The average age of the people we treat for diabetes is usually above 50. Though increasingly we are getting younger patients nowadays, I find people getting into a sedentary behaviour on the pretext of “ageing.” Yes, ageing does cause your metabolism and your repair mechanism to slow down but on the contrary , being active can control metabolic diseases like Diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol. Being active also keeps one mentally fit and strong.
Here is a blog from my childhood friend Mr. Hari Baskaran, who at the age of 70, cycled from Chennai to New Delhi , to prove to the world that age is only a number. Here’s what Mr Hari Baskaran writes on active ageing. – Dr. V Mohan
Staying active all through life by Mr. Hari Baskaran
I am 71 and it’s time to start afresh.
Every stage of life requires its own mindset and pivotal areas. The right attitude to life at each stage is crucial. The eight decade of life is no exception. I found this guidance in Buddhist literature very meaningful.
“The final four or five years of one’s life are decisive. No matter how good the preceding years may have been, one’s life ends in defeat and sadness if the final years are miserable. On the other hand, someone whose last few years are happy and filled with joy can be described a winner in life. No matter what happens, even if one should fall sick, we must never grow discouraged or allow ourselves to be defeated. This is vital. As long as our spirits are undefeated, we are victors.”
How can we be happy and filled with joy at all times no matter what difficulties, physical, mental or emotional, we may face?Joy, gratitude and appreciation comes from accepting oneself, a coming to terms with oneself. This is not a passive acceptance of unfulfilled aspirations but a positive acceptance that every one of us is worthy of respect. Breaking past excessive concern for the self we can lead a vibrant life making every day and every hour count.
The final years of our lives is not a time to be a recluse. We can and must experience the joy and simplicity of life by doing all the things we love to do. Reaching out to others and encouraging and bringing joy into their lives builds the treasures of the heart, the source of lasting happiness.
A new me!
I spent 40 years on the corporate treadmill, immersed in work for most of the day, with stress as a constant companion and little mental space or time for most things that I would love to do. The funny thing about the corporate treadmill is that it becomes a part of you and you worry at the thought of getting off it one day.
I treasure enduring memories of the people I worked with and the many battles we fought together. We won many and lost a few. My fondest memories are of the many people who so willing marched with me into these battles and of us fighting together as one.
Well before the day I turned my back on the corporate yoke, at the age of 64, I knew how I would spend my days and so it was that as I walked into the setting sun it was with anticipation of a new day and a new beginning. I refused to live in the past.
The outdoors beckoned and the company of good friends took me into cycling and hiking and a life of adventure and challenge. There was finally much more time for the family. The very first word my little grandson uttered was “Achachan” (grandfather) – can you believe it!I took to writing books for a lark and the sheer joy of it. I immersed myself into spiritual activities and took care of my health and physical fitness.I did not hesitate to do the many things I never dared too when I was younger, with the spirit of adventure and challenge. This included a cyclothon from Chennai to New Delhi at the age of 70, in support of old age care and for celebrating active ageing. I partnered with Help Age India for this venture.
You can choose a lifestyle that will keep you healthy, happy, and free from most illnesses, including the dreaded dementia, at bay. I urge you to start working towards this end as early as you can.
As a start, remember that retirement is not a period of steady decline leading to the inevitable end but a period when you can set fresh goals and fulfill aspirations. You age actively and gracefully when you lead a purposeful and meaningful life doing the things you want to do and like to do, at the time of your choice. Eating healthy, keeping yourself physically fit, keeping mentally active and learning new skills keeps you young at heart. The satisfaction of pushing yourself to reach hitherto unreachable goals with a spirit of challenge and adventure in immense. Spiritual and social engagement and community welfare activities bring meaning and purpose to life. Go for it, retirement is a gift of time.
Each of us adopts an active ageing lifestyle based on our talents, circumstances and the passions that drive our life. In my book Celebrating Active Ageing, I have presented the lives of many people to illustrate this point. A common feature of all these life stories, is the high degree of commitment and passion each of them have displayed in their lives, and the high standards they set for themselves.
Being the blacksmiths of your life
Being purposeful and deliberate about the choices you make in life calls for a structured approach or at least a semi- structured approach to planning your life.
The Nobel laureate Dr. A Sholokhov said, “You don’t accomplish anything if you don’t have a definite goal. We are all ‘blacksmiths’ who have to hammer and shape our own happiness. People of conviction, people who are spiritually strong, can exert a definite influence on the direction their lives take, even when fate takes an unexpected twist.”
We hammer and shape our happiness in our own unique way by drawing up an active ageing agenda and continuously reworking priorities along the journey. The passionate pursuits of your life and the must do pursuits are integral parts of your active ageing agenda.
Let us look at the must do or essential elements of active ageing.
It is about being fit and healthy at any age and includes physical fitness, nutrition, mental and emotional health, social and spiritual engagement.
A gentle stroll in the park every day along with a group of friends is not enough. Interactions with friends is excellent tonic but gentle walking will not give you the benefits of keeping most age related illnesses at bay. WHO’s recommends that adults who are 65 or above need to increase moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes a week or engage in 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, or an equivalent combination of moderate -and-vigorous-intensity activity. You can see that this is far in excess of a gentle walk in the park.
Excessive stress is a roadblock to wellness.
A certain level of stress is inevitable but prolonged stress has an effect on the body and mind. It causes changes to the brains structure and functioning resulting in difficulty in new learning and memory and becoming less capable of coping with stress. Exercise and relaxation techniques help in reducing stress. Deep breathing, meditation and yoga are well known relaxing techniques for calming the mind. Eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise and sufficient sleep are also important.
Family and social support are vital for a sense of well-being.
The psychiatrist Sidney Cobb defined social support as a subjective sensation in which the individual feels, “That he is cared for and loved. That he is esteemed and valued; that he belongs to a network of communication and mutual obligation.” Social activity is as rewarding as physical activity and a healthy diet. People who are socially active are less likely to face declining mental faculties. A strong social network makes us less stressful as we have emotional support and assistance in times of need. Taking part in community development activities, volunteering for social work, participating in religious activities and joining clubs help in leading an active social life. Games such as bridge and other group sports provide social contact and mental challenges.
When you start putting in these essentials into your active ageing agenda you will see how important it is to prioritize and organised your activities.
A fascinating aspect of this journey is that there is a limitless supply of information on the internet on each of the areas of interest and a variety of tools to access this treasure chest of information. It goes without saying that it is essential to be digitally savvy. These continuous learning opportunities keep your mind active and progressively refreshes the way you engagement with the environment.
Hari Baskaran is an advocate and a champion of active ageing. You can read about his life and his views and suggestions on leading a vibrant and active life at any age in his book, Celebrating Active Ageing. The book is available at the links given below.