Ageing gracefully: How to live your best life and take care of your physical and mental well-being

Yes, the clock is ticking! It’s ticking for everyone. Ageing is real, as real as birth and death. Ageing has come to be a stigmatised topic in conversation, and we tend to avoid it. Along with being a rarely spoken about subject comes ignorance, and hence, it becomes increasingly harder for us to accept it.

Although ageing brings with it numerous fears, dilemmas, and stigma, with the right attitude and efficient preparation, one can embrace it gracefully and continue leading a quality life.

Ageing gracefully normally refers to age or appearance – “She doesn’t look as old as she is”, “He is still active for his age”, and often comes with negative connotations. Perhaps it’s time to change our interpretation of the term.

Ageing gracefully is not about trying to look younger. It’s about living your best life and having the physical and mental health to enjoy it. It is more about being healthy.

Ageing gracefully refers to whatever actions you may need to take to confidently thrive in your older years, and have a positive outlook about the changes.

Ageing comes with its own set of real challenges – wrinkles, tooth loss, osteoporosis, lifestyle diseases, feeling of loneliness, feeling of being neglected, etc. However, if one prepares well and has the right approach towards their well-being, all of these can be managed efficiently.

Ageing body and diseases

As one grows older, the body’s immunity lowers. This results in the body becoming more susceptible to many illnesses. With changed metabolism and ageing tissues also comes the risk of lifestyle and neurological disorders.

Diabetes, hypertension, cardiac and lung issues, joint pains and osteoporosis are very common in the elderly. Neurological issues like Stroke, Neuropathy, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s are also quite prevalent.

An ageing body is very likely to develop illnesses; but if they are detected early, managed well medically and with lifestyle changes, they can be controlled, and the quality of life will not be greatly affected.

Eating a balanced Diet

Diet has shown to play a very important role in how well you age. Eating a well-balanced nutritious diet is important to also keep diseases such as diabetes, heart diseases and other at bay. Having a diet rich in antioxidants helps in avoiding many chronic and inflammatory conditions.

Processed foods bring with them a plethora of harmful effects and are best avoided. A good diet should include whole grains, lean proteins, low fat items and colorful fruits and vegetables.

Along with the diet components, it is equally important to pay attention to timing of meals and portions. Less is more when it comes to eating for a long life. One should eat a little less than our hunger demands.

Staying physically active

Poor health in old age is mainly caused due to poor lifestyle choices like physical inactivity or poor dietary habits. Sedentary lifestyle leads to an increased risk of chronic illnesses and early death. Having a routine for exercise from an early age is very helpful. Simple exercises such as yoga, walking, cycling are quite effective.

Get enough sleep

Good sleep is important for physical and mental health. Our sleeping habit has been greatly affected by work pressure, changed lifestyle, and increased screen time. Irregular or less sleeping hours, in turn, can lead to fatigue, poor concentration and premature ageing of body cells.

It has been observed that insomnia is more common in adults. Hence, it is important to develop a proper schedule as early as possible. Avoiding caffeine, alcohol and electronic gadgets before bedtime are very effective for having an uninterrupted sleep.

Find a purpose

If life has a direction towards a purpose, it gives a sense of accomplishment. This can be related to work, social work or hobbies.

Finding new and meaningful hobbies can give a sense of purpose and satisfaction. This will also keep one engaged. It’s a good idea to rekindle your hobbies or develop a new one.

The international bestseller ‘Ikigai’ sums it up very well – “There is a passion inside you, a unique talent that gives meaning to your days and drives you to share the best of yourself until the very end.”

Nurture your friendships

A study conducted by researchers at Harvard has important revelations about what makes people happy. This study was conducted over nearly 80 years and is one of the world’s longest studies on adult life. “The surprising finding is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health”, said Robert Waldinger, director of the study.

Your mental health is important

Old age brings with it a plethora of emotional issues. This can be the Empty Nest Syndrome when their children move out of home. Even if the children stay together, there can be a feeling of neglect and a sense of decreasing authority.

As people retire from active work life, it can also bring the feeling of inadequacy. Many times, hormonal changes also contribute to feelings of depression. It is important to understand the signs and reach out for help to a counsellor, as early as possible.

Regular consultations and health checks

Ageing body and ageing organs are more prone to get diseased. The body metabolism starts changing with age. Oral health also starts getting affected with issues in teeth and gums.

Having regular consultations with a doctor helps in detecting these issues early so that they can be effectively controlled before they reach the advanced stage. Annual health checks are very important for the elderly. Your doctor can prescribe the relevant tests as per your age and health status.

If you can follow the above and make it a part of your everyday life, it will go a long way in helping you achieve and maintain a good and healthy lifestyle that stays the same right up until your senior years.

Ageing gracefully isn’t always easy, but attitude and preparation matters a lot. Do not be bogged down by the issues coming your way. A prepared mind is far better to tackle it with. Wishing you happy and healthy senior years!Edited by Anju Narayanan

This article first appeared in YourStory

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