The world is an exciting place, but it gets harder and harder to keep up with everything. Remember the old saying “stop the world, I want to get off?” This is not going to happen; the world is not going to stop or even wait for you.
You might remember the days when problems of the world were discussed at the water cooler. Everyone knew what was going on, or so they thought, and could expound on any topic. Times have changed. It isn’t even possible to know everything anymore, but we try.
Seniors can still stay “in the know”, but it takes considerably more effort. It is good to feel needed, but staying active and in touch with the world involves a great deal more than just pitching in with family obligations. It is necessary to remain both mentally and physically sharp:
• Know what is going on locally, nationally and internationally. If television news programs leave you feeling anxious and depressed, browse newspaper and magazine articles instead. You can get the gist without having doom and gloom repeated over and over again.
• Get a job, not because you need to but because you want to. Local companies are hiring seniors because they like what they see; a good work ethic and a ready smile go a long way.
• Be a volunteer. Hospitals, schools, libraries and public service organizations need your help.
• Travel. Go places you have been meaning to visit for years. Go on your own or with an organized group.
• Find a new hobby or resurrect old interests.
• Use your computer. There is more to the computer than playing card games. It is a great way to access the world.
• Stay in shape. Good health and high energy will help you stay in the game.
Aging brings many changes but being informed, busy and productive will make your life more interesting. This is your time; make the world a better place.
You would be amazed by the number of people who don’t read, not because they can’t, but because they don’t want to. What are they thinking?
In our information driven society it is vitally important that everyone knows and understands what is going on in the world today; reading is the best way to do this.
Was it diagramming sentences that turned you off, or were you afraid that you could be considered a “brain” if you had your nose buried in a book? Would you change your mind if you knew that reading was a great way to keep your brain in tip top condition?
The brain is a powerful tool, but you need to treat it right if you want your creativity and problem solving skills to remain intact. Studies show that one way that you can exercise your brain is to read 20 pages in a book or magazine every day. Of course that isn’t the only way to challenge your brain but it is certainly a fun and easy way to start. If reading is already your passion you can stimulate your brain further by sharing your skills with other people. Volunteer as a tutor at a local elementary school or work with an adult literacy program.
Physical, perceptual and cognitive changes related to aging may impact an adults reading ability, but many of these charges are not inevitable, and help is available. Reading glasses, magnifying glasses, computers, electronic readers or reading machines are only a few suggestions. Check with your local library for large print books or audio versions of your favorite titles.
If you refuse to read you will never know how much reading will enhance your life. Read:
• to acquire an understanding of current events
• for personal pleasure
• to develop insights for coping with life’s difficulties
• to remain mentally active
Although some aspects of intellectual function decline with age, other aspects continue to grow until quite late in life. Physical exercise, good nutrition and cognitive exercises all help aging adults remain mentally active and alert.
Disavow yourself of the notion that a “gifted” or “talented” individual has to have a ridiculously high I.Q. Gifted individuals are all around you.
Gifted children are recognized early on and everyone bends over backwards to nurture their special talents, but gifted elders are a different story. With the exception of a few well known artists, activists, or political appointees the gifted elderly are pretty much ignored.
Gifted elders, after spending a lifetime excelling in various endeavors, need to be recognized as the capable individuals that they are. Unfortunately, in our youth oriented society, young people have come to believe that they know more about everything than the people who have been there and done that.
It is time to listen to our elders, before everything that we hold near and dear is lost forever. Stop treating parents and grandparents like children who have outgrown their usefulness; every one of them possesses a special gift or talent that could change your life.
Older people are often modest to the nth degree. They didn’t expect special treatment when they were growing up; more often than not their talents were taken for granted. The feather light pastry dough, the tiny stitches on a handcrafted quilt, the intricate design knitted into a ski sweater and the storyteller teaching your child how to read is someone’s gift to you.
You may think your parents and grandparents are content to sit back and watch the world go by, but are they? Don’t you think that you owe it to them to recognize their gifts and encourage them to keep on sharing?
All it really takes is for someone to take an interest. Encourage your gifted elders to keep on giving:
• participate in book or discussion groups
• volunteer for causes they care about
• work with others on worthwhile projects (community gardens, art clubs, and gifted youth centers)
• take advantage of local adult learning course
Appreciate excellence at every age. Our elders are still capable and gifted individuals who need to be given an opportunity to shine.
Retirement years are grand, or should be, but you may be having trouble slowing down. You may even be scratching your head and wondering “what happened?”
Being busy not only makes you feel important, but it produces a physical and emotional “high” that becomes quite addicting. Over time stress hormones can be incredibly destructive and can lead to a host of diseases. Stress is stress and the body will react accordingly; retirement doesn’t change anything at all.
A stress addict manages to seek out and create new stress, even when none should exist. How busy do you need to be to be happy? If you agree to help or sign up for one more class you may be putting your body on overload. You know better. We all know better, but how many times have you heard your friends proudly exclaim that they are busier now than they have ever been?
Filling the void created by retirement is similar to the empty nest syndrome. The knee jerk reaction is to keep busy so that you don’t have to think. Before you know it you find yourself so busy that you barely have time to breathe; voila, stress is back.
Chronic stress is bad for you; this is a no brainer. Researchers have linked chronic stress to everything from depression to heart disease, but they also say that you can reverse the damage. You can learn how to slow down and smell the roses.
Put your health and emotional well being first. Get enough rest, eat well, and get plenty of exercise. Identify what it is that is driving you and then:
• Learn how to say “no.”
• Stick to activities that you feel passionate about.
• Schedule some “at home” days. You don’t need to fill each day with a litany of activities.
• Calm your mind; study yoga or learn to meditate.
• Stop worrying so much. Get in touch with your religious or philosophical self again and appreciate each day for what it is.
Slowing down is hard work, but it is something that needs to be done. Always racing toward some imaginary finish like is dangerous to your physical health and emotion well-being.
When was the last time that you really laughed? If a sour disapproving face looks back at you when you look in the mirror, it has been too long. You may not realize it but you could be doing yourself a huge disfavor.
Kids smile and laugh all the time. Can you even remember the last time something really tickled your “funny bone?” You probably stopped laughing out loud when some adult suggested that giggling, snorting, and laughing until you cried were beneath you. Well guess what? Studies now reveal that laughter is good for you. It is so good for you that people are teaching classes and giving seminars on the “power of laughter.”
Laughter is universal, it is free, it makes you feel good, and can be enjoyed at any age. People who teach these seminars will tell you that you can choose to laugh just as you can chose to walk or ride a bike. You may feel a little silly at first, but if you can get over yourself for half a second you might find that you are having more than fun than you have in years.
Laughter seminars are showing up in the most unlikely places, but the secrets of their success is often kept from those who need them the most, older adults. Senior centers are finally catching on; ask your program director to invite a motivational speaker or start a laughter yoga class.
It all starts with a smirk (I’ve seen you do it), and then a smile and even a grin. Follow that up with a little snicker, a giggle and then really go for it. A chuckle can turn in to a chortle and pretty soon you are laughing so hard you can hardly stand it. Come on I know you remember. Laughter improves mental function, exercises and relaxes muscles, improves respiration, stimulates circulation and decreases stress hormone levels.
Learn to laugh at a laughing yoga class, attend a seminar, or find a podcast or DVD at the library. Your librarian will help you.
Laugh a little, have fun and lighten up. It does your body good.