Ageing is inevitable. Mark Twain had famously said, “Do not complain about growing old. It is a privilege denied to many.” So also, staying healthy and living life to the fullest is important at any age, more so as we grow older. But how do you age gracefully? Well, that’s what we address here.
Reinvent: Reaching major landmark-ages of 60, 70, 80, and beyond, can be made very interesting while adapting to changes and exploring new things. Accept things you can’t change. Avoid stressing over what you cannot control. Face your limitations with dignity and a healthy dose of humour.
Connect: Make new friends, no matter what age. New connections enrich social life and younger friends bring fresh energy, which helps you see life from a different perspective. So stay socially active and connected to your community and loved ones. Spend time with people you enjoy being around, those who make you feel upbeat — a neighbour you like to exercise with, a coffee break with another, your children or grandkids. Get more active in volunteering for a chosen cause or participate in community events to find solutions to local problems — the experiences may enrich and expand your life. Community work can also be a great way of utilising and transferring on your skills career, without the commitment or stress of regular reporting.
Be grateful: Being grateful for life’s blessings makes living more precious. When we stop taking things for granted, we appreciate and enjoy what we have even more. When we think about what we appreciate, our body responds by increasing oxytocin, the feel-good hormone. Gratitude has a lasting impact on health, boosting the immune system, improving sleep and combating negative emotions.
Be communicative: Displaying emotions is not a sign of weakness. Though it could be difficult to express your emotions, suppressing feelings can lead to anger, resentment and depression. So acknowledge and express your feelings and seek ways to practically channelize and process your feelings. Talking to someone close and trustworthy or writing in a journal has proved to be helpful.
Face challenges head on: Challenges are opportunities for personal growth. Positive thought and actions help in dealing with challenges. Don’t ignore issues that trouble; instead, take things one small step at a time. Even a small step can go a long way in boosting your confidence and reminding you that you’re not powerless.
Seek joy in simple things: Make the choice to find joy in simple day-to-day activities — say the green trees outside your window or the fluttering of a butterfly. Take time to engage in meaningful, pleasurable and joyful activities. It’s all about how one perceives.
Keep your mind sharp: Keep the brain active while keeping your body agile. Enjoy your independence and take on hobbies — a long-neglected one or a new one — that help sharpen your mind. Besides being a great way to spend time, it’ll expand your social network while working your brain’s health and preventing mental decline.
Ageing can be rough if not handled properly
Ageing and health: The body and mind work in tandem across every phase of life. So, ageing is a mental and physical phenomenon. Like puberty, this transition can be rough if not handled with proper care. Heightened production of cortisol, owing to high stress levels over long periods, affects important functions of the body such as metabolism — quickening one’s ageing process. Managing stress keeps cortisol under control. Increasing support networks, both intimate and larger networks, e.g., extended family, neighbours and clubs, keeping work life balance and mindful living can keep stress from affecting our body in the longer run.
Healthy and happy: Ageing is complicated with comorbid illnesses. Depression, often labelled as sadness due to separation, empty nest syndrome or lack of purpose, especially goes unnoticed and untreated in old age. Depression for long periods can alter an individual’s personality and reduce life’s quality. So, remain vigilant about low moods over long periods (more than 3 weeks), alterations in sleep and appetite, and difficulty in engaging in any kind of pleasurable activities. A licensed mental health professional can evaluate it and recommend treatment to drastically improve the quality of life.
Being in the game: Cognitive decline such as memory difficulties and slower processing of information, because of pathological conditions such as Alzheimers or may be simple age-related phenomenon, are common. Ignoring these symptoms for long can compromise the elder’s life. Get a thorough evaluation and follow-up treatments for serious conditions such as Alzheimers to help these individuals live a more adapted life.
Non-pathological age-related cognitive decline can be prevented, minimised or delayed with constant cognitive stimulations — puzzles, Sudoku, etc. Continuing white collar jobs post retirement (even if not required financially) can keep cognitive decline at bay.
Ending isolation: Isola-tion and decline in feeling of self-worth happen as we enter the twilight years of our lives. Often, we feel disconnected from our loved younger ones and the world in general. This phenomenon has become more pronounced in the last few years with fervent digitisation of communication. Efforts to connect and engage are necessary.
Expecting the younger people to connect with elders may not be enough. Engaging with youngsters, understanding their world, which could be very new to the elderly, learning from them ways of this new world — social media, new digital terminology — can ease the process of staying connected with newer generations.
Feeling worthy: Community living and contributing to a community’s sustenance help grow one’s identity. The key is formal participation, not merely recreational. What is taken away when one is no longer an active professional or a parent to a growing child can be replaced by what one could mean to another individual or community who benefit from their skills such as being active members of resident welfare associations, alumni associations of schools and colleges, NGO, etc.
Expert tips for healthy ageing
Dr Pragati Shubha, Founder of RECON, Gurugram, shares tips on how to get closer to yourself:
Physical workout: Exercise improves our agility and reduces many health-risk factors like cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and stress, while improving circulation and boosts our immune system.
Eat healthy: Stay off processed foods, sugar and excessive salty and fried foods. Include fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, proteins and “good fats” in your diet.
Seek happiness: Keep away from stress and anxiety. Spend time with the people you love. Engage in your hobbies. Meditate, go for a stroll and listen to your favourite music.
A good night’s sleep: Get 7 hours of quality sleep every night.
Hormonal imbalance: Age inevitably reduces the levels of oestrogen in women and testosterone in men, leading to age-related symptoms like fatigue, hot flashes and headaches. Consult a doctor for the required medications and advice to find hormone balance.
Age-appropriate skincare: Our skin acts as a barrier and protects us against dehydration, infection and irritants. An age-appropriate skincare is integral to maintaining skin health....