By Khin Maung Myint
The life expectancy of the Myanmars have increased gradually during the past few decades. More and more are living beyond their seventieth birthdays and the number of those in their eighties and nineties are increasing and there are some centenarians, and their numbers are increasing too. However, it would be just meaningless to live a long life if one is not healthy. Thus healthy aging is of utmost importance. This fact emphasizes the importance of taking care of ourselves as we grow older and make sure we enjoy long and healthy lives.
I wrote an article in 2016 about the “International Day of Older Persons” and it was covered by GNLM. I shared that article on the Facebook at the time and it resurfaced again as a memory a few days ago. I re-shared it again to commemorate that day, which will be coming up soon, as I have no intention of writing a new one. A friend of mine called me and suggested that I should write another article as a tribute to that day. He also suggested that I should write, how as an elderly person myself managed to live alone, without any helper or companion, doing the household chores myself and is still in good spirit and health.
I told him that I will give it a thought, as I had been taking a break from writing, I was not in the mood, but might write it if I can get some inspirations to do it. Early the next morning, while I was doing my routine daily walk, ideas about healthy aging suddenly rushed through my mind. I realized straight away that my mood is returning, because it was almost always during such walks that I got my ideas or the inspirations to write. I finished writing a sketch outline for this article in my mind, then and there, while walking.
I had written a few articles related to healthy living based on my own experiences and some hasty researches. One of them was: “Walk away from your early grave”, where the benefits of walking were outlined. Another one was: “Healthy aging”, in which I discussed how to lead a healthy life. In this present one I may have to borrow some opinions expressed in those articles and even some from the article mentioned at the beginning.
The benefits of walking.
The benefits of walking are many fold. Here, I will mention only the most important ones. Health experts say that your legs are your second heart. They assist your heart in its work. By walking you are helping your heart to pump blood more efficiently with little effort on its part. Thus walking can be said to help the blood circulation, which is very important for the healths of most human organs, especially the heart and the brain. Walking may help deter or reduce the risks of heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, blood clotting and some other ailments, to list a few.
I would like to draw your attention to the fact that being healthy means healthy in mind and body or in other words healthy mentally and physically. If one is not healthy mentally or physically, they will age prematurely. Of the two, mental health can have more impact on the overall health. Most physical ailments can be cured with medicines, however, mental illness is more complicated and medicines only will not be able to cure you. To be mentally healthy depends much on the individual. In most cases, It is the individual who is the cause of the deterioration of their mental health. As this is not my field of expertise, I will not be discussing it too technically, but share my experience simply.
I had realized early on in life that worries and anxieties are the main causes of mental stress and strain. When you worry alot, anxiety sets in leading to stress and strain. Mentally stressed and strained persons are quite visible by their forlorn and dejected looks. Such persons aged prematurely. When those mental stress and strain are very intense, the physical health too can be greatly affected. Sometime, they can cause a person to temporarily stop functioning. Thus my secret of being active and alert mentally and physically is: I had learned to keep the worries and anxieties away as much as possible. It was quite difficult at first, but later I succeeded. These days, I never do anything that will cause me to worry later. Thus without worries there is no chance of anxiety setting in. Here, I would like to add that greed and too much expectations can also contribute to anxiety. If one’s desires are not fulfilled as expected, chances are that the anxiety will set in.
Tips for healthy aging
Here are some tips for healthy aging. I found that they are very useful for me and hope it will be for you too. As they are self-explanatory they will not need further explanation.
1. Stay active
2. Watch your diet.
3. Train your brain.
4. Be connected
5. Get enough sleep
6. Manage stress
7. Take precautions
8. Look after yourself
9. Quit smoking
10. Refrain from over-indulgence
Stay young to beat aging
If a person is young at heart they can easily beat aging. Let me remind you that to stay young at heart doesn’t mean doing naughty things such as going to KTV, night clubs or massage parlors. Such places are no place for the elderly persons.
Here also, I would like to share my idea of staying young. A colleague of mine used to post on the Facebook, on his birthdays that he is now one year older. When I came upon one such status, I wrote a comment advising him to forget his age, stop counting the years and to stay young at heart. That was what I did after my 70th birthday. I got that idea from a senior citizen who was always jolly and joking around. He was very active, alert physically and mentally, also healthy and strong. I guessed him to be in his eighties, not by his physical features, which looked much younger, but by other factors such as who were his contemporaries, some of whom I happened to know. At that time I was only 58 years old. When I became well acquainted with him I asked how old he was and he replied laughing that he was 70 plus years old and added, he had stopped counting his age after 70. I liked his idea so much that I too stopped counting my age after I reached 70 and I don’t mention my birthday when registering for a Facebook account. I had never celebrated my birthday in my life either. Thus I rarely wish others on their birthdays, lest it would be like reminding them they are getting older.
Take a Stand against ageism
Every October 1st is designated the “International Day for Older Persons”. The theme chosen for the 2016 commemoration of that day was: “Take a Stand against Ageism”. Ageism is discrimination or prejudice against aged persons. Not long ago, there was an absurd statement that people in their seventies shouldn’t be given responsible jobs as they are prone to senility. I totally disagree with that. That was a gross commitment of ageism. As for me the older I get the more knowledgable, the more foresighted and the more rational I become. My memory today is much better than when I was 50 or 60. In those days as I had worries and anxieties due to the tensions and pressures at work, my brains were not as sharp or alert and I had no time nor knowledge to train myself. Today after retirement, I had all the time and knowledge to train and had mentally become more healthy.
As conclusion, I would like to say that one can lead a long and healthy life if they have the will and determination. However, it must be made clear that if it weren’t for a terminal disease like the cancer or the pandemics like the one we are facing today, it is possible to live a heathy, long and active life, but that may solely depend on the individual.
The theme for the 2020 International day of Older Persons is: “Pandemics: Do They Change How We Address Age and Ageing?” It was well chosen, because we are hearing of some countries, where priority for medical care were given to the younger persons over the older ones who were infected by the Coronavirus. Such things are very inhumane, unfair and amounts to ageism.