How to age gracefully
Old age loosely defined
No one really knows what old age means. Some try put a number to it, 65, 70, 75… However, people living beyond these ages would feel offended if you called them old or elderly. In certain states in Brazil, 66 is old age, because that is the limit for life expectancy. Seventy five is the norm, but in these areas they lack potable drinking water, sanitation, and access to food and medicines*.
Pope Francis, the head of the Vatican State, decided 75 for the retirement age. This implies that bishops, archbishops, cardinals are considered no longer fit to run their affairs at 75. The World Health Organisation** say 70 is the average life expectancy for the whole world, but 86 in the developed world. Many people are fit and productive well beyond these ages, often turning their hobbies into a full time occupation, sometimes keeping their old job to support younger members of their family.
Regardless of what old age might mean, we all know that one day it will hit us, and we'll be frail and too tired to hold a full time job. Some of us may reach that point at a quite early age, especially after an accident or serious illness. Aging gracefully means to go through the later stages of life in good spirits and excellent health. So here are five tips for aging gracefully:
Save, save, save
If old age is something we can’t avoid, the best we can do is to prepare for it. Can you imagine waiting in the queue for years for a hip replacement, hearing aid or estate funded surgery? If you have saved, you will afford to have it immediately, ensuring a good quality of life and a great peace of mind. Many people would jump up and down at reading this and say: “I simply can’t, my children are still growing up and they need all my resources.” It is true bringing up children is a huge commitment. However, saving $5 per week is possible and better than nothing. Think of saving as paying yourself for your hard work. For a retirement plan calculator visit Sorted***.
Take good care of your body
Many things we do without realising their impact on our body. My friend loved attending parties every weekend, with loud music and noise levels vibrating every window in the neighbourhood. It was only when she turned 55 that her doctor diagnosed moderate hearing loss in both ears. As a good sceptic, she said she would have had that regardless, because her family tends to go deaf with age. However, I still wonder if she couldn’t have delayed hearing loss by avoiding these parties or attending them with hearing protection. The media has exhausted the need for a decent sleep, healthy diet and regular exercise.
Get rid of negativity, be grateful
Negativity is an inherent part of being human. Very early upon our arrival in this world we are trained to get attention by crying when we are hungry, thirsty, tired, or uncomfortable. Crying is the confirmation that the umbilical cord has been cut off and we have to fend for ourselves. Many of us will spend life trying to re-plug the umbilical cord, crying and pretending to be miserable at all times, in an attempt to get the unlimited supply of nutrients, warmth and comfort. Run away from those who can only complain and criticize everything. They don't realize that crying will only prompt mother to drop everything and rush to satisfy our needs for a short time. Besides, there is always a reason to grateful for all that you are and have.
Be an active contributor to sustainability
Lots of us living in socialist countries become very dependent on government for everything: health, housing, education, quality of life and protecting Earth resources. We can easily point our finger to the greedy, which devastate forests for building dams or developing real estate for personal gain. While we have a moral obligation to do so, we also need to look at our own behaviour towards conservation. How much electricity are we wasting? How many times do we take long showers when short ones will do? Why do we need to change tyres when they are still fit for the road? Are we recycling our waste or putting everything in the rubbish bag or bin for collection? Old age may be a lot more comfortable if we can find places in nature to restore our energy: swimming holes, walks in the forest, fishing, and fresh drinking water running out of our taps.
Dreams come true
Search for fulfillment
If you are reading this, you have already realised that time awaits no one and that life is short indeed. So, have you started working on making your dreams come true? Are you still hanging on to that destructive relationship? Have you already started taking, instead of just giving and giving?
A woman once told me: “I always wanted to be a supermodel.” Obese, short, with a stained and irregular set of teeth, in her 50s with a few wrinkles, I struggled to visualise her in the cat walk. I have no prejudice against anybody, but she was too far from the standards. She believed supermodels received lots of love and attention and could influence fashion, beliefs, and attitudes. After reading a few biographies of supermodels, she realised what she really wanted was to be a motivational speaker. In one year she has accumulated a crowd of 50 or so followers. For a small country like New Zealand, this is a huge achievement.
It is never late to realise our dreams. All we may need is a little hard work, lots of good connections and eliminate the ‘ifs’ and ‘buts.’
80 year old dancing Salsa
Aging may be inevitable, but we certainly can prevent most of its undesirable side effects, by saving money, looking after our body, keeping a positive state of mind, contributing to a sustainable planet and by working towards realizing our dreams.
*Life expectancy for Brazilians: http://www.brasilescola.com/brasil/expectativa-vida-dos-brasileiros.htm
**World Health Organisation Life Expectancy Tables
***Retirement fund calculator