Growing up from middle age
The world is ageing and New Zealand is no exception. In fact, demographics reveal that by 2025 there will be more people aged 65+ than children under 14. An added bonus is living longer—expectations are you’ll live over 20 years longer than we did in the 1950's.
Meaning there are a whole host of issues, and changes to preconceived notions of ageing, that demand attention. Our view is that these positive challenges represent opportunities as long as we approach them with eyes wide open.
Many of the ‘bigger’ issues have national significance such as affordable housing and rising health care costs. Living longer means we’ll need to spend more.
So ageing is changing. We’re living longer and are more aware of how to keep ourselves healthy. By ageing well now, we can retain our independence a lot longer, whether this is living in our own home or in a retirement village.
Having more time to contemplate the opportunities and issues round retirement can also mean the chance to pursue a little homework in preparation.
A useful starting point could be looking at Canadian retirement expert Barry LaValley’s book So you think you’re ready to retire? Rather than focusing on fiscal ‘bottom lines’ he instead investigates what it takes to prepare your mind for retirement and understanding concepts such retirement psychology, health, relationships.
Did I forget something?
There is a strong correlation between ageing and memory loss. It happens but there are things you can do to dramatically stem the tide. Bear in mind, and don’t forget, that the first ‘signs’ are not an indication that something more serious is inevitable.
Slower processing is a natural part of ageing. It’s not so much forgetting where you put your car keys, it’s forgetting what car keys are for or thinking you need to put them in the freezer that’s the concern.
According to New Zealand dementia specialist Dr Chris Perkins, 83% of elderly people forget names and about 60% lose their keys.
It certainly doesn’t hurt to see a doctor if you’re concerned – particularly if you have significant changes in lifelong behaviour. But, in the meantime, there’s a great deal you can do to keep yourself sharp.
Here are some ideas:
- A healthy body makes a big difference. A little exercise helps improve the circulation of oxygen to the brain, improving reasoning and reaction times.
- Eating well keeps your neurons firing, your arteries open and your blood pumping a steady supply of energy and helpful vitamins.
- Practice mental fitness. Thinking games are a start but take up new hobbies that are complex and challenging. Whatever you dreamed about doing before might be a starting point now.
The good news is that it’s never too late. Our brains are surprisingly flexible and can rewire themselves as required but the sooner you start, the better.
Have a little faith in me
Interest in spirituality and aging has increased recently, owing to overwhelming evidence of positive health outcomes linked to spirituality and religious participation. Increasing longevity in modern society puts spiritual needs of older adults at the forefront of societal priorities.
Rather than run away from the subject think about ways to embrace it.
For starters spirituality is often misinterpreted as religion—it can encompass it but it doesn’t have to.
Ageing specialist Dr Chris Perkins says “spirituality may be expressed through religion, but could involve connections to nature, family, art, craft, music or other creative activities, or a broad notion of God that is not attached to any particular system of belief.”
Here are some ways where spirituality can be good for your health.
- Religious or not, spirituality can help older people with discussions of death and dying – something they may want to come to terms with.
- Spirituality can relieve stress and anxiety, increase wellbeing and it correlates with lower rates of “frailty”.
- Spirituality is linked to higher levels of mental and physical health, and even faster recovery from illness.
- It can help dementia sufferers hold on to their individuality and sense of self as long as possible.