It’s An Age Thing

I often read posts on internet forums about young mothers feeling that there is an element of prejudice against them.  They then turn this around on us “older” mothers.  I’ve read comments about how they think women should not even consider having a baby after 35!  Apparently it is selfish and we will die and leave our children with no mother.  My own mother had me at 37 and is still very much alive and well, if I can live as long as her, then my daughters will be entering their forties before I pop my clogs.

There are times when I read these comments and I have to sit on my hands to stop myself jumping on my soap box and replying.  I remind myself that in my late teens and early twenties, I considered anyone over the age of thirty as a relic!  I would love to talk to these women when they reach their thirties and find out if their attitudes have changed.

What would they think of my poor “old” husband, I’m sure they would be utterly disgusted and outraged to learn that he is 14 years older than me and at the age of 54, therefore, must be coffin dodging!  The fact that he is incredibly fit and active and still looks every bit like the strapping man in military uniform that I married would have no consequence to them, once they discovered he’s over half a century old!  The fact that he can run around and roll around the garden with his daughters, carry them on his shoulders and do all the things that younger fathers do, in some cases much more than some younger men, would still not convince them.  I would still here the “eeew that’s just wrong” comments.  So I was delighted to find this article today about a study of older fathers.  There ARE some advantages it would seem to having a father older than 18!

The children and grandchildren of men who reproduced later in life could enjoy life-extending genetic benefits, including being able to father children at an older age, a new study suggests.

Researchers at Northwestern University believe the process represents an unusually rapid evolutionary adaptation in which telomeres — DNA found at the ends of chromosomes — lengthen, which is thought to promote healthy aging.

“If your father and grandfather were able to live and reproduce at a later age, this might predict that you yourself live in an environment that is somewhat similar — an environment with less accidental deaths or in which men are only able to find a partner at later ages,” said Dan Eisenberg, lead author of the study.

“In such an environment, investing more in a body capable of reaching these late ages could be an adaptive strategy from an evolutionary perspective.”

After analyzing the DNA of 1,779 young adults and their mothers in the Philippines, researchers found that children of older fathers not only inherit longer telomeres, but that the effect is cumulative across generations.

Co-author Christopher Kuzawa said more research would be necessary to see if the longer telomeres inherited from older fathers and grandfathers reduce the health problems and ailments that come with age.

“Based upon our findings, we predict that this will be the case, but this is a question to be addressed in future studies,” he said.

*The study appeared in the June 11-15 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences*

 

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