, the weekend will feel as if it were a longer period of time.”
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I feel like I don’t get the joke half the time.
Totally normal. And, don’t worry, you’re not becoming crustier. “Research shows that humor appreciation does not decrease with age — in fact, it increases,” explains Uma Suryadevara, M.D., a geriatric psychiatrist with University of Florida Health. But that’s assuming you get the joke. It takes multiple regions of your brain to resolve the incongruities that make something funny, and such cognitive flexibility tends to decline with age, Suryadevara adds. Also, to get a joke, you and the joke teller need to share a frame of reference. “When people tell me jokes from South Park or Family Guy, I often don’t get the humor,” she says. “When that happens, you can just politely laugh along.”
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I used to hate salmon. Now I love it. I used to love steak. Now I hate it.
Wild swings between fish fillet and filet mignon may not be that common, but they’re not unreasonable, considering the vast sphere of senses, emotions and experiences that create our “taste,” says Scott Stringer, M.D., chairman of the otolaryngology department at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Diminishing taste buds are just part of the story. Your nose’s olfactory neurons, which pick up aroma molecules, also lose their regenerative ability over time. Plus, changing tastes are partly evolutionary: Bitter receptors, good for detecting toxins, wane after the put-everything-in-our-mouths toddler stage. Medications can cause taste-altering side effects. And then there’s the matter of physiology: “If you can barely chew and swallow a steak that you’ve read isn’t even good for you, your brain may decide you don’t like it,” Stringer notes. That soft, healthful salmon? It has never tasted better.