Live Active Life
Of all the self-fulfilling prophecies in our culture, the assumption that ageing means decline and poor health is probably the deadliest.
Growing old is part of life process just as growing is essential to life. Any living thing that stops growing is dead. The plant that does not receive water will wither. The animal choked of air will perish. The only in-between is probably a ‘deep freeze’ that slows growth or slows dying. On top of other living things, our human body is an integral of our body, mind and spirit. We can feel. We can think. We can choose. All three areas are growing in our lives. We grow older. We become wiser or at least experienced. We become more understanding as we mature.
There are 7 different aspects of growth in our human lives. Mental; Physical; Social; Emotional; Vocational; Financial and Spiritual. They are intertwined and affect each other. For example, if one is physically unhealthy, it will affect the capacity to think clearly or the ability to feel good. If one is financially well-off, it will enhance his/her social confidence and so on. We need to ensure all these 7 areas are growing healthily in a balanced manner. It is not good for a man to be rich (scores A for financial wellness) but spending his wealth in hospital bed (scores zero for physical wellness). Neither is it good for the wisest person (scores A in mental wellness) to be egotistic or greedy (low score for EQ wellness). So on top of growth, there is an important element of balance for true total wellness.
Balance is a difficult act for ordinary people whose aim is to score all As. If you are like me, usually we are strong in one subject and weaker in another. Only the top 1% of students can score all As in their subjects. Even then, these As are standards we set ourselves and not set by a ‘perfect’ invigilator. So to score As in all real life aspects not just in IQ but EQ, VQ, FQ and SQ etc. is a ‘real-life’ challenge. But life’s 7 wellness areas are so interlinked that shortfall in one will impact and affect the others. Typically, the average man is born without wealth. Their parents may be rich but the wealth does not belong to him/her until the parents decides to share it with them. So he/she works hard to accumulate wealth. This lead to the paradox stated as “When you are young, you use your health to chase your wealth; when you are old; you use your wealth to buy back your health.” This presents a typical picture of the effect of lob-sided growth that we cannot REVERSE.
Fortunately, there are many things we can do in each of the 7 wellness areas to improve our scores in the respective areas. For senior citizens like me, it starts off with my spirit. There is saying ‘As a man thinks, so he is’. We are told ‘age is just a number’ and ‘you are as old as you think’. But do we believe it and do something about it? It is only our spirit (in some circumstances called the ‘fighting spirit’) that gives us the confidence and thus the motivation to do whatever is required. Armed with a positive attitude towards life, we can then REVERSE from the errors of our present way into the wellness of not just old age but all seasons of our lives.
Here are the 7 wellness areas and what we can do to attain wellness in each area :
Mental or Intellectual wellness.
God did not give man the choice to live or to die. But He does give each of us the freedom of choice. Research has found that longevity has got to do more with the lifestyle choices we make than our genes. We are given life but what we build on this body is a matter of choice – the lifestyle we choose to live. Our brain is made up of billions of cells. Each of our body cells is a living organism. These brain cells need stimulation. Neurologists tell us our brain needs exercise just as our muscles need exercise. This inter-junction of our body and spirit is so important that illness of the brain e.g. Dementia etc can be viewed worse than death itself. So we should REVERSE from the ‘I seen it all’ or ‘I already know’ frame of mind and become curious, eager to learn new knowledge, gain wisdom by studying, research into new frontiers, communicate with people smarter or less smart than you. Do anything including playing board games or getting involved in politics, to keep you alert to your environment and community. Adopt a positive attitude that will help you grow or REVERSE in the other six (6) areas of wellness.
There are two (2) aspects of physical wellness. The ongoing aspect of breathing, living and getting about, which we call exercise or activities. And the preventive and recovery of illness aspect we call health.
Many retirees especially those workaholics who overworked in their ‘work-life’ feels retirement is an entitlement to ‘rest from work’. Nothing can be worse from truth. Work is a part of our life. God gave us life so we can work and grow. There is purpose of why God gave us life. Like the brain, our body parts need exercise to keep it tone and sharp. Yes, rest is important too but that is where balance is needed. A sedentary lifestyle is a slow and sure killer. We need to REVERSE our passivity and start a regular exercise regime. Our body is the basic framework we build on. With improve fitness comes agility for social wellness; sharp mental wellness and ability for vocational wellness.
Health and healing
Doctors and health practitioners will always advice a parallel course of exercise and eating well. When God created our bodies, He had built in the inert capability to fight off diseases and illnesses. He provided all kinds and variety of natural food which contains the nutrients required to keep our body cells humming in their respective functions. But our hectic lifestyle got us into the habit of eating ‘fast food’. And when we take a back seat to the hectic pace, our society teaches us to sit down for a ‘hearty’ meal of rich and delicious food that kills the heart. This ‘hearty’ meal is also usually accomplished with over-eating which adds further pressure to our hearts. Guess by now you will recognize the need to REVERSE to regular meals of natural plant food and fruits to keep your immune system fighting fit.
‘No man is an island’. It is so sad to hear seniors remark ‘we are not doing this or that (e.g. playing mahjong; playing golf, travelling etc) because we have no more kakis’. Psychologists tell us we live longer and better when we are surrounded by relatives and friends. Many seniors seclude or withdraw themselves from their former lifestyle after their companions or friends departed. This is a recipe for physical deterioration and mental regression. At least it will start depressing a person’s emotional wellness. We will see at the end of this chapter that maintaining a network of friends and family is essential for all 7 areas of wellness. We cannot prevent losing our companions and friends. But we can REVERSE and choose to make new friends, join clubs, churches or co-operatives. Better still, empower yourself to become passionate about improving society and to connect with like-minded people to make a difference in lives of the marginalized and neglect people in our neighbourhood. And if you really aren’t the type that enjoys organizing, just go along to join an interest group like singing, line-dancing or rock-climbing etc. and make some new acquaintances/friends and enlarge your social circle..
The inter-connect between mind and emotion will cause many seniors to feel depressed when a love one departs. The feeling of loneliness especially for someone who grew up in our self-directed and materialistic world will set a self-pity emotion in us. The loss of self-esteem when one retires from ‘productive’ work may also rob us of the ‘feel useful’ factor. But did you hear of the prescription that ‘laughter is the best doctor’? So REVERSE and join a laughter club. Or better, become a member of a co-operative of positive-minded people who believe ‘nothing can get me down’. The support of a community of caring and joy-filled members can help with mutual encouragement and uplifting of the spirit. There are also many ‘financial advisors’ who are giving the wrong advise for seniors to buy funds/unit trusts and shares. Many retirees dip into their nest-eggs and suffered losses e.g. in the Lehman minibond case and more recently some got money locked up in their Profitable Plot investments. Interlinked with Financial Wellness, it is important that there be contentment, to REVERSE from the emotions of greed and fear.
A recent survey found that 90% of people at work are working in jobs not of their own choosing. The percentage of happiness surveyed among the 10% of respondents who are in jobs they chose was also very low. So if this is the state of vocational wellness for the working population, what chance have we got for the seniors and retirees? Actually, the REVERSE is true. Because most retires are no longer under the burden of raising a family, income no longer becomes the overbearing criteria of choosing the vocation. He/she has the luxury of taking on the real choice of vocation that he/she is interested in. The senior does not have to report to a boss if he/she does not choose to. He/she has the freedom to become a ‘seniorpreneur’. The options or freedom to choose in fact widened because of the falling birthrate. The commercial world faces a shortage of workers to fill all the vacancies. But should the seniors go back into the ‘lob-sided’ life of working more hours than leisure? Remember that balance matters to wellness of life more than growth itself. It is therefore important to REVERSE into a more balance lifestyle of flexi-hours, flexi-work. Take the income, enjoy both the physical and mental activities that work offers but reject the politics, the drudgery of monotonous tasks and the pressure of deadlines and work as a free person on jobs that interest you, not the employer.
With longer life expectancy, the biggest fear a retiree faces is when will the nest-egg accumulated during working career run out. In today’s low interest-rate and increasing inflation scenario, this fear becomes more real. However as discussed under vocational wellness, one can take the ‘half-full’ attitude rather than the ‘half-empty’ attitude in taking a lower pay as additional income at retirement rather than less pay for the same job. The retirees have to REVERSE from an accumulating phase into protection phase. And we don’t mean just the traditional bankers’ advice of wealth accumulation stage and wealth protection stage. To live life fully without the fear of inadequate funds one has to practice risk-management. Financial advisors will usually advise retirees to structure a balanced portfolio between growing the portfolio and protecting the portfolio. This is because without regular job income to build up the nest-egg again, it becomes important to protect against losing or dwindling down of the nest –egg. That is why REVERSE co-op suggest that our members supplement their nest-egg by doing flexi-work of interest to them. With financial stability assured, we also believe this 2nd life of seniors will be happier with less things and more life. Time to leave all the accumulated material things and lighten up by giving it away to others who really need it. The collection of hoarded cash, securities, and gadgets can all be exchanged for food, clothing and things of daily needs for the less-fortunate. The ultimate measure of wealth is contentment. A millionaire who is still chasing for more money is not rich yet. But the ordinary person who feels he/she has everything is content. The truly rich person is the person who is able to give. This shows a grateful heart that expresses an overflow of blessings and ‘more-than-adequate’ supply. This is closely linked to spiritual wellness.
Many in our society live as if the Creator made us to be robots. We wake up to go to work so that we can earn money. We spend the money so we can buy things that we don’t need. To maintain these unnecessary things, we work harder to own even more things. Day in and day out. In the mundane routine that we do for years, few have reflected on the purpose of it all – the purpose of life. Dr. Patrick Kee in his book ‘Living well in the autumn of life’ calls it Spiritual Dementia. We forget that there is a Creator who put us here on earth as we carry out of our daily routines. Even further from our mind is what is in the Creator’s mind. Sometimes we wake up to idea that there must be a purpose but because of busyness we don’t dwell deeper into what is the purpose and how to relate to this or these purposes. In truth, every living thing is made with a purpose. Man is given life for a purpose. We all need a purpose in life. For an elder who lived for decades, it takes something spiritual to make him/her confront every day with energy and enthusiasm. You see, he/she needs very little material things at this stage of life. Neither will the idea of growing a family be motivating as his/her children would have grown leaving an empty nest. What will keep him/her growing is the purpose for the growth – the purpose of life. At the core of living the 7 wellness of life is the desire to fulfill the Creator’s purpose. It is time to REVERSE into basics and seek out the Creator’s purpose. This is how upside-down man has made life. We try running our own lives and then at the end tries to understand it. All this while when the order should have been seek out the purpose and then to live to fulfill the purpose. Jesus on His Sermon on the Mount said ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you.’ God has designed for us to have joy, peace and love etc. in our lives. But we believe that money can buy joy, peace and love and spend our lives earning more and more money and forgot about the real joy that overflows, the peace that passes all understanding (including trials, tribulations and disasters) and the perfect unconditional love.
In understanding how great our God is and how tiny we are, we will find another purpose of our Creator. He explained to us that He made us as a family with perfect relationship with each other. Jesus taught that we must love one another, even to the extent of ‘loving our neighbour as ourselves’. For us to grow in the 7 areas of wellness there must be a community to give us impetus and encouragement to grow and to balance the growth. Even if we look at each wellness area separately and individually, you will find we cannot attain mental grow without others teaching us, stimulating our thoughts etc. This holds true for all the other areas of wellness. When we put all the 7 areas of wellness together to fulfill the purpose of the Giver of life, it will give Him great pleasure to see His children living in balance and harmony instead of fighting/outdoing each other. We ask you to carefully examine how well you are living your 2nd life and if being a part of a supporting community can enhance your wellness. If you have the interest to interact and grow together with like-minded people, we invite you to join the REVERSE co-op to both give and receive the freedom that comes with the life that our Creator has made us with.
And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.
Many seniors have some secret, unfulfilled dreams that they misses out in their earlier years. Some may want to learn a new musical instrument, to do painting or kick-boxing while others to travel to a certain place etc. But often we discount ourselves by saying ‘we are too old for it’. Sometimes it is in fact our family and friends who tell us that we are too old for certain activities. Do not let these ‘well-meaning but erroneous’ advice deters you from stepping into the freedom you were born with and start your 2nd part of your life true to you given body, mind and spirit. May you have learnt the mistakes/shortfalls (be it in intellectual pursuit; poor health; bad finance management etc.) in your 1st half of your life and REVERSE from these regrets. May you enjoy the journey and achieve the true meaning of living.