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Growing old cheerfully is a DIY job

Angela MacNamara
Written by: Angela MacNamara
Age Action member


Age Action member Angela MacNamara, below with her daughter, writes about the importance of a positive outlook and challenging yourself as we grow older.

Angela MacNamara

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?



so right and so cheerfully written!!!
we have the power within us to live each day well to the best of our ability.

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Top tips for staying cool

  • Keep out of the heat. Stay inside during the hottest time of the day – late morning to mid-afternoon. If you do go out, wear a hat and keep to the shade as much as possible. It’s very important to use sun screen of at least factor 15.
  • If you are travelling by car or public transport always take a bottle of water.
  • Avoid strenuous activity and limit activities like housework and gardening to the early morning or evening when it’s cooler.
  • When inside, try to stay in the coolest parts of your home. Keep curtains and blinds closed in rooms that catch the sun. Remember that lights generate heat. Keep windows shut while it’s cooler inside than out and open them when it gets hotter inside. If it’s safe, you could leave a window open at night when it’s cooler. Fans can help sweat evaporate but do not cool the air itself.
  • Wear loose, lightweight, light-coloured cotton clothing.
  • Take cool baths or showers.
  • Splash your face with cold water or place a damp cloth or scarf on the back of your neck to help you cool off.
  • Drink lots of fluid – even if you’re not thirsty. Limit drinks with caffeine (like coffee and cola) and avoid alcohol as it can increase dehydration.
  • Eat normally but try to have more cold foods, particularly salads and fruit as they contain a lot of water.

Dehydration and overheating

Extreme heat and humidity can cause you to dehydrate and your body to overheat. Watch out for certain signs: particularly for muscle cramps in your arms, legs or stomach, mild confusion, weakness or sleep problems. If you have any of these, rest in a cool place and drink plenty of fluids. Seek medical advice if your symptoms persist or worsen.

Heat exhaustion and heatstroke

The symptoms of heat exhaustion include headaches, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, pale skin, heavy sweating and a high temperature.

If you have any of these symptoms you must:

  • find a cool place and loosen tight clothes
  • drink plenty of water or fruit juice
  • sponge yourself with cold water or have a cool shower.

If you’re having difficulty, or your symptoms persist for several hours, seek medical advice. Heatstroke can develop if heat exhaustion is left untreated - but it can also develop suddenly and without warning. The symptoms of heatstroke include hot and red skin, headaches, nausea, intense thirst, raised temperature, confusion, aggression and loss of consciousness. Heatstroke is a life-threatening condition.

So if you or someone else shows symptoms:

  • call 999 immediately or 112 if you are in the European Union (you can call 112 from a mobile for free). If you have a community or personal alarm press the button on your pendant to call for help.
  • while waiting for the ambulance, follow the advice given above for heat exhaustion but do not try to give fluids to anyone who is unconscious.

Further information

If you live alone consider asking a relative or friend to visit or phone to check that you are not having difficulties during periods of extreme heat.

  • If you know a neighbour who lives alone, check they are ok.
  •  Check for weather forecasts and temperature warnings on TV and radio, and online at
  • If you have breathing problems or a heart condition your symptoms might get worse when it’s very hot.
  • For further advice about heat-related illness contact your GP.

Summer Raffle Winners

Congratulations to the winners of our Summer Raffle. We're so grateful to everyone who participated and who raised more than 18,000 euro to support older people in Ireland.

This year's winners were:

1st Prize winner €1,500

S Deegan, Dublin

2nd Prize winner €1,000

A Parks, Dublin

3rd Prize winner €500

M Dangerfield, Dublin

And the winner of our Sellers Prize was:

Sellers Prize €100

M Kane, Galway, €100

Thank you to all who supported the raffle, this is one of our biggest and most reliable fundraisers, so your support makes all the difference.