Ageing may be inevitable, but that doesn’t seem to make it any the more palatable for the vast majority of Western civilisation. We fight it every step of the way using a variety of methods, ranging from the more sedate actions of hiding our date of birth on Facebook and investing in expensive creams that claim to erase our wrinkles (sorry, should I call them laughter lines?), through to the more invasive procedures of injectables, fillers and facelifts. There is, however, another way. It may sound crazy, and is most definitely contentious, but how about embracing ageing and accepting it as a welcomed part of your life cycle?
We plan furiously for so many elements of our lives – holidays, our children’s schooling, careers, home improvements, even superannuation. But the vast majority of us spend more time planning what to have for dinner than we do planning for what we will do as we age beyond that magic goal of retirement.
When you have spent your superannuation lump sum on a couple of cruises, spoiling your grandchildren and golf memberships, what will you do when you are no longer able to make it to the 18th hole or pick up your grandchildren from day care? The subject may be taboo, but planning for this stage of your life is just as important as planning for retirement. Maybe you assume you will die in your sleep or that you will be so old that you won’t care. Having worked with thousands of individuals at this stage of life over the last 20 years, I can assure you, you will care.
Six tips for ageing gracefully
Exercise your brain
You have made it to the pinnacle of your career, you are the wisest and most experienced person in your organisation, and what do you do? You retire. Don’t do it! Stay involved! You are a huge asset to the business - keep up to date with industry trends and technology and move into a part-time mentor or consultant role. This will enable you to stay stimulated and add value. Once you retire, you will be looking for things to do, hobbies are best used to complement your life, not fill it. By mentoring or consulting you will have the best of both worlds. You may even enjoy it…
Exercise your social skills
One of the biggest diseases of ageing is becoming irrelevant. It is essential that you build a network around you of like-minded people, with shared interests and perspectives, to whom you will be relevant. Join any club, non-profit organisation or community group that you can be involved in, that you want to be involved in, and that you can add value to over time. Whether it be an RSL, bridge club, bowls club, rotary club, a church or other religious group, get involved and build those friendships. Humans are social creatures, and the need to be social does not dissipate with age.
Exercise your body
We are lucky enough to live in a beautiful country where you can get outside and enjoy some sunshine most days of the year. Not only is a bit of fresh air and sunshine good for the soul but it is just as good for your mind, and your body. Exercise helps to get you outdoors, increases blood flow to the heart and helps fight depression, it also enhances your mood and studies show that people with arthritis, heart disease, and diabetes benefit from regular exercise. As an added bonus, Vitamin D from the sun can also help fight depression and osteoporosis.
Exercise your jaw
The old adage of you are what you eat is so very true as you age. You need to keep that brain hydrated, so no matter how dull a glass of water may seem, have one and then treat yourself to another. Try and reduce your hot chip habit – a 2009 Cambridge University study found that high-fat diets made rats slower AND dumber. Sadly, sugar is also in the ‘best avoided’ camp. A recent UCLA study found that a diet high in fructose slows your brain, hampering learning and memory. Instead chomp your way through a diet consisting of wholefoods, plenty of fruit and vegetables. Wholegrains, nuts, oily fish, blueberries, tomatoes, eggs, healthy fats such as olive oil and avocado, sage, broccoli, pumpkin seeds have all been found to boost brain health and memory. There has been recent research to suggest that a Mediterranean Diet can lower your risk of Alzheimer’s, so role play your way to Greece and grill some sardines on the BBQ.
Exercise your inner designer
Hoarding is officially bad for your ageing health. As you clutter your environment, you are creating more obstacles to navigate and potential hazards that might cause you to trip. Try and hang your favourite rug on the wall as opposed to displaying it on the floor, or look at implanting soft flooring within your floorboards so that there are no exposed edges.
Research shows that the number one place where there is a risk of falling is the bathroom. This is where you get in and out of the bath or shower, amongst a variety of tiled and slippery surfaces. These falls often lead to hip fractures and head injuries. Help to prevent potential falls by installing hand rails, hobless showers and slip resistant flooring. You might even want to consider an emergency call bell system.
Lighting is an interior designer’s favourite friend and it should also be yours. However, relying solely on the romantic dim glow of a wall light will not be practical as you grow older. As you age, your eyesight will deteriorate and you will need better lighting to be able to navigate your home. You will need to ensure that you have particularly good lighting on the stairs.
Try and review all aspects of your home environment to ensure that they will enable, rather than disable you, as you grow older.
Having the last word
Ageing is both inevitable and normal. Embrace ageing, celebrate the wisdom you have acquired, the friends you have made and the lessons you have learned. Plan for ageing with enthusiasm and this will enable you to make the most out of your final years, without being a burden to your family. Plan now and the decisions for how you live your final years will be yours, not the result of some last minute crisis-driven decision made by your family.
About the Author
Tamar Krebs is the founder and CEO of Group Homes Australia. She has worked in the aged and dementia care industry for 18 years both in Australia and internationally. She has held senior management and leadership roles at retirement villages, nursing homes, hostels and dementia units. Tamar has a Masters of Health Service Management, a Bachelor of Science and various certificates and diplomas which provide her with a solid skill and knowledge base in Gerontology. She is recognised as a Specialist in both Behaviour Management and Aged Care and offers consultancies to various aged care providers. Group Homes Australia does dementia differently. Find out more at www.grouphomes.com.au