We may be “healthy” but still be “not happy”. Healthy state is a “required” but “not sufficient” condition to be happy as the latter is a function of mental construct and attitude.
The concept of “happy aging” has in recent times assumed importance as a topic both for scholarly research as well as implementation in practice. The concept is now termed as “healthy & happy aging”.
The first dimension is that the process of aging has to be “healthy” devoid of any serious physical or mental ailments.
As life expectancy all over the globe shows an upward trend because of medical advancements, elderly people have to maintain sound physical as well as mental state so as be independent and capable of doing all necessary activities on their own. But this is only one dimension. The other important aspect is that aging process should be a “happy” one too. This means the elders should continue to enjoy journey of life like other counterparts despite their physical / mental weakness / slowdown.
This dimension of happy aging is possibly more important as without this, life becomes a torturous journey as we age. We may be “healthy” but still be “not happy”. Healthy state is a “required” but “not sufficient” condition to be happy as the latter is a function of mental construct and attitude.
The process of aging must, therefore, fulfill both the important dimensions: healthy as well as happy.
Globally there has been lots of focus on healthy aging. United Nations has declared the decade from 2021-2030 as that of healthy aging so that all steps are taken by governments as well as society for wellbeing of older people.
Plans and policies by various governments have been put in place through creation of medical and social infrastructure. India is no exception with formation of a policy, legal framework for protection of rights of elderly people / parents, and other legal & protective laws. All these policy measures are aimed at improving quality of healthy aging. However, these are only external dimensions that provide “exterior impetus” to process of aging.
Attitude is the Crux:
What we often forget is that a healthy aging process without contours of happy aging might not have the “desired result”. We need our elderly people to be happy and contented with life, surroundings, family members, happenings; they should feel “emotionally connected” to the current world. That can happen when two conditions are created: society and other stakeholders create a conducive environment and elders are mentally ready to accept the same.
Here comes the importance of attitude. Time and again, it has been argued that elders need to develop a “positive frame of mind”. This is likely to result into facilitating positive outlook & vibe and that alone can have a soothing effect on all other things. An elder with a positive outlook is prone to have more pain bearing capacity, increased absorption ability of adverse events, and so on. Take for example, two patients have undergone the same operation: one with a “positive attitude” is likely to take lesser time to recuperate compared to the other who “thinks negatively”. Thus, positive outlook can work wonders in the whole process of pain bearing and happy aging process.
Mental resolve plays an important role in the entire gamut of developing this positive attitude towards life. The spirit to live well and fight adversity must come from within and for this to happen, we need a “strong resolve”. Many people look to the power outside (Supreme Powe) to seek this strength. Whether this resolve comes from within or outside, its existence is important to find solutions to problems of life. Elders who do not have this “mental resolve” often tend to break down in event of slightly depressing incident. Reverse is true for people with strong resolve. They can face adversities of life with all strength at their disposal.
Research findings have been clear; an elderly person with a “strong resolve” is able to charter difficulties faced with relative ease and live a longer and happier life compared to one who is weak in mental strength. Need of the hour is, therefore, for all elders is to develop this mental resolve to face hardships of life.
Some Strategies to Build Mental Resolve:
- Mediation and other similar mental concentration activities are aimed at improving the mental strength. “AUM” chanting for 30 minutes a day, in continuity, might also help.
- Reading life stories of people who faced adversities in life and come out successfully will aid to augment mental strength.
- Interacting with friends with positive energy and good intention helps to ward off the negative thoughts.
- Keeping away from friends / acquaintances / neighbors who emanate negative energies is always desired.
- Spending time in reading spiritual books / visiting nearby temples and spending time there peacefully in serene climate might create the positive vibe resulting in mental resolve.
- Always doing acts that are good without any expectation will help in improving feel-good factor within that is essential for developing mental resolve.
- A prayer for at least 5 minutes every morning wishing for all good things to happen and ward off the bad things will support improve mental power.
In a world of exploding population of elderly people, happy and healthy aging is need of the hour. To make it happen, all stakeholders need to work together. While society and governments can create an external conducive environment, power is to come from within elders themselves. This will make them feel good despite physical / mental fragility. And this can only emanate from a “strong resolve”. It is time that elders at all levels develop adequate mental strength to weather physical odds and adversities happening with and around them. The mental resolve statements, “I am fine”, I am always ok”, “Everything is alright with me” are the true prescription for a long and happy life.
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 15th October 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.