In today’s day and age when it is hard enough to fathom what will happen in the next minute, attempting to predict what my life will be like at the age of 75 and above is highly difficult. But I do think that it is important, as it will allow me to plan for my old age better. As a firm believer of the power of visualization, writing what life will be like in my later years would only make my vision into reality. If I can visualize myself aging healthy, the possibility of that happening is greater and I will like to take necessary steps starting now to achieve that goal. I will like to thrive for a sense of purpose and a life of meaning. According to a survey about what gives meaning to ones life in old age conducted at a senor living, 90% suggested that their life was meaningful and from that, 57%, the meaning came from human relations, 12% followed by service to others, religion and leisure activities. Another study suggested that it was important for one to identify their life purpose and that people found meaning in work, leisure, grand parenting and intimate adult relations. (Moody, 2010,p 34)
In this blog, I will be touching on all these factors and some more like avoiding disease and disability, maintaining mental and physical function, and continuing engagement with life, I anticipate affecting my life as I reach the age of 75 and above. (Moody, 2010, p. 44) It is said that the youth is wasted on the youth but as I near my mid-life, I would like to live every moment with significance. In the recent past, with self-exploration and questioning, I have finally figured that my purpose in life is to help others to live a wholesome life with no fear of disease.Sudhanshu Palsule, an award-winning educator; consultant and leadership coach rightly said in an interview on NDTV Good Times, “ As we grow older, we look for something that gives us gratification… we are looking for something that has a longer shelf life. For those who realize what that is in their life, can see a real possibility of a flight-taking place. You are no longer affected by how others react to you but how you react to you.” (One life to love interview of Sudhanshu Palsule, NDTV Good Times)
Importance of family and relationships
I am 33 years old now and by the time I will be 75, which is still another 42 years from now, I hope to have married with children and having grandchildren. In my old age, I see myself surrounded with family members sharing my life experiences and lessons that I would have learnt from my life journey, usually in the form of stories hence passing on a certain shared and collective identity to the survivors of the next generation. (Harry R. Moody, PG 40) As I am nearing mid-life, it has also become important for me to connect with the older people in my family, especially my parents and understand what lessons I can learn from their trials and tribulations in life and I hope to carry their legacy forward. In the Asian culture, this is a common practice and contrary, in the west we seldom ask old people to be wise for us. (Religion, Spirituality, and Meaning in Later Life, Pages 15) . As I near the age 75 and over, I can see myself associate with what William Thomas, M.D. said in his book ‘What are old people good for’,“Decades from now, when I am at last prepared to lay down the work of adulthood, I will begin my own life as an elder. When that happens I hope to be prepared for the historic, a being with rich responsibilities of making peace, giving wisdom, and creating a legacy.” (What are old people good for?; William Thomas PG 287)
Spirituality and dealing with death
According to the Hindu Philosophy, the religious scriptures define fifty-two life stages and out of these, ten are the most important. (Swami Sivananda, 2003) These stages are called Samskaras. Some of the most commonly known Samskaras are that of childhood, of boyhood, of manhood and of old age and of death. (Swami Sivananda, 2003, p.93) Similar to the Tornstam theory of Gerotranscendence, in the two last stages of life as described in Hindu scriptures (namely Vanaprastha and Sannyasa), a person withdraws himself from all worldly activities, retires in the forest and prepares himself for taking Sannyasa. As a Sannyasin, he or she renounces the world and leads a life of study and meditation. (Swami Sivananda, 2003)
Similar to the Hindu Philosophy of aging, when I am nearing the ‘the old-old’ stage (ages 75-84), I see myself withdrawn from worldly pleasures and everything material since I would have fulfilled my responsibilities towards my family and met societal obligations.
Spirituality is a practice I was introduced to about a decade ago when I was initiated into my yoga practice and teachers’ training at the Sivananda School of Yoga. The yoga philosophy of Dharma and Karma has been pivotal in how I think, in my conduct and will continue as a practice in my old age. I see myself continuing my yoga practice even when I am nearing the young-old age (ages 65-74) and will like to continue the practice as much my body and mind allows me to well into the ‘the old-old age’. Popular research suggests that we usually see a continuation of midlife values into old age on one hand and on the other; we land up discovering some new or special challenge that belongs to the last stage of life. (Moody, 2010, p.34) I will like to be open to new challenges life projects at me and welcome it, as it would certainly have lessons for me to learn.
I imagine myself in the category of people who would have paid more attention to their inner life as they age and hence will have less fear of death, experience less stress, and have more positive attitude in the face of difficulties such as disability and bereavement. (Atchley, 2008) I aspire to be me more like M.C. Richards -a well-known poet, potter and writer-, who believed in giving her deeper self to dear friends and family rather than what is expected from the society. As aging process continues, I would like to have the courage to be authentic to myself even though if it does not fit the stereotype. (The Fire Within, A documentary on M.C. Richards) Being Indian – and hence coming from a very patriarchal society -, I feel I am already breaking the stereotype societal expectations of a woman and creating new boundaries by shedding old ones. I will continue to create a unique path for myself that is true to who I am. By doing so, I hope to inspire my fellow women friends and sisters to embrace the changing time with a renewed perspective and find what makes them truly happy.
Religious and its correlation to personal well-being
I associate myself as being more spiritual than religious at this point and but I am beginning to see a shift from this year. I religiously spend every Thursday at the Sivananda Ashram chanting, reading the Bhagwat Gita and understanding what our religious scriptures say and their meaning and significance. I can hence imagine that as I near the age of 75 and above, I will be devoting more time in understanding the Hindu religion and the Vedas and the Upanishads (religious scriptures). I only see this practice getting deeper and I see myself devoting more time at Hindu Temples and Ashrams practicing Karma Yoga (Selfless duty towards others) and Bhakti Yoga (Yoga of Devotion). In my old-old age and the oldest-old (ages 85 and over), this practice will greatly help me to reduce the impact of stress associated with late-life illness, provide me with a sense of order and meaning in life, offer me with social network tied to religious groups and strengthen my inner psychological resources such as self esteem. (Moody, 2010) I see religion and spiritually go hand-in-hand in my old age as my yoga practice, my spiritually and my involvement in several activities associated with the Hindu culture-as mentioned above – are linked to each other. I also see myself understanding the culture and religion of other countries and exploring them.
Integrated Health Lifestyle Management – mind, body and spirit
– Physical Exercise and Mindful Diet
As a professionally trained personal trainer with specialization in several forms of exercise and with expertise in yoga, I have always paid attention and laid great emphasis on my personal mind-body wellness. I see a continuum of this practice in my young–old and old-old age. Due to my continued knowledge in this field, I also hope to take better care of my immediate and extended family including friends and encouraging them to take better care of themselves. I would like to aim for an optimistic aging: a long healthy existence followed by an abrupt end of like, with no decline. (Moody, 2010, p. 53). My being physically fit would enable me to combat disease and hence I anticipate being without illness till the very end of my life. Hence in other words, sickness, morbidity would be compressed in into the last years or months of my life followed by rapid decline and death. (Moody, 2010, p. 54).
Aging and age-related disease like arthritis occurs when the body’s immune response is weakened. It is also known that physical exercise raises the level of growth hormones and hence prolonging life. (Chopra, 1991, p. 95) According to Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health, regular exercise and physical activity improves health in a variety of ways, including reduction in heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, colon cancer, depression, anxiety, excess weight, falling, bone thinning, muscle wasting and joint pain. (Haber, 2010, p. 154) To conclude, I will like to encourage a lifestyle that is founded on the Integrated Health Lifestyle Program Principles of diet, exercise and massage. (Ali, 1998) In the first century AD, Celsus, a Roman medical philosopher, wrote, “ A man in health, who is both vigorous and his own master, should be under no obligatory rules, have no need, either for a medical doctor, or for an anointer. His kind of life should afford him variety; he should sail, hunt, rest sometimes, but more often take to exercise. He should also show moderation in eating, drinking, exercise and sexual intercourse. ” (Ali, 1998, p. 42)
– Meditation Practice
Emotional stress and worry can also hasten the aging process since stressful thoughts are translated through the neuro-transmitters in the brain and hence weakening the immune system and thereby making the body susceptible to diseases of all kinds, including cancer. (Chopra, 1991, p. 96) In my older years, my positive thinking achieved mainly through my meditation practice will enable me to manage the stresses of life better and will allow a progressive growth in powers of attention to overcome habituation in old-stimulus response patterns. (Moody, 2010) A study conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health confirmed that cultivation of “mindfulness,” a state of consciousness free of content but alert, does have measurable consequences for learning, cognitive flexibility and mental health. (Moody, 2010, p. 49) My practice of meditation would allow me to age productively, lead to health promotion and allow lifelong learning leading to conscious aging. (Moody, 2010)
Several years ago, a research headed by Dr. R. Keith Wallace made an exciting discovery that biological markers of aging can be retarded or even reversed through meditation. He found that short-term meditators were five years younger biologically than their chronological age and that long-term meditators were twelve years younger. (Chopra, 2000, p. 219) This study further motivates me to continue my meditation practice. I see myself getting deeper into it and spending more time everyday cultivating and maintaining this practice.
Creativity as a form of self-expression and continued learning
I am currently in my prime years of productivity -where most of my time is spend at being in school and working-, and hence I am unable to spend the time I would like to, to pursue my creative interests especially dance and the arts such as theater. Recent research has confirmed that creativity can continue into later years (Titian produced some of his greatest works in his 80s and Picasso produced drawings and paintings into his 90s), and that old age once reserved for an elite can become an opportunity for all to grow in later years. (Moody, 2010) I identify myself as a person who is constantly growing and evolving. The various dance forms I am interested in, are forms of my emotional expression and outlet. As I near the age of 60 and over, I imagine myself to be in a good state of physical and mental health and that would allow me to continue and spend more time in learning new dance forms and improving on the dance styles that I would have practiced in the past. Meeting new and like-minded people due to my interests would give me a sense of community.
Due to my holistic approach to life comprising of physical fitness, spirituality and continued care of myself by eating right, I see myself still in good physical shape in my ages of 75 and above. I may not be able to dance as much as before and for as long as I could before, but I still see myself in dance schools and at dance shows, learning and enjoying this experience of expression. This continued involvement in learning something new would also help me to maintain my ability to learn. (Moody, 2010)
M.C. Richards once beautifully said, “Imagination and authenticity is a doorway of creativity where imagination is the spiritual expression and authenticity means spiritual presence.” (The Fire Within, A documentary on M.C. Richards) The world that we live in, one is expected to tame the true artist within oneself. Just like the onion we have several layers and hence to be true artist it is important to get rid of these layers and get to the core of one’s being. This is something that I am currently unable to do so but by my being cognizant of this fact and being willing to shed these layers, I hope that as I mature into a wise old-old person I am able to become a true artist as defined by M.C. Richards. (The Fire Within, A documentary on M.C. Richards)
I don’t see myself aiming for fame or recognition but see myself taking pleasure in immersing myself in the art form. I can also see myself taking the time to see plays and theatrical performances as often as I can. As art critic Ananda Coomaraswamy puts it, “ It is not that the artist is a special kind of person, but rather it is that each person is a special kind of artist. ” (Moody, 2010, p. 102)
Last but not the least, I will like to continue living in the present by fully engaging with the world and stop worrying about who I will become and what will become of of me, since as for now, I know where I am headed. Not knowing is ok and I will like to trust my instincts as I create my path ahead.
“Father Time is not always a hard parent, and, though he tarries for none of his children, often lays his hand lightly upon those who have used him well; making them old men and women inexorably enough, but leaving their hearts and spirits young and in full vigor. With such people the grey head is but the impression of the old fellow’s hand in giving them his blessing, and every wrinkle but a notch in the quiet calendar of a well-spent life.” ~Charles Dickens