By Dr. (Mrs.) Anthonia Mbakwe Obi
The Oxford Leaners Dictionary defines ageing as the process of growing old. Ageing is simply transition from adulthood to old age.
Today ageing has become an uncomfortable phenomenon. It fills many with concern, anxiety and even dread. When did growing old become an illness and why are we so desperate to halt the sands of time?
Studies have shown that the way to grow old or age is entirely related to your perception attitude, willingness or approach towards life and ability to adapt to situations. These components determine your success in the ageing process hence the term “ageing gracefully”. Ageing gracefully is all about confidence and attitude focusing on what you have, not on what you do not have, or what you used to have. We should all realize that as you attempt driving a car uphill you just change gears and avoid stalling the engine, so also is growing older where adjustments need to be made bearing in mind that there is a real allure that comes with age and experience.
THESE ARE SIMPLE AND PRACTICAL STEPS THAT MIGHT LEAD TO HEALTHY HAPPY AGEING
1. Be Positive: It is quite understandable that as you age, you may occasionally experience negative feelings especially when you remember your youthful vigor and the many things you were once able to do and cannot do them now.
Ageing gracefully therefore requires that one makes an effort not to be overcome by those negative feelings. Always be positive in your thinking. Dwelling on the past can make your days gloomy and discourage you from doing what you are still able to do. Be a positive enthusiastic person even when you have challenges. Have a desire to achieve more in life. Add life to years and not just years to life. Always match your appearance with a smile.
2. Health Issues: As we grow older, we should appreciate the importance of staying fit and well and therefore should attend to our regular medicare checkups. Discuss with your doctor/health care officer during your medical visits the ‘dos’ and don’t of your ill-health and adhere to his instructions. Moreover take your drugs religiously.
3. Have an adequate and balanced diet: A balance diet is necessary for good health especially as one is ageing. You need to ensure that your meals contain variety of nutrients needed for good health. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables and avoid excessive intake of alcohol. Always eat right and stay fit.
4. Avoid Stress: Avoid issues as much as possible that will stress you up. Be calm when facing challenges as they will come and pass. Respect your limits and try to take naps in the afternoons. Getting less than 6.5 hours sleep at night puts you at risk (as studies reveal) for a host of physical and mental problems. Remember persistent stress affects the organs of the body and with time, probably produce physical or psychological damage.
5. Avoid Loneliness and keep friends close: People who maintain broad social network as they age have higher scores on intelligence test and lower rates of dementia as studies have shown. Have a positive mental attitude. Stay close to your family and friends and live an active social life. Make an effort to go out and take part in activities specially tailored for the ageing ones.
Interact with friends: Attend church services, join church sodalities, community, social and even pensioners meetings where applicable. If you are fit enough, travel out to experience and appreciate interesting new places, people and culture. Take up hobbies you have never had time for e.g. keeping pets, fishery, snaring, poultry etc as; such activity will help you to keep your mind active.
Though there are times when you may want to be alone, but avoid becoming isolated and withdrawn. Make friends with all ages even being around young people will make you feel young at heart.
6. Exercise Regularly: A minimum of 45 minutes of exercise two to three times a week will help in keeping your heart fit, improving your figure, mood and brain power. It is never too late to start exercising. Taking a walk or dancing is also very good exercises to start with, nobody cares if you can’t dance well, just get up an dance. “Live each day to its fullest” laugh, smile and enjoy the good feelings you can create inside yourself and inside others. Age is a very high price to pay for maturity, so enjoy it.
7. Be Modest: By ageing gracefully, one should recognize and come to terms with the limitations of his age, not trying to deny or ignore them. You should bear in mind that with age comes wisdom and thus, involve in activities that will positively help you and not those that will zap your energy for self improvement. It does not mean adopting defeatist attitude instead implore wisdom in making the best out of any situation.
8. Maintain Balance: Middle age is time to get rid of emotional baggage that stresses you out. The individual should work at something he enjoys and that is worth of his time and talent recognizing his strength and weakness.
For women, they should ‘adorn themselves in appropriate clothes, with modesty and soundness of mind’ (1 Timothy 2:9). Generally, the ageing person should improve on his hygiene and wear appropriate dress that denotes balance and good taste.
9. Learn something new every day: The more you challenge your brain, the better it performs as studies suggest. Reading and learning can also make you feel more positive, broadening your horizons. Reading gives you the joy of travelling beyond the confines of your home through written words.
Make it a point of duty to read newspapers even if it means reading old ones. Don’t think that you have learned it all. We still have a lot to learn, you can even take up the task of learning a new language e.g. Igbo/Hausa, Efik, Yoruba or English Language as the case may be. It may sound funny but in the long run, help in keeping your brain active.
10. Nurturing good relationship with your family: Your relationship with your spouse, children, grand-children and siblings are very important in your golden years. Be understandable and supportive towards your spouse. Develop good relationship with your children and make it a point of duty to cultivate open communication with your wife and children. Be appreciative of the effort made by the children to look after you in view of the competing demands made on their limited time and resources.
11 Be Generous: Make it a practice to share some of your time, knowledge on positive issues, and resources with others. Practice giving and people will give to you, bearing in mind that generosity begets generosity (Luke 6:38-41). Always give a helping hand to those in need, no matter how little the gifts are. This will give you a feeling of accomplishment and happiness. As you are ageing, you ought to give back your wealth, knowledge and experience to the society. This helps regeneration in the society.
12. Prayers: Prayer is very essential in the life of the ageing person. Such individual should be very grateful to the Almighty God for keeping him alive to experience old age. He should therefore pray to God to help him get refreshed and observe the right attitude coupled with willingness to adapt to changes of the period. Jesus advices us to pray at all times and do not lose heart (Luke 18:1), (Psalm 33:18-19) further reveals to us that ‘his eyes are on us’. Thus the aged is blessed.
Dr. (Mrs.) Anthonia U. Mbakwe Obi (JP), wrote from St. Mark’s Parish, New Owerri.