( Gayathri Sreenath )
Your silver years are your golden age
A wide range of changes happen to seniors as they age. These changes can be both physiological and psychological. Physiological changes need not necessarily be caused by ailments/diseases, but it could just be a simple slowing down of our faculties and movements. Psychological changes will largely be adapting to live life after retirement or to live alone after the death of a spouse. These changes are inevitable as we age and the ageing process cannot be stopped, but with an understanding of these issues, we will be in a better position to handle our retired lives. We must always keep things in perspective, accept and adapt to things which are beyond our control.
I am Gayathri Sreenath, promoter of Sharadindu, the Uber Luxury Retirement Commune in Karnataka, India. My vast interactions with many, many seniors, from all walks of life, have given me a great insight into the experiences of people as they age.
Through my blog, ‘Turning Silver to Gold’, I strive to create awareness of the changes due to ageing and offer suggestions to adopt a healthy lifestyle, so that the impact of these changes do not take a toll on our mental and physical well-being, but can, in fact, be the best years of our lives.
Age is one factor of life which one cannot control. Whether one likes it or not, age keeps on progressing. Some say that age is just a number, but it is certainly more than that. Age defines people in multiple ways both positive and negative. The first thing that one must learn is to accept aging. The more optimistically we embrace age, the more positive will be our outlook.
Here are some tips for healthy ageing.
Regular exercise is one of the greatest paths to mental and physical well-being. Exercise, in whatever form, will give you immense relief from many ailments like diabetes, arthritis, respiratory problems and depression, to mention a few.
The goal is to exercise, but do things that you enjoy like going on walks with like-minded people. This simple exercise of walking, if done regularly, will be extremely beneficial and the best way to do this is always with company. In the complex that I stay, whenever I go for walks (which is not often), I always run into this elderly couple that I know. They stopped me to find out why I was not regular in my walks and I gave them some flimsy excuses of being busy, travelling, etc., when the actual reason was that I felt bored to go for a walk every day. We can all be busy and surely take out an hour for ourselves to exercise. To this, they told me that they have not missed a single day of walking in the past 5 years. This shocked me. They added that this was possible only because they always took walks together, goading each other to keep up the exercise and having each other’s back during the long walks.
Deficiencies in our systems go hand in hand with ageing. Vitamins A, B-12, C, D, calcium, iron, magnesium and iodine deficiencies are some of the most common ones. Most of these deficiencies can be addressed with a regular balanced diet. A good daily intake of fresh fruits and vegetables along with nutritious meals and plenty of water will definitely help us in staying energetic and healthy.
Keep your brain active:
Cognitive decline is bound to exist as people age. It is very normal for memory, thought process, comprehension and communication to slow down as age progresses. This does not mean that we just sit around idly and helplessly and watch our cognitive abilities deteriorate. Continue to challenge your mind. Read a book, learn a new language, play an instrument, learn to dance, solve puzzles, the list is endless. Think of all the things that you wanted to pursue/learn when you were young but did not have the time for it. Pick out one and pour your heart and mind into learning it.
Older people require as much sleep as young adults, so sleep well. Of course, due to various health issues sleep may not be very sound and uninterrupted, but one also has the advantage of having all the time in the world. So, sleep whenever you can, to catch up on lost sleep. A total of 8 to 9 hours of sleep every day, even in the form of short naps, will help the body and mind alike. Lack of sleep leads to irritability, depression, lack of focus and memory problems, to name a few.
As young people, we are caught up in a lot of things like career, travel, ambition, building assets, accumulating wealth and so on, thinking that we can actually enjoy all this in our later years. Somewhere along the line, we unconsciously put relationships way down in our priorities. One can effectively argue that the pace of life is so quick and boggling that we sincerely do not have the time to sit back and value relationships. I fully accept the force of this argument, but in the evening of one’s life, why continue to sideline relationships? Start with valuing the relationship with the spouse. Spouses normally tend to take each other for granted, but it is human to feel good to be taken notice of. One way to kick start this is by being less critical and more encouraging of each other. This will certainly boost up the morale and will enhance the feel-good factor about oneself. Once you feel good about yourself, you will also encourage others to feel the same.
Embrace Community Living:
Looking at aging from the brighter side is the enormous experience that all of us have gained in the various facets of life. But, who do we share it with? Do all seniors have the company of like-minded people or even people who would just hear them out. The answer is mostly no. Youngsters in the family have their own take on everything and prefer to deal with situations in their own ways. This is where staying in Senior/Retirement Communes offers great value. Company of people to talk with, to go for a walk with, to have a cup of coffee with or to share a common interest with. Sounds like not a big deal to everyone, but for seniors it is a big deal. Retirement communities have a lot to offer senior citizens, right from a secure and pollution-free place to managing the daily logistics to medical assistance to nutritious food to the company of other seniors.
The tips to healthy ageing discussed above are by no means exhaustive, but are of great importance in ageing gracefully and joyfully.