Marcel Olde Rikkert: Happy aging

Foto Marcel Olde Rikkert‘You don’t stop playing because you grow old, but you grow old when you stop playing’

–          George Bernard Shaw

Three generations men at stage: the 16-year old Joris, his grandfather and dr. Marcel G.M. Olde Rikkert. The professor brought his family with him to present a new image of growing old.

‘We have a nasty image of growing old in our minds’, says Olde Rikkert. He shows an old painting from 1615 that tells that after the age of fifty you don’t matter anymore and are slowly falling into your grave. ‘Away with that image’, he says. At the same time he presents a picture of his son Joris at the age of one, waggling with a glass beer. ‘The balancing game of aging’, Olde Rikkert calls that image.

Geriater Olde Rikkert is a professor of geriatry, principal lecturer and head of the department Geriatry at the UMC St Radboud in Nijmegen. Also he is Principal Investigator at het Nijmegen Centre for Evidence Based Practice (NCEBP), affiliated Principal Investigator at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour. Teacher clinical Geriatrie and  director of the Alzheimer Centrum Nijmegen. Also he coaches his own parents of 92 en 89 in aging.

The professor asks his son what makes a sixteen year old happy.  That is sports, gaming and music. ‘Playing is having fun, aging is not cool when you are sixteen.’

Till then his son has been balancing on a balancingboard all the time. Olde Rikkert tries it himself too, but he can’t hold his balance on that thing. That shows, he says, that I already have lost a part of my youth.

Middle aged people loose a part of their playing game and are the most unhappy generation. They work, take care of the children and have so much to do. Olde Rikkert is now talking about the U-band of Happiness. The middle age people are in the bend, children in the right corner and elderly at the left.

Proven fact: happiness declines at the age of 40-50. At the age of 60 it increases again.  The point that Olde Rikkert is making is that you have to enjoy aging. If you can enjoy aging it improves your health.

Keeping elderly active has therefore become a part of his mission:, which he describes on his website.

A live blog by Karin Oost