The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines active ageing as “the process of optimizing opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age”. While the term can refer to physical exercise, it’s so much more than that. Active ageing also encompasses the participation in a mix of social, economic, cultural, spiritual and civic activities, in order to remain actively involved in life after retirement.
Now, while active ageing may not be the elusive elixir of life, it can help us live more productive years as the pace of life slows down. Retirement, coupled with the general aches and pains of getting older tend to steer us down an inactive path. And inactivity, has all sorts of negative effects from high blood pressure, to depression. According to Victoria’s Better Health Channel, the earlier one starts living a healthy and active life, the more likely you’ll lead a healthier life as you age. So if active ageing is something you’d like to try, read on to bring yourself a little closer to it.
First of all, no amount of physical activity is going to help you become more active in life if you’re not living in a positive environment. Your environment is an integral part of your journey towards active ageing, and should not be ignored when reassessing your life. Your environment refers to your everyday living situation, whether you’re making use of an aged care facility, or still living in your own home. A positive environment includes feeling safe at home, access to fresh air and/or views, as well as access to transport services if you are no longer driving.
As The Better Health Channel emphasizes, these aspects of your immediate environment help bring purpose to your life, a healthier mental state and bring you closer to the things you enjoy doing and the people you enjoy spending time with.
Humans are generally social beings. We like to live and work in communities and, without the conducive environment, we cannot lead the social lives so important to our active ageing. Isolation is known to produce various side effects from depression to ill health, and keeping in touch with friends and family on a regular basis by spending quality time talking as well as partaking in activities together keeps your body energised and your mind alert.
This doesn’t mean you should try and reinvent the wheel when it comes to your social life. There’s no need to sign yourself up for a whole new range of exercise classes or join an endless array of social clubs and run the risk of burning yourself out. We may be sociable beings but we do need time to ourselves too, particularly as we age and our energy isn’t in abundance. However, if you don’t have a substantial or consistent network of friends or family, it is worth trying out a seniors’ exercise facility or trying your hand at a new skill such as painting, pottery or gardening. Not only will you keep yourself physically active, but also surround yourself with like-minded individuals to share ideas and swap stories with.
Everyone is different, so while these suggestions may tickle the fancy of some, they may sound less than appealing to others. Take some time to think about the social activities that bring you joy, and reinvest in what they have to offer if you haven’t given them the time in your life that they deserve. It could be a Church service on a Sunday morning, a weekly game of bridge or simply afternoon tea with your loved ones.
So while active ageing at face value denotes physical activity, it is much more than doing some physical exercise into ones’ retirement years. Take your environment seriously, whether you’re staying put at home or moving into a retirement facility. Then make sure you find a way to actively partake in social activities that make you happy, renew your sense of purpose and bring you closer to your friends and family. Personal development can begin at any age, and it can only bring you closer to a better quality of life.