Aging Gracefully: What We Can Do Now
Just think about it. We have never had the privilege of living as long as we live today. It was not until 1.5 centuries ago when the lifespan started growing. Penicillin, then research in disease prevention, vaccination, and the achievements in microbiology have had an immense, decisive impact on our victory over infectious diseases, in particular, smallpox. The development of the economy has started to virtually eliminate poverty and hunger. Life lengthened, but this has brought about new challenges like any other dramatic change.
Why do we need to learn to age?
If we peek into the 1960s, we notice that a few countries could boast a life expectancy of 70 years. However, according to statistics, the average lifespan in Europe today is 79-85 years, with Norway (82,5) topping the list. This news sounds great, but what should the lifestyle look like to allow us to enjoy longer and a quality life?
Psychology and anthropology recognize the concept of a social clock, a so-called timetable that is determined by culture and specifies a proper time for certain events. A hundred years ago, the picture was clear: childhood ended at 13-15, a person was considered mature at 25-30, and old age began at about 60 and was relatively short. People were considered lucky to actually reach this threshold.
But in XXI, something curious happened to the social clock. 30-year-olds are considered near teenagers full of dreams and potential for growth, and who would dare to call a 51-year-old Elon Musk or 55-year-old Nicole Kidman “elderly people”? According to the Record high old-age dependency ratio in the EU, about 100 million people in Europe are in their late sixties, and all of them expect at least 20 years of active and interesting life ahead. Scientists call it “the concept of successful aging.”
What is “successful aging”?
There was a time when declining years were a tough and sad period. A person without goals, ambitions, and passions, was just living out their days without having any plans. Nowadays, elderly people who are feeling well are scratching their way out of the exception group, their number is growing. Sunset years have become a robust season of life, and by the way, quite long.
We had to reconsider the idea of retirement. Many diseases, such as diabetes and osteoporosis, were recently viewed as inevitable companions of old age. But now, we understand that correlation does not imply causation.
Cognitive impairment is also not a sign of aging as such. The research “Digital Human Modeling. Applications in Health, Safety, Ergonomics, and Risk Management,” shows that people aged 70-75 have the same capacity for education as young people.
The concept of successful aging implies not only physical/psychological independence and freedom from chronic diseases but also life that is fulfilling and rewarding. There is also ample evidence that many elderly people regard themselves as happy, even if they have some disease or disability. Here we are looking at continued social functioning as well. It encompasses social integration and reciprocal participation in society.
The bottom line is that people are aging successfully if they are concentrated on what is happening today, and keep developing themselves, adapt to the rapidly changing environment, maintain healthy self-esteem and remember about friends and hobbies, rather than reminiscing or experiencing regrets over the past.
Five rules of your comfortable retirement
When is the right time to start preparing for the age-specific changes? In fact, any time is good. The foundation of world outlook and habits that facilitate our physical and psychological health are laid at a young age.
- Do not be neglectful of your health, do not self-medicate, and regularly undergo a medical examination. Rely on professional help. This will increase the chances of reaching the threshold of old age without advanced diseases.
- Do not pretend that chronic pain or discomfort is just some “under the weather” moment that will go away on itself. Not a single pimple on your bum breaks out without reason. Chronic pains can develop quite early, and the habit of enduring discomfort can be extremely dangerous for your well-being in old age.
- Eat healthily. The best practice seems to be developing healthy eating habits as early in life as possible. This way, it is much easier to avoid addiction to sugary products and alcohol, and introduce the habit of eating seasonal vegetables and fruits. The habit of taking multivitamin complexes is also more easily formed in youth. Moreover, a sufficient intake of vitamins and minerals helps stave off the development of diseases, which is described by scientists in a comprehensive series of research “Vitamins You Need as You Age.” As we can see, calcium, vitamin D, B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, and selenium are especially important.
- Stay active. This does not necessarily mean training in the gym if you had not been actively engaged in sports activities before. A simple habit of daily long walks or dancing is a sufficient form of activity.
- Maintain your social bonds. The way our social relations and society, on the whole, affect our aging period is obviously underestimated. Seek the company of people who share your interests or do something you have always wanted to try but never dared, try volunteering activities, join clubs, and get out of your comfort zone. Get on adventures, do anything that stimulates your brain activity and makes your brain seek a nontrivial solution.
These five simple steps will help you make a smooth, comfortable transition from one period of your life to the other. Do not just come to terms with the idea that you are aging, don’t just take it as a given. Live it, live it to the fullest, enjoy every day, benefit from what you have, stay positive, and never stop developing.
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