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What is ‘old’ for you?

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Keep yourself engaged The question of aging will not bother you
Keep yourself engaged The question of aging will not bother you

What we are is what we think. So think young and never give up on the sense of wonder and enthusiasm for new experiences

You can’t put this one on mom and dad. Our old-age gene is an invalid ticket. We now outlive parents by several years, and hey, we are a smarter generation! At what point we should consider ourselves old is up to us – it depends on how we live, where we live, what we eat, what we do and the most important – what we think.

What is “old” for you? A lined face, creaking knees, stiff fingers, thick glasses, can’t-remember-where-I-kept-them-distress, loneliness and an edited, unappetising diet? Is it the fear of being ignored? Do you side with author Anthony Powell who said, “Growing old is like being increasingly penalised for a crime you haven’t committed”? Then, dear friend, you are in the league that embraces old age willingly. You think old age is “feeble”, “infirm” and “senile” – and that’s where you’ll land after 60.

Not a punishment

Old age needn’t feel like punishment at all. People are doing well into their seventies and eighties. “I would like to understand ‘old’ in the way my sister’s three year old grandson does,” says Malathi Mohan, retired professor. “Looking at my sister’s grey hair, he said, ‘Patti is old…very old’. I asked him what I was with my dark hair, and he said, ‘You are new’. In his young world, the opposite of old is only new! Our thoughts could definitely make us old or ‘new’. How often we hear, ‘What does she think, that she is still a teenager?’ True, the body is affected by chronological aging. It’s only sensible to accept it. However, an aging body defeats weakness when faced with a challenge. Our thoughts defy the feeling of being old.”

Heart hospitals and cardios have enough evidence to prove that surgery recoveries are swifter for those who are planning an active post-recovery life.

In a study, researchers followed recovery patterns of heart attack patients and found that those who thought about aging in a positive way recovered more quickly and successfully. “Three months after by-pass I was climbing mountain steps in Colorado. It was possible only because I dreamed of it all through convalescence,” says 70-year-old Ram.

Cut short words like, “You can’t do it ma/pa.” and “Oh, you don’t have to rough it out. We’ve arranged a vehicle for you”. This is default ageing. You don’t feel like an old person, but are expected to behave like one. Watch out for age stereo-typing. Memorise this mantra: I can do it. I need to put on my glasses, that’s all! I’m old? No way. I’m wise, experienced, mature and I’m free to do the things I always wanted to! Selfish? May be. But I’m living better! Are you jealous?

Sure, life dealt a deck of disappointments. But it also taught you lessons you can pass on. Respect yourself for that collection of life credits. Assume the role of a mentor. Unwind. Read. Develop new skills. Think young and never give up on the sense of wonder and enthusiasm for new experiences.

Get engaged!

[1] Read newspapers (you do that, right?)

[2] Play chess. Neighbours aren’t free? Play with grandchildren. And lose to them.

[3] Learn basic operations and applications on computer. Browse. Answer mail, play Patience and Scrabble or join an online book club. Try dearreader.com

[4] Join a dance class. There are simple steps that all of us can do. Why sit and moan “we never had a chance”? We are young enough to measure steps.

[5] Maintain a healthy weight. Eat what you are allowed to. No restrictions? Great. Eat what you like, in small quantities. Share what you cook with people. Count the benefits!

[6] Feel like munching? Reach for a piece of cucumber or fruit. Once in a while, have soup for a meal. A very healthy 79-year-old I know sometimes eats just a ripe mango for dinner.

[7] Develop a taste for green tea. It’s not bad at all. No milk!

[8] Time stretches, right? Beat it by stretching your limbs. Never miss your morning/evening walk. Guests at home? Take them along. Visitors? Talk while you walk!

[9] Get a master check up done. Find out if you need a diet supplement. Take pride in being fit. You are stuck with this one body for the decades you will live.

[10] Think in terms of “mind health”. What am I doing to improve my brain function? Even gossip helps here.

[11] Be in touch with what’s happening in your community. Are trees being felled on your road? Join your local group to stop it.

[12] Make a list of older people you admire. Share their stories with friends. “As long as it’s nostalgia (reliving memories without the pain) within limits, age can remain wherever you want it to……in your thoughts!” says Malathi. Sure you can’t do things that once made you happy. So? Do something different. Keep telling yourself: “I don’t want to grow old, gracefully or otherwise”.

GEETA PADMANABHAN

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