Growing old doesn’t have to mean developing disability and disease
3 MINUTE READ
Ageing is a universal part of life. We are born and pass through the natural stages of life, including old age, and then die. The World Health Organisation considers old age as beginning at 65 years of age, but at 55 years of age in Africa.
Old age is the stage of life characterised by declining regenerative abilities, diseases and sicknesses more than in the younger ages. As an individual transitions into old age, they undergo changes in physical and mental capacities that may lead to ill health. Sadly, Western culture does not esteem the aged. Old age is often thought of as an evil, an infirmity, and a dreary time of preparation for death. However, growing old does not have to mean developing disability and disease. Older adults can take action to reduce the risk of developing a chronic disease or minimise the impact of existing chronic diseases, so as to continue to live productive, purposeful and enjoyable lives. Ageing gracefully and living well is the art of living our best lives in our old age and having the physical and mental health to enjoy it. It is about being healthy and happy. Much can be done to age gracefully and live well.
Foremost, exercise. Exercise improves our health and prevents chronic diseases. It is never too late to start. Exercising helps with weight control, lowers blood pressure, strengthens muscles and prevents falls. It decreases the risks of dementia, diabetes and certain types of arthritis. Older adults need not rigorously work out. Walking, gardening, or anything to keep moving is sufficient. In addition, stretching exercises are essential for maintaining and improving flexibility. About five minutes of stretching every day is beneficial.
Preventive measures like annual vaccinations and screening tests for breast, cervical and colorectal cancers are important for growing old gracefully. Healthy diets nourish the body and also help to prevent the development of diseases. Quitting smoking and decreasing alcohol consumption prevent premature ageing and reduce the risk of developing lifestyle-related diseases. Good oral health and regular dental checkups prevent the risks of gum disease, heart disease, stroke, and pneumonia. Regular consults and checkups with your general practitioner or specialist may help prevent diseases through early diagnosis or timely risk assessments to mitigate onset.
Being happy and having a generally sunny outlook on life is also linked to longer, healthier lives.
“Being happy and having a generally sunny outlook on life is also linked to longer, healthier lives.”
Studies indicate that optimistic people live longer and are less likely to develop certain chronic conditions such as heart disease. Being optimistic and maintaining a positive attitude is associated with longevity and better recovery from disease. Being optimistic and lowering one’s stress levels through relaxation techniques such as meditation, breathing exercises, adequate sleep, and talking to a friend helps much to prevent the development of diseases, including mental health conditions. Having a pet has been linked to lower stress and blood pressure, reduced loneliness and better mood. Finding new and meaningful hobbies can help with maintaining a sense of purpose and engagement throughout the course of life. Evidence shows that people who engage in hobbies, leisure and social activities are happier, experience less depression, and live longer.
What does the Bible say about ageing gracefully and living well?
The Bible has much to say about being born, growing old and dying. Ecclesiastes 12 talks about the infirmities of old age.
Remember your Creator in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
and the years approach when you will say,
“I find no pleasure in them”–
before the sun and the light
and the moon and the stars grow dark,
and the clouds return after the rain;
when the keepers of the house tremble,
and the strong men stoop,
when the grinders cease because they are few,
and those looking through the windows grow dim;
when the doors to the street are closed
and the sound of grinding fades;
when people rise up at the sound of birds,
but all their songs grow faint;
when people are afraid of heights
and of dangers in the streets;
when the almond tree blossoms
and the grasshopper drags itself along
and desire no longer is stirred.
Then people go to their eternal home
and mourners go about the streets.
Remember him – before the silver cord is severed,
and the golden bowl is broken;
before the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
and the wheel broken at the well,
and the dust returns to the ground it came from,
and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher.
“Everything is meaningless!”
By contrast, Psalm 71 is the psalm of God’s way to grow old gracefully:
Do not cast me away when I am old;
do not forsake me when my strength is gone.
For my enemies speak against me; those who wait to kill me conspire together.
They say, “God has forsaken him; pursue him and seize him, for no one will rescue him.”
Do not be far from me, my God; come quickly, God, to help me.
May my accusers perish in shame; may those who want to harm me be covered with scorn and disgrace.
As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.
By developing a walk with God that involves a deep, personal, and experiential knowledge of God, that includes the habits of trust, praise, and hope, and a walk that involves a lifestyle and ministry for God, then as long as we have life, we can show and tell and sing of the greatness of our God to the next generation.1
What a way to live out our life!
Dr Kenneth Ibe Dr Kenneth Ibe emigrated to Australia from Africa about twenty years ago. He is happily married to Sophia with four children and is a general practitioner in Dubbo, Western NSW. He eagerly looks forward to the soon return of our Lord Jesus Christ.
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