Reflections on Being Seventy Plus
Though the nature of the process of aging varies to some extent from place to place, there are some common features which are universal. To start with ageing beyond a certain level-usually middle age-is considered an inevitable but undesirable stage of life. The undesirability stems from the following:
Ø It makes one gradually lose or severely restrict the use of one’s biological faculties.
Ø Usually there is an abrupt diminution in one’s regular income.
Ø The condition makes the end of life nearer and more thought provoking.
Ø Usually it brings about a social isolation and social neglect.
Ø A feeling of worthlessness, emptiness and unwantedness may assail some in this stage of life.
We shall look at these five points one by one in the rest of the article.
Reasonably good biological health is a must during the advancing years to make one live life comfortably, usefully and productively. If one examines the health problems of old age, one can see that they are largely brought upon oneself by one’s own life style. During youth, one is prone to be more rash and foolhardy than in mature, advanced years. This condition leads many to adopt healthwise, undesirable life styles. The toll this takes on physical and mental health might not be apparent in the vigorous young years. But the foundations for many a serious disease is laid at this time in this way. So, keeping in view a comfortable useful life during the golden years, one should live intelligently and comfortably at all stages of life, especially during youth. Nutritious meals largely composed of fresh natural products suited to the age and environment; avoidance of synthetic and highly preserved nutrients and not looking for energy, peace and serenity in external things instead of within oneself as advocated by yoga are some of the health factors that help everyone.
The habit of saving for a rainy day, which creatures such as the bee and squirrel instinctively have, contains a germ of truth for every human. The youth and middle age are the times when one should plan meticulously for financial security during old age. Every country and every economic system contains useful, reliable schemes for ensuring a steady income during the senior years without any undue physical or mental effort on the part of the senior. Such a financial arrangement is necessary to make sure that one’s basic needs of life are readily met without any dependence on others. Once this is assured, the golden years can be enjoyably spent.
Old age and some of the physical limitations it usually brings, the changed social and family environment, and the ability to think premising the knowledge and experience gained over the years gone by make one more aware of the impending end of life. One way of looking at it boldly and serenely is to ensure that all preparations are made for the worldly needs that follow it and then to adopt a healthy, philosophical attitude: one had no deterministic choice of one’s birth, so one should equally forget about the end of life. If the successive transitions from childhood to boyhood, from boyhood to adolescence, from adolescence to maturity are evolutions on a rising scale, death should be a stage higher than old age.
Social isolation and social neglect can be kept at bay by continuing to be active in whichever field one is experienced and competent. The experiences of senior persons differ in nature, but all will have rich experience in whatever field they were actively involved. There will always be people, especially among the young needing their help in these areas. Keeping oneself engaged by giving such help will obviate the social neglect and social isolation.
What we have said so far should largely avoid or mitigate the feeling of worthlessness, emptiness and unwantedness. Studies have shown that that the biological degradation that the brain undergoes with ageing is not very significant and that its plasticity enables one to go on acquiring new knowledge and skill. In this world of rapidly advancing technology, trying to keep up with these advances at least in one sector will help in keeping the brain active and sharp. Happy golden years to all who read this.