Old age is usually synonymous with difficulties, agonies and often considered as a painful phase of life. Elders think life as listless, pungent and devoid of energy; they pass time as it comes and that makes life duller.
There is a counterpoint: old life is full of joy devoid of all worldly responsibilities and therefore, should be enjoyed to the hilt. It is a phase of life that should be considered a gift of God for purpose of enjoyment alone. This feeling changes whole perspective of looking at elder life. Pains related to physical and mental ailments commonly associated with old age will be replaced with a sense of joy with this phase of life being full of happiness. This transition can only happen if elders follow certain psychological / emotional rules that can change the way one looks at life.
It is in this context that five (5) psychological / emotional attributes become crucial to develop a new way of looking at elderly life.
These can be summarized as under:
One of the main problems associated with old age is that people often lose self-esteem. They feel neglected, left alone and sometimes abused. This causes sense of seclusion, depression and a feeling of loss of self-esteem. This is the root cause of many mental ailments giving rise to commonly observed mental issues and psychological behaviors like depression / aggression / regression commonly observed among elders. First principle is that elders must LOOK HIGH. They should always think they are the best people, given their lives for family, country and society and there is nothing wrong with them. Despite physical / mental weaknesses, they should consider themselves as “useful” to themselves as well as others. They should look at themselves with high esteem. This feeling of looking high will automatically make them believe in their own esteem and feel-good factor will set in. This will energize the elders to live and live for future.
Develop EQ & AQ:
Old age is often associated with various ailments, both physical & mental. Besides life style and medication, a strong self-belief is necessary to come out of the same. We often hear cases elders suffering from fractures and never recouping from it and that being beginning of the end. Similar is the case with mental issues arising out of anxiety and loneliness. To face this turmoil in life, elders must develop strong emotional quotient (EQ) that will allow them to manage their emotions and keep them calm amidst worst possible difficulties. Similarly, a strong adversity quotient (AQ) will enable them to rebound from all troubles and come back to normal self. As we grow old, our resolve comes down; hence, a calculated and determined resolve to garner both EQ & AQ will make elders face difficulties and rebound, to the extent possible.
Finding Purpose of Life
After having retired from active life and being faced with difficulties associated with old age, elders often lose love for life. This loss of passion to live cuts down their life expectancy. The only way to counter this is to develop a new meaning of life. Finding a new purpose of life will refuel the passion and direct activities. This is what is often called SECOND LIFE. This whole concept of second life is to live again; this will create all the passion and keenness to live with the set goals in mind. The type of purpose will significantly differ from person to person: it can be service to society, living a meaningful life, do all those things one could not do earlier like travelling, etc., or can be as simple as learning a new language or hobbies, etc. The whole approach of finding a purpose in life will invigorate the elderly to live longer to fulfill the goals.
Withdrawal, seclusion and loneliness are the common problems associated with old age. These are the root causes of all emotional issues. One way to counter them is to willfully try to remain connected with all: whom they know and whom they may not know by making friendship with them. The former includes family members, childhood / school / college friends, earlier office colleagues. The other bigger group could be making new friendships, may be with people of the housing society where they live or becoming member of different hobby clubs like walking or music clubs, etc. Senior citizen clubs are an excellent way of developing friendship with like-minded people. Our experience at My Retired Life MRL has been excellent. Members have developed deep friendship over physical / virtual meeting for 3 to 6 months and they continue enjoying companionship. This “staying connected approach” is a powerful tool to develop happy hormones as the people find solace and happiness in company of others and often forget their own problems.
Live for Today
And the final principle is that elders must live today only. There is no point in living in past: either gloating or having regrets as it does not lead to anywhere. No one knows the future as it is uncertain. Death is inevitable and one should not be afraid of it. The best way to live life is to live today and live happily. This attitude alone can enable an elderly person to enjoy each and every moment of life.
Life is a journey that is full of its own stories of happiness as well as sorrows. Death is also inevitable. The best way to lead life is to enjoy our time at the planet as happily and gracefully as possible. “If winter comes, can spring be far behind”, should be the axiom we must believe in whenever we are in problem. The five (5) principles we talked above will help us, to some extent, in mitigating our problems / issues associated with old age and enable us to lead a contented life. Happy and graceful aging should be the motto of every elderly person.
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 16th July 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.