Jane Fonda famously said: “You could not pay me to be young again. After I turned 60, I began to understand who I was, and became young again.”
Aging is not necessarily becoming older and biologically retired. It is merely a journey of becoming “chronologically superior.” Becoming a senior citizen, crossing the golden threshold of 60 years is no longer what it used to be. Sixty does not necessarily mean retirement, sitting in a rocking chair and watching the sunset. Socially and culturally, communities around the world are defining the meaning of aging. 60 is no longer 60 years. It’s the new 40.
If you find it hard to believe, then consider this:
1. Yoshihisa Hosaka, a senior citizen runner, has broken the 60+ world marathon running record with a time of 2 hours 36 minutes
2. David Shepherd attained a British record at the 2,000m indoor rowing championships in the 85-89-year-old category
3. Louise Cooper, 61, has run through the Sahara desert and up the 28,000-foot Mont Blanc in Switzerland.
Each of these passionate individuals have their philosophy on life and living.
What are their secrets? How does one view a milestone in life as a stepping stone to exploring newer avenues? When does one start? When is it too late?
The good news is that it’s never too late. And everyone can start their journey – anytime. With the right attitude and lifestyle, it could become a journey into a more beautiful and vibrant phase of life.
Here are a few bullet points to check out:
1. Be positive: Author, Dr. Lissa Rankin, says: “Our bodies know how to fix broken proteins, kill cancer cells, retard aging, and fight infection. They even know how to heal ulcers, make skin lesions disappear and knit together broken bones. But here’s the kicker: those natural self-repair mechanisms don’t work if you’re stressed!”
Yes, growing older could mean decreased energy levels or difficulty in hearing. Or other health conditions. The key is to keep the mind positive and happy. A great way to achieve that is by daily meditation and the Sudarshan Kriya. Meditation has numerous health benefits including better energy levels, stronger immunity, reduced stress and greater clarity in thinking. All these contribute to a greater sense of well-being.
The All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi, concluded that a regular practice of the Sudarshan Kriya stimulates positive emotions, replacing anger, frustration, and jealousy among several other health benefits.
A new concept called ‘positive aging’ has been coined. The Australian Psychological Society describes positive aging as ‘a term used to describe the process of maintaining a positive attitude, feeling good about yourself, keeping fit and healthy, and engaging fully in life as you age.’
2. Move it: Exercise, move around, stay active. It doesn’t matter which activity you choose: could be brisk walking, cycling, swimming. Some people like to opt-in for strength training, which is great for the bones. It’s important that:
- a. weekly exercise time is maintained at around 200 minutes. That makes it around 30 minutes a day. Sounds super doable, right?
- b. consistent: it’s important to exercise regularly versus sudden spurts of inspiration.
- c. friends: company helps to maintain the routine, make it more fun and increase a sense of confidence. The fear of losing balance or feeling uneasy puts many people off. Your friends will help you.
- d. work on restorative exercises like yoga. Yoga is gentle on the body while strengthening it from its core. Mudras are especially gentle on the body and help correct many conditions. You could find some more tips on yoga for senior citizens here.
3. Eat right: The best is yet to come, they say. And you need all the energy for it. Food is an essential factor in staying positive and reaping the most out of the regular exercise. Fresh fruits, nuts, less sodium would go a long way in keeping the energy levels up and supplying the body with prana (life force energy). So enjoy the spinach, fenugreek, broccoli, and radish. And hydrate yourself well.
4. Pamper yourself: Explore the world of Ayurveda. This ancient science states that a human body is designed to live well for a 100 years if we observe the laws of the body. Why not dip into this timeless wisdom? The therapeutic spa treatments include massages, body wraps, and cleansing processes which rejuvenate the body and ease ailments.
5. Fire up the grey cells: The brain is a muscle. Exercising this muscle will keep it pumping and alive. It could mean memorizing your favorite shloka, learning a dance, solving a crossword or Sudoku puzzle, learning a new skill. Keep at it. Regular brain workouts keep many diseases, including Alzheimer’s and dementia, at bay.
6. Rally around: Keep those social connections alive. Meet with your special circle of friends, spend time with family, make new friends. These bonds will keep you feeling more optimistic and happy, add meaning to some free time, and help you release stress. You can join your moods with them, and not be judged. What a relief!
7. Be regular: Regular health check-ups are great. Keep those conversations active with the doctors. Keep the multivitamins, food supplements, and minerals going.
For many, growing older means drawing tighter concentric circles around daily routines and functions. While at 60 years, we might feel confident to drive a car, perhaps at 70 years, we may opt out. Perhaps at 80 years, we will stop climbing those stairs. It’s actually all up to us.
“We need to revise how we think of aging,” says Jane Fonda. “The old paradigm was: You’re born, you peak at midlife, and then you decline into decrepitude. Looking at aging as ascending a staircase, you gain well-being, spirit, soul, wisdom…”
So here’s hoping that the best is yet to come.
These guidelines are simple and safe for all to follow. However, each person will have a different physical and mental framework. It is important to consult a physician before starting any exercises or changing any dietary patterns.
Based on inputs from Dr. Gopal Goyal, general physician; Sharika Menon, Ayurvaidya
Written for The Art of Living