Words of Wisdom
I’ve been on my own conscious Age Life Balance journey for 6 months now. The words of wisdom idea came to me on a cold bright morning in early December, when I found myself in a picturesque lakeside caravan park driving my daughter to a party. I noticed a crowd of older people laughing outside a well kempt mobile home as they were gathering to go on a winter walk. I wondered what personal journey they’d been on, to end up here, and how, if at all possible, I could tap in and learn from their experience – their words of wisdom became the Age Life Balance.
Since then, I’ve shared what I have found through researching the topic of ageing, and particularly what constitutes successful ageing, from books, newspapers, internet articles etc. This has led to the subject headings that you’ve read about in the Age Life Balance blog so far. I’ve also conducted two pieces of my own primary research: the survey I wrote about via the insights article, and also via my Words of Wisdom (WOW) questionnaire.
Via WOW I have interviewed a number of people (16 so far) between the ages of 52 and 96 who seem to be ageing well. The average age of interviewee is 71, with 75% female and 25% male. I can easily say that these interviews have been the most fascinating, insightful and enjoyable part of my journey so far.
Each person’s story is different (we are all unique, after all) and each person has been on their very own Age Life Balance journey. However, there are definitely some common threads coming through in their responses:
Outlook plays a big part: having a positive attitude and an open mind. Being willing to try new things or adapt to changing circumstances. Being optimistic yet realistic about the future.
Health is paramount: maintaining levels of activity for as long as your body will allow. Enjoying a balanced diet that works for you and your needs.
Having a range of interests: being interested in anything gives you a purpose and keeps life interesting and enjoyable. Having a range of interests helps you adapt more.
Social interactions: most people interviewed are happy with the level of interaction they have today, although some have a lot and others very little. This interaction comes from friends, family, colleagues, like-minded people or even animals.
Maintaining perspective: appreciating that you’re getting older, yet ensuring you still enjoy life as much as possible.
I am pleased to say that these themes echo many of the topics featured within this blog. What’s more, these themes are similar to those reported within the Age UK’s Index of Wellbeing in Later Life.
The aim of this article is neither to make generalisations nor to ‘showcase’ the journey of any specific individual, however I find some of the comments so revealing and enlightening that I wanted to share some of these with you.
These are some of the words of wisdom about successful ageing that seemed to stand out from those who have done it:
- Open mind – being prepared to try new things
- Positive attitude
- Being optimistic, but having the strength to accept reality
- Take chances & opportunities that present themselves, albeit using rational decision-making
- Look ahead: don’t carry the past on your back
- Gratitude – count the day’s achievements even if minor
- Don’t give up on a task because you find it difficult: find a way to make it suit your capabilities
- Keep your mind engaged – don’t stop the desire for learning new things
- Caring for animals can be therapeutic
- Eat little and often
- Balanced & Healthy diet – knowing what is good / not so good, in general and for you specifically
- Maintain a steady weight – don’t overeat or drink too much
- Vegetarian diet could be beneficial – limit processed food
- Drink a glass of water first thing every morning to prevent constipation
- Take supplements to prolong health / deter health issues as appropriate (folic acid, cod liver oil, glucosamine, vitamin D etc.)
- Make the most of being fit and well: maintain your mobility for as long as you can
- Vary exercise: don’t get bored, do different types and work different muscles
- Being active is important, but it can come naturally as a result of other interests and activities rather than exercise for its own sake
- Keep active and healthy, but embrace reality – don’t try and look young
- Have a range of interests to provide a sense of purpose
- Have a combination of indoor and outdoor activities to make the most of time based on weather, as well as to make things more interesting
- Have a few specific medium-term goals, no matter how big or small
- Build up a wide circle of friends: including old and new
- Get out in the community, keeps you part of a living world
- Spend time with different ages including children and older people
- Get out and make an effort.
- Love, respect and engage all I come into contact with
- Get out and about – volunteering
- Living and laughing
- Keep smiling and enjoy time with friends
- Listen more than talking
- Maintain perspective
- Don’t lose your sense of humour
- Keep calm and try not to worry about what you cannot control
I have gained some great insights from my WOW conversations, however, it’s not all been plain sailing. Managing to pin down some of these people has been a challenge, especially the retired ones. From what I understand, many of them are as busy now (or even busier) as they were pre-retirement.
One of my interviewees is a fitness instructor and personal trainer. I’m not quite sure of his age (he wasn’t keen to divulge it, for fear of age discrimination impacting his future earning potential), but the amount of exercise he does puts me to shame, and I’m pretty fit.
I know a lady in her early 70s that I was keen to speak to: she’s always been active and healthy and remains so to this day. When I told her about Age Life Balance her response was “Oh, it doesn’t apply to me, I’m not planning on getting old”. While this frustrated me a little (as I’d love to discover her secrets) I love her spirit! I may just see if I can try and talk her into answering the questionnaire though…
I’ll be taking further inspiration from these amazing people in future WOW articles. If you know of any inspirational people that you think may be willing to share their story, please let me know via firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll gladly follow up with them.
Thank you for reading. For more interesting articles, visit my blog at www.agelifebalance.com to learn more.