Strong physical strength, determined mental resolve and extensive social connections will help an elder to overcome the problems of life and enable him/her to have happy aging
The decade of 2021 to 2030 has been declared by the UN as the one of healthy aging. The idea is to promote global consciousness about the importance of ‘healthy aging’ for about one billion of elderly population across the globe. The more important aspect is that majority of the older people are living in developing parts of the world where the social security is, by and large, grossly inadequate. Despite best intention of the governments, resource crunch is a perennial problem. The elders and more particularly the poorer section among them are, therefore, left to themselves to devise strategy for continued sustainable life.
It is in this context, active aging becomes crucial. Research has often established that there is a significant correlation between ‘active aging’ and ‘healthy aging’. In a society when the elders need to take care of themselves, they need to be strong and agile. The conceptual edifice of the word ‘active aging’ is that elders need to be ‘constantly active while their age advances’. The word active here involves three different aspects:
- Physically Active
- Mentally Active
- Socially Active
Elders need to keep themselves physically active through regular work outs, exercises including walk, following positive routines, and undertaking other regular physical activities like going out to purchase medicines / household goods, attending marriage functions/conferences/workshops, traveling to see new destinations, religious places, etc.
The fundamental premise is that being physically active is the starting point of every consequent thing in life. If we are physical ‘not agile’, it becomes difficult for us to be ‘happy’. Barring the unintentional onset of diseases like Parkinson’s / osteoarthritis or falls or accidents, etc., every elder must try to keep up the routine and be physically active. Life may slow down but still, we should be active, to the best possible extent.
The second crucial dimension is mental strength. While onset of dreadful diseases like dementia or Alzheimer’s cannot be prevented, all elders should try to keep their mental faculties agile by conscious and mentally stimulating activities.
They should keep learning new things or solve simple puzzles/ quizzes or play games like chess, etc. All these activities will keep them mentally active. Being mentally agile is definitely at the core to understand and experience the concept of happy aging.
Third and the final dimension to active aging is that the elders keep themselves socially connected and active. We see a large number of elderly people suffering from sense of loneliness and depression, being away from active professional life and children. This mental aloofness creates a long-penetrating self-isolation. Being socially connected and active is key to solving many mental & psychological issues.
It is ideal to have all three faculties active for happy aging. For elders from age of 60 to 70, this may be an ideal proposition. From a psychological perspective, we always feel and believe that every elder must have the ‘mental strength’ to carry on despite all odds. The family members, friends, senior citizen associations/clubs, caregivers, and student volunteers all come into play at different stages of the life of an elder and they help them to age happily by offering their companionship.
We have seen some of our members succumbing to pressure of loneliness and withdrawing to seclusion while being physically active. On the other hand, there are members who, despite facing severe crisis in life (loss of spouse / children or facing serious physical problems), come out of the gloom with a strong sense of resilience and continue living their life happily.
That’s the essence of life. It is full of happiness as well as sorrow. But the axiom remains: ‘If winter comes, can spring be far behind’. All difficulties will be followed by some incidents of happiness and vice versa, as life averages out. Therefore, ‘strong physical strength’, ‘determined mental resolve’ and ‘extensive social connections’ will help an elder to overcome the problems of life and enable him/her to have happy aging.
Life is a journey and it has to be traverse despite all difficulties. Old age has its own challenges. What is needed is to make every phase of life journey as smooth as possible. The three dimensions talked above will possibly help an elderly to enjoy the journey of life through happy aging.
Dr A K Sen Gupta is the Co-Founder and Chief Trustee of My Retired Life Foundation (MRLF). This article has been published in Free Press Journal (FPJ) on 24th December 2022, where he is a regular contributor. Dr Sen Gupta was the Director of S.P. Jain Institute of Management & Research, Mumbai, and Director & Mentor at SIES College of Management Studies, Navi Mumbai. He was a World Bank Consultant and instrumental in setting up the National Banking College in Ghana, Africa, and a Professor at the National Institute of Bank Management, Pune.