Nothing gives more pleasure in the sunset years than to be lost amidst the sounds of full-throated laughter of family and friends floating down the hallway to the lawn and beyond. Oh for a life that's brimming with good food, fun and merriment. With plenty of activities filling spaces, never tarnished with a dull moment. No visits to the doctor to put in the schedule, no BP tablets, no insulin shots. Eat and drink what you want, how you want (so long as it is in moderation). And no back to back schedule of work.Ah! That’s the life worth living!
That kind of life is real in some cultures, such as most indigenous cultures, and among the Okinawans. But for the rest of us, such a life is only a utopian dream. Many don't have the luxury of expecting such an idyllic existence in their senior years. Indeed, some of us even never a moment without a complication or two or more. But does it really have to be so? Truth is, it doesn't. If health slides down it is because we allow that to happen. Health is not a granted gift; it is ours for our caring. Period. For the rest of us, there is a struggle to engage in. Fortunately, they are not at all tough. The only prerequisite is discipline and regimen.
Habits for Healthy Ageing
No matter what your age if you desire to graceful ageing you can do so by cultivating certain habits into your lifestyle. These habits will certainly help you inch towards your sunset years with aplomb. These golden habits are the tried and tested staple of most indigenous societies who never seem to age the way people do in modern cultures. But before that, there is a need to develop the habit of healthy food, drink, rest and relaxation.
Watch your weight – Start early because when you reach your late 30s you might find it harder to maintain your ideal weight. That is if you are not careful about what you eat and drink. Sensible eating leads to ideal weight (according to your body mass index (BMI) and not your scales). Losing weight fast can lead to muscle loss, weaker bones and deprive you of strength. So eat well for nutrition and disease prevention.
Eat your meals but watch your calories – Small portions of calorie-dense foods and big portions of fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains is what you need most. This will dump that belly fat, the most dangerous fat of all, and release anti-oxidants into the body to scavenge the havoc-causing free radicals. Again, no junk food. They are high on fats and salts and very low on nutrients.
Exercise – Everyone knows that exercise slows down ageing. How? Exercise tones the body, strengthens the muscles and makes bones healthy. It releases free radicals which are then mopped up by the enzymes and anti-oxidants. Exercise, even light ones, can ease away the pain of arthritis, make the bones strong and build solid muscles. Exercise soothes anxiety, calms the nerves and helps you sleep better. It reduces chances of many diseases and builds a much healthier you. Of course, exercise doesn’t mean only sports and weights; it can also be intensive labour like gardening and vigorous housework that involves twisting, bending and stretching.
Engage in a hobby – Working for a living is fine. It’s what you do to keep the home fires burning. But over the years the monotony of work will eventually beat you down. Take the humdrum off your dull work by adding a hobby In fact, a hobby is a necessity to lend some meaning to your life. It might be philately or gardening or writing. Anything to add colour and punch. That will take off years from your age. Reason? A hobby is a de-stressing activity; it can lower blood pressure and tame stress hormones. So you cut down risks of illnesses that could quicken aches and wrinkles. Stay young with hobbies!
Socialise, build friendships – Fill your life with family, friends and community. Light up your world with fun and laughter. Pay attention to your relationships. Keep a pet, or many pets – they are great stress-busters. A life surrounded with loving creatures, human or otherwise, can hardly be one of loneliness and depression.
Be in love with yourself – Loving yourself doesn’t mean becoming an egotist. It means having the correct, positive attitude. Scientists have proven that people with optimistic attitude live longer and are happier because they have no problems with themselves. They refuse to get angry or be resentful. They are more confident. They cannot be burdened with petty behaviour towards themselves or others. They feel good about themselves. They laugh a lot. Being able to laugh relaxes muscles, Stabilises breathing and improves blood flow. It helps fight pain, speed up healing processes and bust stress. As a result, they live happier and healthier lives and save themselves from many illnesses that speed up ageing.
Engage your mind – Staying mentally active is a means to healthy ageing. Much of the oxygen in the body is utilised by the brain. The brain controls the most important functions of the human person. Just as you exercise your body stimulate the brain cells too with teasers like puzzles, playing chess, or Sudoku. The brain cells (neurons) will get improved blood flow and production of neutrophins (chemicals that protect neurons) will increase. Mental exercises improve and increase communication between the neurons. This aids neuron growth regenerates and protects them from damage by free radicals. Continued learning sharpens the brain, keeps it alert and prevents brain degeneration.
So much for the 7 habits to happy ageing. As you can see they are as simple as child’s play. Only a little twist to your lifestyle, a little tweak here and there. Isn’ t that amazing? At life’s end, you’ll wonder how those years pass!