Seniors population is increasing by leaps and bounds all over the globe. In Canada, as a result of the baby boomers joining the seniors’ ranks, this increase is even more pronounced. According to Statistics Canada figures, seniors aged 65 and over now make up 13.5 % of Metro Vancouver’s population. This proportion is expected to climb to 17% by 2021 and 21% by 2031. These numbers are bound to put a lot of pressure on health care, housing and transit. Most of these issues need to be addressed by different levels of government. However, the seniors also need to become active participants in this process. In this context there are a few things that the seniors can do in order to age gracefully.
Brain is one of the key components that helps us deal with aging. Unfortunately, there are a lot of myths relating to brain as people age. Recent research indicates that we have the power to positively influence our brain function throughout life. Dr. Majid Fotuhi is a leading neurologist on this subject. He is also the author of Memory Cure an excellent resource to keep ones memory sharp. He states that we maintain and even improve our health as we age. He goes on to add that our brains have the ability to grow and change throughout life.
According to Dr. Fotuhi, the brain keeps growing so long as it is challenged. Learning a new skill or engaging in some other activity to stimulate the brain helps create new pathways, which in turn, help the brain grow. Exercise, challenging mental activities, social engagement and diet has all been shown to have positive effects on cognition and memory. Fotuhi goes on to state that incorporating lifestyle factors like exercise, a healthy diet stress reduction as well as intellectual and social engagement is very helpful for brain health.
Staying active physically, socially and emotionally is the key to enjoying ones golden years. These include relaxation, exercise, a positive attitude and a proper diet. Relaxing even for a few minutes every day goes a long way in calming ones nerves. Relaxation can be in any form. It may include yoga, meditation or simply having a quiet time for 15-20 minutes in the morning before staring ones day or in the evening before retiring.
Exercise is considered to be the best medicine for a person regardless of age. It can be in any form –walking, jogging, running, gymnastics etc. Also, having a positive attitude is crucial to ones physical, social and emotional well being. As we grow older often our minds begin to focus more on the negative than the positive. Prominent American psychologist William James has stated that our attitude towards an event is more important than the event itself. Positive thinking and an optimistic approach to life certainly make our journey a lot more enjoyable. Winston Churchill once remarked that a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity and an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. So be an optimist and always look at the bright side of things.
These measures, along with proper and a well balanced diet, are bound to help one age gracefully. In this regard, there is lot of information available in our libraries, on the Internet and from our health professionals. Naturally, as we grow older our reflexes don’t respond as well as we would like them to. Also, with age come some other health issues. Rather than having a feeling of despair and helplessness we should meet these challenges head on. Moreover, we should be thankful for what we have rather than worry about what we don’t have. Have an attitude of gratitude. Such an approach makes life a lot more meaningful, enjoyable and worthwhile.
Balwant Sanghera is a retired School Psychologist and Community Activist.