The blessings of age

Our quality of life doesn’t deteriorate with age. In fact, we get better with age, like fine wine ― but without the alcohol content, says OSWALD PEREIRA

When we were youngsters our parents, teachers and elders would often goad us on to keep ourselves busy mentally, quoting the famous adage, “An idle mind is a devil’s workshop.” 

As rebellious youngsters, we wouldn’t always pay heed to their homily and instead of intellectual stimulation, preferred to loiter aimlessly in the sylvan environs of our village, amidst nature, climbing trees and exploring the countryside ― urbanisation had not invaded our lives then and there were no smoke-belching vehicles polluting the air.

Now, as me and my contemporaries have grown in years, I would like to plagiarise that old adage, add one more element (the body) and adapt it to say, “An idle body and mind is a devil’s workshop.” For, the older you grow, the more is the need to keep both your body and mind busy, to prevent the devil from taking over your life.

Lack of regular exercise and mental activity, after one retires from active work life, is like asking for trouble and tantamount to inviting the devil to take over our mind, body and spirit. In fact, the older one grows the more the need for exercise, no matter what aches and pains plague the body; and irrespective of the ailments that one suffers from.

Equally important is the need to keep oneself busy with mental activity such as reading, writing, blogging and cultivating a new hobby or reviving an old one. I have personally found singing to be a very stimulating and uplifting hobby. For several years, a sweet sounding, Bengali music teacher taught me to sing old Hindi songs in sur ― the right, melodious way, which was in contrast to my loud, enthusiastic singing of my earlier days.

In order to retain one’s feeling of self-worth, post-retirement, one can take the route of self-employment and start a consultancy in one’s area of specialisation, such as (financial) services, counselling or an editorial practice. One of my colleagues, a journalist, developed his painting hobby after retirement. Today, he is a world renowned painter and holds international exhibitions. I have written eight books, which includes bestsellers, after I retired.

Post-retirement when one has a lot of time on hand, the devil can strike without warning. That’s the time when one has to be careful about falling prey to certain temptations ― overindulgence in good food and fine wine. In our younger days, the body and mind was more capable of purging the ill effects of these indulgences. But as one grows older, our capacity to eliminate toxins and neutralise the debauchery of food and wine is considerably reduced.

For those of my compatriots interested in exercise ― as one is on the threshold of 60 years and much beyond, even 70 or more ― I would recommend a daily exercise regime of 60 to 75 minutes. Exercises may include warm ups, stretching, yoga asanas, pranayams, situps, pushups, and squats. Believe me, one is never too old to do situps, pushups and squats. It is a misconception that situps, pushups and squats are only meant for young people and more suited for men. A very popular form of exercise is walking. But this can be like an icing on the cake of exercise at home.

And talking of cakes, I have found that the best piece of cake is quality time to oneself ― an hour or more of quietness, spent in contemplation or meditation, to connect with the self. Twice a day of quietness is ideal, though once is good enough.

It is often said that age is just a number. To my mind, it is a blessing. And I firmly believe that our quality of life doesn’t deteriorate with age. In fact, we get better with age, like fine wine ― but without the alcohol content.

(First appeared in Yours Positively

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