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Oldies are Goldies

By David Butler NOI Notes Archive 01 Mar 2018


Novellas are longish Explain Pain stories – they could take 5 -10 minutes or even longer. Patients can read them or perhaps therapists can construct a story from them. Lorimer and I have constructed 15 novellas in Explain Pain Supercharged, and here is the one I use most frequently.

Oldies are goldies  

Most of us are living longer! Sixty is the new 40, 80 the new 60 so we hear. Phew! Living longer is usually a good thing but ageism is in the air. Ageism is a negative perception of getting older and of older people. It’s a really big personal and societal DIM (Danger in Me neurotag) and it needs to be challenged. Young and old people can be ageist, older people can be ageist about themselves, health professionals and sometimes government departments and companies are ageist. Let’s challenge it, first by obliterating some myths about pain and ageing.

Four Myths about pain and ageing

Myth 1:  Pain is inevitable with ageing. This is not true but most people including some health professionals think it is. Someone said to me last week –“what do you expect, you are in your 60s”. Sure  – there may be a few more illnesses and surgical procedures but people over 60 have no more migraines,  no more back pain, no more neck pain than younger people have. In fact, the oldies may have less pain!

Myth 2: If you have some pain now, then you will have worse pain later. This is not true either. Pain comes and goes in older people just like it does in younger people. Even though X-Rays and scans may show things such as narrowing of joint spaces, this has NO relation to increased pain. These are age changes and more age does not equal more pain. Rest easy!

Myth 3: Toughing it out makes it easier to tolerate. Some of us oldies think  ‘I’ll  grin and bear it!’ This might be true for a while, but we know that it doesn’t make anything easier in the long run and being stoic can lead to depression, which in turn increases pain more in oldies than it does in youngies. So you don’t have to ‘grin and bear it’, ‘suck it up’ or accept it as part of ageing – seek help from an up to date health professional, just as you would if you were younger.

Myth 4: There is nothing you can do for it. This is not true! There are treatments that work for youngies, middlies, oldies and ultra-oldies, such as Explain Pain combined with contextual activity exposure. Knowledge and movement rules. The Protectometer approach is ideal for oldies.

So – age is only a number it is not an excuse.

The protective power of SIMs (Safety in Me neurotags)  

Here is a REALLY important study – we know that people who have a positive self-perception of ageing when they are 50 will live on average 7.5 years longer than those who have a negative self-perception of ageing at 50 (Levy 2002).

Positive self-perceptions are SIMs. Below is a list of SIMs and DIMs related to ageing that I put together with an elderly and ageist patient who declared that she was ‘ready for the scrapheap’. I have put them in the categories we use for the Protectometer.

Click to enlarge

A few more good things about growing older  

You don’t sweat as much as those smellier youngsters, if you’re bald you can avoid hairdressers, (imagine the money you save on shampoo and product), you can easily see the good and ignore the bad, you problem solve better than youngies because your brain is better networked, you want less, and you have fewer allergies.   Gosh- I can’t wait to get older!


Next time someone complains to you about their back or knee and says “it’s just old age”, ask them whether their knee or back is older than the rest of their body.

If I had to pick one thing about one thing leading to successful ageing, I would go for persistent curiousity.

And only last week I heard – “keep some twinkles in your wrinkles”.  Go oldies!

Tell us your “Oldies are Goldies” stories



Levy B et al 2002  Longitudinal benefit of positive self-perceptions of aging on functional health . J Geront B Psychol Sci Soc Sci 57: 409-417

Moseley GL, Butler DS 2017 Explain Pain Supercharged, Chapter 9, Noigroup, Adelaide


  1. Neel

    I always highlight benefits of getting older to my clients by reminding them of the benefits of seniors card and availing cheap movie tickets and free public transport along with cheap ice cream at the movies ! Usually gets them cracking and seeing the lighter side of life and getting older !

  2. Great post David that saved my life this morning and I love the line “Twinkles in your wrinkles”
    Rock on !!!!

  3. Ralph Samwell

    chronological age and biological ageing are not necessarily the same thing comparatively.

  4. Kristin Terkelsen

    When you walk into room of the 60 yo male who just had spinal fusion and he is melting down asking for his mom and then the next is the 89 yo woman who had spinal surgery (laminectomy) and is putting on her makeup and getting ready to go home at 8 am in the morning post op day 1. That sums up age for me! Attitude is your age!

  5. Thank you David for sending this across for us to read.
    It’s great and refreshing, uplifting.
    Very inspiring.
    We all are to enter in new and different season into our lives. The essential for me it is to have the courage of the embrace for different seasons and age.
    I believe in positivism, even though I am not so good at times.
    Life it is tremendous God given gift … so let’s remember that for every moment we feel pain … we know even then that WE ARE STILL ALIVE.

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