Age Action member Angela MacNamara, below with her daughter, writes about the importance of a positive outlook and challenging yourself as we grow older.
Every phase of life has its challenges. It is important to make a clear decision to winkle the best out of each new stage of living. The later years need our positivity and hope: whatever I can do, I will do. Don’t moan about the things you can no longer achieve.
Don't make comparisons
Don’t be put down by making comparisons. If Molly decides to try a parachute-jump at 76 while Essie, at the same age, finds it hard to get up out of her chair, each of them is great to do what she can do with dignity and a sense of humour.
John talks regularly about his delight at no longer having to join the rush-hour traffic. Hugh, who never did more in the kitchen than make a ‘cuppa’, now bakes delicious crusty wholemeal bread a couple of times a week.
Each choice is as valid as the next.
If you can’t get into all the modern technology, try to get the simplest mobile phone and let the grandchildren do the tricky things for you. Then praise and thank them.
Praise, encourage, thank
It’s so important to praise, encourage and thank; it offsets our own disappointment at losing skills we might have had in years gone by. Perhaps the most valuable skill now is to remember to smile.
Smile at even the most difficult times; and smile even at yourself. To smile is so easy and it is infectious; others will smile back.
Of course we feel the pains of growing older, the losses of both people and skills, the physical losses. It takes real pluck – even heroism at times – to turn difficulties around and create new possibilities.
And then, most importantly, avoid recounting your pains and aches to everyone; most people have their own troubles and want to be cheered up. (I do hope you find the real treasure – one or two people with whom you can have an occasional moan and be hugged and listened to.)
A real boost to oneself is to try to make life a tad better for someone else. Even if feeling the pinch of solitude yourself, call on a lonely neighbour. Yes, he may be cranky but what a heart-lift you and he could get from spending that bit of time exchanging memories or discussing local or national news; you might even be able to stem his feeling of loneliness.
It is important to keep up, as much as you can, with what’s going on in the world of which you are still part. Also, do keep up with old hobbies as far as you can.
Even if you are now a bit clumsy with the needles or the paint brush, try to find an alternative way of keeping larger needles clicking or buy colouring pencils instead of trying to cope with messy paints.
How about making greeting cards by cutting out a pretty scene or a cartoon from a magazine and pasting it carefully on to pre-cut squares of blank card? Good for you!
A lovely, smile-giving, thing to do is to buy yourself a little primrose in a pot and put it on your window-sill. (You may have to remove the clutter of things you’d already dumped there but so much the better.) Then mark the progress of your little flower and water it with love.
Growing old as cheerfully as possible is a do-it-yourself job. It can be an hour-by-hour decision. But when people see you smiling and making real efforts they will be drawn to you and you yourself will, every so often, be flushed by the warm feeling of making a go of your life.
Perhaps, today, you will buy yourself the primrose I mentioned – and maybe one for a neighbour too?