Increasing life expectancy and improvements in longevity have ensured that we are facing the prospect of a burgeoning elderly population. However, as we witness a rise in the population of the elderly, it is also important to change our attitude towards ageing.
The other side of 60 must be looked upon as an enriching second innings of life. Adopting healthy living practices, staying mentally agile and finding new horizons can help in leading productive and healthy older lives.
An American study published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine found that a 70-year-old man has a 54% chance of reaching the age of 90 if he does not smoke or have diabetes, has healthy weight and blood pressure, and exercises regularly.
Here are some factors that can play critical roles in improving health and wellness after 60 years of age.
Watch your plate
In many ways, ‘you are what you eat’. If you want to enjoy a long and healthy life, it is imperative that you make some necessary dietary changes. Limit processed foods and foods rich in sugar. Aim to consume a wide variety of foods rich in wholesome nutrition and antioxidants. Lean meats and proteins such as chicken and legumes, fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, calcium rich dairy products and a variety of fruits and vegetables must be part of the daily diet. So should be a lot of fibre. Also consult your doctors about the need for consuming calcium, vitamin D and magnesium supplements.
Stay physically active
Get at least 30 minutes of exercise daily but make sure you do what is appropriate for you. It is all the more important to choose an activity that you enjoy — walking, yoga, swimming and mild aerobic exercises are very critical for maintaining good heart health, flexibility and appropriate weight.
Stimulate your mind
A growing body of evidence suggests that regularly indulging in activities that stimulate the mind can help elderly people stay mentally sharp and reduce the risk of dementia and cognitive decline. It is important therefore to engage in activities such as reading, playing board games, crossword puzzles or Sudoku. If you haven’t ever tried your hand at any of these activities, 60 is a good time to start. After all, you will have more time post-retirement.
Stay socially active
Ageing must not turn you into a recluse. We often observe elderly people, especially in India, cut themselves off socially and start spending greater time alone. An increasing turn towards nuclear families has meant that a large number of elderly parents are today staying alone as their children are placed in distant locations for work.
There is evidence that loneliness increases chances of depression and illness. This is why elderly people must make an effort to stay socially active and be an active part of the community they live in. A Gallup poll conducted in 2011 suggested that senior citizens who were socially active were happier and less likely to be stressed.
Find a new passion/purpose
If you are past 60, it doesn’t mean you must stop looking for new avenues to conquer. We often observe that elderly people lose interest in life or suddenly feel worthless after their children leave home to pursue their lives.
It is important for parents of all ages to ensure they retain a passion in life, something they can always look forward to even if their family and friends are not around.
Finding a passion or purpose in life and keeping up the drive to learn new things are critical to overall well-being.
Learn to play the guitar, start volunteering for a social group, teach the under-privileged neighbourhood kids or start writing poetry. It is never too late to find a purpose in life.
Join a support group
Your objective of staying fit and active can find motivation if you are connected to a community of like-minded individuals.
Social support groups for the elderly can put them in direct touch with people who are sailing in the same boat as them. Join a support group of the elderly and find suitable friends who can join you in your daily routines and new interests — walking, yoga, book reading — it is always good to have buddies around.
(The author is director, CHAI Creative and Return of Million Smiles)