Aging gracefully: what we can do Now
Only think about it: we have never had a privilege to live so long as we live today. It was not until 1,5 centuries ago when the lifespan started growing. Penicillin, then research in the disease prevention, vaccination and the achievements in microbiology have had an immense, decisive impact on our victory over infectious diseases, in particular, smallpox. The development of the economy has virtually eliminated poverty and hunger. Life lengthened, but this, like any other dramatic change, has brought about new challenges.
Why do we need to learn to age?
If we peek in the 1960s, we can easily notice that few countries could boast with the life expectancy of 70 years. However, according to statistics, the average life span in Europe today is 79-85 years, with Norway (82,5) topping the list. This news sounds great but what should the lifestyle look like to allow us to enjoy not only longer but also a quality life?
Psychology and anthropology recognize the concept of a social clock, a so-called timetable that is determined by culture and specifies a proper time for certain events. A hundred years ago, the picture was clear: childhood ended at 13-15, a person was considered mature at 25-30, and old age began at about 60 and was relatively short. People were considered lucky to actually reach this threshold.
But in XXI, something curious happened to the social clock: 30-year olds are considered near teenagers full of dreams and potential for growth, and who would dare to call a 49-year old Elon Musk or 53-year old Nicole Kidman “elderly people”? According to the Record high old-age dependency ratio in the EU, there are about 100 million people in Europe who are in their late sixties and all of them are expecting at least 20 years of active and interesting life ahead. Scientists call it “the concept of successful ageing”.
What is “successful ageing”?
There was a time when declining years was a tough and sad period. A person, rid of all the goals, ambitions and passions was just living out their days without having any plans. Nowadays, elderly people who are feeling well are scratching their way out of the exception group, their number is growing. Sunset years have become a robust season of life, and by the way, quite long.
We had to reconsider the idea of retirement. Many diseases, such as diabetes and osteoporosis, were recently viewed as inevitable companions of old age. But now we understand that correlation does not imply causation.
Cognitive impairment is also not a sign of ageing as such. The research called “Digital Human Modeling. Applications in Health, Safety, Ergonomics, and Risk Management”, shows that people aged 70-75 have the same capacity for education as young people.
The concept of successful ageing implies not only physical/psychological independence and freedom from chronic diseases but also the life that is fulfilling and rewarding. There is also ample evidence that many elderly people regard themselves as happy, even if they have some disease or disability. Here we are looking at continued social functioning as well.
It encompasses social integration and reciprocal participation in society.
The bottom line is, the person is ageing successfully if they are concentrated on what is happening today, they keep developing themselves, they adapt to the rapidly changing environment, maintain healthy self-esteem and remember about friends and hobbies, rather than reminiscing or experiencing regrets over the past.
5 rules of your comfortable retirement
When is the time right to start preparing for the age-specific changes? In fact, any time is good. The foundation of world outlook and habits that facilitate our physical and psychological health are laid at a young age.
- Do not be neglectful to your health, do not self-medicate and regularly undergo a medical examination. Rely on professional health. This will increase the chances of reaching the threshold of old age without advanced diseases.
- Do not pretend like that chronic pain or discomfort is just some “under the weather” moment that will go away on itself. Not a single pimple on your bum breaks out without a reason. Chronicle pains can develop quite early, and the habit of enduring discomfort can be extremely dangerous for your well-being in the old age.
- Eat healthy. The best practice seems to be developing healthy eating habits as early in life as possible. This way it is much easier to avoid addiction to sugary products and alcohol, to introduce the habit of eating seasonal vegetables and fruits. The habit of taking multivitamin complexes is also more easily formed in youth. Moreover, a sufficient intake of vitamins and minerals helps stave off the development of diseases, which is described by scientists in a comprehensive series of research “Vitamins You Need as You Age”. As we can see, calcium, vitamin D, B vitamins, magnesium, zinc and selenium are especially important.
- Stay active. This does not necessarily mean training in the gym if you had not been actively engaged in sport activities before. A simple habit of daily long walks or dancing is a sufficient form of activity.
- Maintain your social bonds. The way our social relations and society, on the whole, affect our ageing period is obviously underestimated. Seek the company of people who share your interests or do something you have always wanted to try but never dared, try volunteering activities, joining the clubs, and get out of your comfort zone. Get in adventures, do anything that stimulates your brain activity and makes your brain seek a nontrivial solution.
These five simple steps will definitely help you in a smooth, comfortable transition from one period of your life into the other. Do not just come to terms with the idea that you are ageing, don’t just take it as a given, live it, live it to the fullest, enjoy every day, benefit from what you have, stay positive, and never stop developing.
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