A study says housework wards off disease and prevents falls. So… Should over-65s take up ironing for their health?
- Study claims cleaning has positive effect on cognitive functions of older adults
- Aggie MacKenzie says ironing can be calming, while smoothing out a rough day
- Jane Gordon says we should try to get out of the house, not clean it
Aggie MacKenzie (pictured) says ironing can be calming, while smoothing out the rough patches of her day
By Aggie MacKenzie
You may be shocked to hear that, despite my TV career cleaning other people’s houses, when my boys were teens and I was working full-time, I had a weekly cleaner.
After my divorce and the kids left home, I kept her on fortnightly. I happily paid her not to come during the pandemic, but soon realised that in fact I preferred doing the cleaning myself, so once lockdown was lifted I said goodbye to her.
I also rather enjoy ironing — I find it calming. As I take the hot steam over each duvet cover, pillowslip or tea towel, it’s as if I’m smoothing out the rough patches of my day.
Now it seems there might be health benefits to cleaning and ironing, especially for those of us over 65. The authors of this study believe that the domestically active elderly they interviewed — surprise, surprise, they’re mostly women — were fitter, had better cognitive function and were less likely to land in hospital.
I was talking to a 70-something doctor friend the other day who used to have a cleaner, but now does all his (yes, his) own housework.
He enjoys the feeling of organising his home, cleaning up as he goes along, and he thinks he’s much fitter and better organised for it.
I’m sure he’s right. Let’s face it: cleaning is an evil necessity and we all have to involve ourselves with it in some way or other.
There’s something hugely empowering about being in charge of your own surroundings rather than paying someone else to be.
Housework is a purposeful activity with visible results, which I believe helps everyone, young or old. It’s obvious that if your home’s untidy and dirty, you’ll probably feel a bit chaotic and possibly depressed.
Keeping your home clean and tidy helps you to feel clear-headed. And, post-pandemic, most of us now realise that good mental health is just as important as good physical health.
As a 66-year-old yoga teacher, I have a few words of valuable advice to other oldies. While you’re at the sink doing that washing up or in front of the cooker making supper, a good thing to do is to stand on one leg — even for a few seconds.
You don’t need to lift the other foot particularly high — a few inches is a great start. Try it on both sides and repeat as often as you can. It will strengthen your tummy muscles and improve your balance and, consequently, you’ll be far less likely to have a fall.
And carry on cleaning, it’s now proven to do us the world of good!
Jane Gordon (pictured) says we should try to get out of the house, not clean it
By Jane Gordon
The latest suggestion that one of the most effective ways of ‘ageing healthily’ (oh, how that expression makes my heart sink) could be to spend a minimum 15 hours a week getting ‘down and dirty’ doing housework has made me absolutely furious.
According to an absurd study of 500 adults in Singapore — half aged 21 to 54 and half 65 to 90 — a vigorous session combining ‘heavy’ and ‘light’ cleaning had a positive effect on the cognitive and physical functions of the older adults.
Apparently, a few extra hours in my Marigolds mopping, dusting and scrubbing ‘round the bend’ (that’s the old Harpic TV ad slogan, for you young folk) could improve my memory, sharpen my mind and reduce the chances of my suffering falls, becoming immobile and dying!
Now, while I accept there are a few household chores that are truly challenging to body and brain — struggling to change a king-size duvet you have spent an hour ironing for example — I am absolutely not going to embrace this patronising new directive for us ‘oldies’.
And while I can see that window cleaning (a ‘heavy’ task) could improve my concentration and balance (if I was up a ladder), it’s not something I intend to take up.
In fact, I am becoming increasingly irritated by the endless advice directed at my age group in a way that suggests we are all feeble-minded, probably fat and a general burden. Hardly a day passes without me being talked down to by companies marketing terrifying-sounding ‘retirement villages’, incontinence aids and (yes!) exhortations to ‘plan your own funeral’.
No, no and no! I have always been a bit contemptuous (not to say judgmental) of women for whom cleanliness is next to godliness.
My idea of TV hell was How Clean Is Your House? (sorry, Aggie) and I never got beyond page one of Anthea Turner’s book How To Be The Perfect Housewife or the first sentence of Lynsey Crombie’s Queen of Clean blog. And as for Marie Kondo, just don’t ask!
I’m not even convinced by the sparkling Mrs Hinch (aka Sophie Hinchliffe) even though she has amassed a fortune and 4.2 million followers on Instagram.
Surely, the best way to age healthily is to have fun and keep learning.
Dance, take up a language, learn to fly, make new friends and for goodness sake ignore this new nonsense — get out of the house rather than wasting precious time cleaning it!
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