When I was little, there was a stately old man in our neighborhood who had the habit of picking up lengths of rope in his daily walks and brought them home. There’s nothing wrong with that except that the other end was either tied to a pig, a goat, a cow or a carabao.
He died a long time ago and the pasture lands he habitually picked lengths of rope from have given way to concrete roads, schoolhouses, subdivisions and commercial buildings. And because of our harried lives, we now pick up bags of laundry, mails, packages, a box of pizza or, occasionally, young girls wanting to have a spin.
On the darker side, we could also pick up something more virulent, like the colds or flu virus, hepatitis or many other communicable diseases that have become prevalent due to massive urbanization.
According to a report prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pneumonia, influenza and septicemia (blood poisoning, especially caused by bacteria or their toxins), are among the top 10 causes of deaths and responsible for 5.5% of deaths among people 65 years and older in 1997.
No, I am not trying to scare you with these statistics. After having gone this far, and lived this long, there is hardly anything in the world that can scare our tribe. But we can sometimes get sick through our own stupid and thoughtless hardheadedness.
Normally people our age don’t take so kindly to unsolicited advice, and are loathed to be told what to do. We are always predisposed to doing things our way simply because “that’s how we’ve been doing it since.”
Well, “since” was a long, long time ago when we were more resilient and resistant to common infections. Now we can pick up a virus as easy as picking up a jar of pickles in a grocery store. And believe me, to be confined in bed, at home or in a hospital, is a a terrible thing for elderly people like you and I.
We are no longer the hardy, sturdy, and disease-resistant specimen we once were. We are now at an age where “the only thing we pick up without the risk of sprained hips is a disease.” It is now time to step on the brakes, go slow and start picking up habits that will keep the doctors away.
Here are some I have found to be effective:
1. Enough sleep
It is not true that older people sleep less. Young or old, we all need an average of 7 to 9 hours of sleep a day for our bodies to completely rest and recharge. Older people, however, take a longer time to do it.
A study done on people 65 years old and above, showed that 13% of men and 36% percent of woman take about 30 minutes to fall asleep. The report did not say if men’s snoring caused the sleeping problems in women.
I get an average of seven each night and a 30-min nap after lunch. You can devise your
own. What is important is to have the 7 to 9 hrs a day or risk having your grandkids tell their friends that “Grandpa is an absent-minded, forgetful, and grumpy old man.”
2. Eat right
Another fallacy attributed to the elderly is that we eat less. Not true.
I still eat a full three meals a day with snacks in between. However, I have become choosy in what goes into my gut.
In my younger days, I ate whatever was available. Now I drink juice (mixture of orange, mango and yogurt) early in the morning and wheat bread for breakfast instead of white. I eat four bananas each day and drink green tea instead of water.
I eat a scoop of peanuts after my siesta; munch on grapes while doing computer work at night and snack on sweet potato dipped in honey.
I don’t know if this diet is good for you as it is for me. So far I am physically and mentally well and have an ideal BMI (body mass index).
If you think exercising is not your cup of tea, or you just don’t have the time for it, that’s ok. But don’t be surprised if you:
Grow old and suffer memory loss much faster.
Which would you want people to say of you, “Wow, you look younger than your age,” or, “Are you sure you are still 65?”
But I guess that doesn’t make any difference because you can’t even remember your age anyway.
Break a leg or dislocate your hips because of balance and wobbly legs problem.
Bones of most people our age are as brittle as pretzels and can snap in places even while getting up from the toilet seat.
I know of so many people who gave up on life after breaking a leg or dislocated hips from a bad fall.
Have an increased risk of heart disease or diabetes.
Other than from genetics, more people our age die from laziness than fatigue.
Lower your muscle endurance making it difficult to engage physical activity like sex.
Age is a poor excuse for abstinence. Or is it an alibi? Sex is good for the health. It is just another form of exercise. It is good for one’s self-confidence and adds color to life.
Increase your risk of premature death. Of course, when people our age die, the usual comment is “It is about time,” or “It is surprising that he lived that long,” to make the term “premature” quite quixotic.
4. Do Something Interesting
Doing something interesting, something that occupies your mind, is more effective in keeping away stress and depression than all the drugs in the world combined.
You don’t have to do a Lew Hollander, who, at 80 yrs of age, completed the Ford Ironman World Championship, consisting of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26.2 mile marathon.
You can do ordinary things like engaging in a hobby, or joining a dance or a bike group; dig earthworms with your grandson for fish bait.
It can be anything that takes you away from your daily routine, flex your mental or physical muscles a bit.
Don’t mind the pain if it hurts a bit. That means you are making progress. I developed “mouse elbow” from too much Internet surfing. That is a small price to pay to improve my writing.
5. Get Lost
I believe in the saying, “Get lost to find yourself.”
I often “get lost” by going off to an island where the air is cleaner, the people friendlier, and the atmosphere quieter.
For a day, I immerse myself in my own thoughts and enjoy being detached from familiar surroundings and people; wake up early in the morning to watch the color of the skies change from black to gray, to yellow and then bright orange as the sun frees itself from the horizon.
I lose myself by talking a walk along a deserted beach and feel the ticklish sand against the soles of my feet and hear the gentle roar of the waves coming to shore, then recede to go on with their journey.
In the islands it is music to hear the gentle rustle of the leaves and the disharmonious songs of the birds.
To lose oneself if to feel as if the world is at a standstill and the concept of time is kept away by an invisible wall of beauty and serenity.
It is only in losing oneself that you experience a very profound joy of being alive and part of an endless carousel of Man and Nature, of living and dying.
It is only by losing oneself that you can appreciate your being an important piece in the kaleidoscope of life
6. Good Company
I used to relish having a conversation with a neighbor who exemplified success through diligence and hard work. He loved to talk about business, golf, family and his social activities.
Several years back, he came down with type 2 diabetes. Shortly after that, he suffered a stroke which impaired his walking. Now all he talks about is his illness. No matter what the subject of conversation is, he will always find ways of talking about his medical problems.
Now I avoid him like a plague.
You become you by the company you keep. Hang around with people who talk of nothing but medical issues and very soon you become a medical case.
If one has a cold at home, very soon everybody will be sneezing and having a runny nose.
Leprosy is said to be one of the least of communicable diseases. But loiter around with a person with leprosy and pretty soon you will have suspicious patches on your skin.
My daughter fed my helper with antibiotics after she was diagnosed with tuberculosis to keep me from having one.
With bad company, you can get easily physically and mentally sick.
So pick people who are as enthusiastic about life; people who can make you laugh and feel good about yourself; people who don’t’ bitch about their medical problems.
Three elderly ladies go to the same coffee shop I frequent each day. Two have arthritis, while one has a bad case of osteoporosis she is stooped and can barely walk. Do they exchange notes on their aches and pains? No!
They talk about the news, with some friends kind who drop by, laugh and have a good time. When they are done, they buy groceries, unaided.
At our age, a support group is a must – be it with relatives at home or with friends you can spend a few hours with each day. Don’t talk about medical, personal or family issues but things that give you good, quality time.