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Managing the final phase of life

How to learn to stand on one’s own legs in old age

Old age does not hit one without a warning as an accident. The responsibility for old age must therefore be squarely borne on one’s shoulders. This should be done by all, except those who are economically weak and deserve institutional support.

Old age has four aspects to be taken into account. They are health, money matters, emotional aspect and time structuring. A religious / philosophical disposition will be a source of strength when conflicts arise.


Seniors assisted by a family physician, if there is one, would know their state of health and the recommended lifestyle changes, diet and physical activity. Throughout one’s career, time pressure would have been the excuse for skipping physical exercise. Now with the eight-hour work regime gone, there is no reason for not taking up regular physical exercise or long walks. A yoga trainer can help work out a specific module with emphasis on pranayama. Strength, stamina and suppleness are required. In old age, suppleness is important. It is awful if seniors have to be assisted to use the restroom, not to talk of a walk in the park.

Everyone finds it difficult to give up what he or she enjoyed during their active lives. Sugar or starch taken in excess of the body’s energy needs gets deposited as fat, thus increasing the load on the heart. So is the case with fried foods. The stock comment, ‘My life is to end soon. Why don’t you let me eat what I want and die satisfied?’ has to be answered with a cajoling smile. A crawling child does not know it would stand months later. But a senior on his fours knows he had run and will rue the state he is reduced to. He or she must accept the changed circumstances with a philosophical frame of mind.

When medication is a must, the senior should repose faith in the doctor and take the medicines cheerfully. Doctors have realised that mind and body talk to each other and use this phenomenon for patient care.

As one grew from childhood to adulthood and to the peak of one’s career, the range and pace of activities would have increased enormously. Everything will slow down as one becomes old. The cycle will be complete as the old person may not be able to move unassisted. The senior citizen will appreciate the stark reality and be prepared mentally at every retrograde step.

Money matters

The world revolves around money. The senior citizen also falls into the vortex of the spiral if he or she wants the same comforts enjoyed earlier. The senior citizen should gradually reduce the wants to a bare minimum and ensure getting it.

Return on investment in shares/bonds/deposits supplemented by any pension needs to be balanced delicately. Return has to be weighed against risk as one cannot afford to play with life’s savings.

For some senior citizens financial liabilities may continue. These rarely come as a surprise. Many insurance covers such as Mediclaim are available in the market. Medical benefits for retired employees can be judiciously supplemented by insurance cover. Other family obligations like marriage of dependants have to be thought of. Social and cultural changes are more acceptable than financial ruin.

All organisations, institutions and banks advise nominations to avoid legal problems and delays in refund after the maturity period or in case of an adverse eventuality.

Emotional aspects

Man is a bundle of emotions. If these are strong, breaking them will be a trauma, and more so for seniors. Even close relationships will never continue to be the same. Senior citizens need not get upset about this. Psychologists and philosophers alike advise us to be free from emotional bonds and ego. The neighbour will be far more useful during emergencies. One senior citizen echoes this thought, ‘Can our children rush from the U.S. everytime we need them?’

Senior citizens may wonder as to how to form new friendships in old age. Common interests, shared problems, genuine interest in the other person’s skills, knowledge and achievements help form new friendships.

Home or Old Age Home

Many senior citizens live alone when the children are abroad or live in different cities. Gated communities provide some degree of security. When staying with someone else becomes necessary, making a choice between a joint family and an Old Age Home is tough indeed. At times senior citizens are forced to opt for Old Age Homes because of strained relationships. Prima facie it is difficult to argue the case for the older generation or the younger one. A generation gap reflects in values, tastes, attitudes and behaviour. Both should draw a line and stay within it. Some Old Age Homes, though run on commercial basis, are a boon to senior citizens, giving them peace of mind.


Senior citizens with many interests will not find the day longer than it is. They can relish every activity instead of hurrying. Music, puzzles, crosswords and learning new subjects are all possibilities. During a programme on ‘retirement planning’, the trainer advised: ‘In old age the only muscle which will respond is the intellectual muscle. Train them from now by reading a variety of subjects.’ If you wonder of what use such reading is going to be, it is all about the sheer joy of reading, be it Keats, Kamban or Tiruvalluvar. One can enjoy the literary flavour with the emotional outpourings. All senior citizens can impart some knowledge and skills to others. Senior citizens can exchange useful information and practical tips from other elderly persons on common problems including those related to health.

Religion as anchor

Religion has been described as the ‘opiate of the masses’, but it can be an anchor for senior citizens in good health or poor health, whether they are financially secure or not, emotionally balanced or not.

Philosophy is beyond religion and more fundamental. Philosophy answers many practical questions and solves paradoxes. For example, why a devoted son discreetly suggests his parents move to an Old Age Home or he moves out with his family. Knowledge of practical philosophy will prepare us for the future shock.

It will be a tribute to the senior citizen who calmly awaits the start of the next journey with no baggage and not looking at the calendar. For such a person, time will stand still.

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Printable version | Jun 6, 2020 5:23:03 PM |

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