Recently, we attended a seminar called Ageing Disgracefully, where most of the attendees were in their 60s and 70s. We spoke with some people, and it was interesting to see the variety of attitudes. Some were vibrant and excited about this stage of their life. Others appeared gloomy. They were uninspired and negative in their outlook on life.
This latter group displayed a very prevalent condition in the over 60 age group. It’s a disease we called “Shrinking Thinking.” It’s not a condition you are likely to find in the medical textbooks or discussed in the media, but it is very real and like most diseases, is accompanied by a set of symptoms. We have categorised these into seven areas and by overcoming the signs and symptoms, we can cure this disease.
- “I can’t exercise”
Seniors who feel they cannot exercise do so because they may have arthritis, obesity or a lack of energy. The irony here is that precisely because of those conditions, they should exercise.
Exercise gets your heart pumping; so it helps to reduce high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, insulin-dependent diabetes and a whole host of physical symptoms. Also, it stimulates the brain with the release of “feel-good” chemicals.
The important thing with exercise is to do something whether walking or swimming. If you can afford it, join a gym or get a personal trainer, and they will start you at a level that you can tolerate. Everyone can exercise; it is just a matter of what one can tolerate.
- “I’m too old”
If you think you are too old, then guess what? You will be old. It’s a bad sign of shrinking thinking that needs an attitudinal shift. There are people beyond age 65 such as starting a new business or having exciting travel adventures. The oldest person to swim the English Channel was 73. The oldest to climb Mt Everest was 80. Now obviously, there were fit and had a “can do” attitude. If you think you can’t you won’t if you think you can, you will.
Let’s take the word “old” out of our vocabulary and substitute it for the word “young”. We are 69 years young. Refuse to be pigeon-holed by society and worse, by yourself.
- “It’s alright if you have money”
Lack of money is a good excuse that people use to avoid doing things. Let’s use the example of travel. Retirees have told me that they don’t travel because they can’t afford it. That is an excuse. Take the case of Australian pensioner Keith Wright, age 95. He scrimps and saves a portion of his pension and manages to save for airfares as well as mostly hostel stays. It all comes down to our values. If something is important enough, we will allocate funds and find a way to make it happen. Alternatively, we can also travel locally and discover more about our city or country.
- “I need to look after the grandkids”
We love our grandkids, but often seniors will repress their needs for their children’s, and often children will take advantage of their senior parents. If you love your grandkids and looking after them is paramount in your life, then go for it. But if something else is a higher priority, then be honest. Be true to yourself and let your children know how you feel and to what degree you will involve yourself with the grandkids. Otherwise, you will be shrinking your life.
- “My children wouldn’t approve”
Our children might like us to sit in a rocking chair or play lawn bowls, and be safe, but most of us are not going to do that. Most baby boomers, in comparison with previous generations, are adventurous and want to go and explore life. We still enjoy physical activity and are willing to experiment and find what works for us.
Family members may envisage us as “old people.” In their fear for us, and their confusion and overwhelmed state, they want to put us in a box and keep us “safe.” Then they don’t have to think or worry about us!
Let’s appreciate that our children will want to do their own thing when they get to our age, so go out and follow your dream, whatever your age.
- “It’s too late now”
As Bronnie Ware, Australian Palliative care nurse stated, the biggest regret people have on their deathbed is that they put off doing what they wanted to do. If you want to go back to school, do it. If you want to take that trip of a lifetime, then plan it and do it.
If you are approaching 75, you will be that same age whether you do what you love or do what doesn’t serve you. You may as well and get on with doing what you love.
- “My mind isn’t sharp enough”
We live in an amazing age! We have learned so much over the years and technology is available to all of us. We can continue to learn at any age and keep ourselves mentally sharp. Take a course, learn a language, play brain games or read inspiring books. These will all stimulate an increase in mental sharpness.
Do you want “shrinking thinking” or “possibility thinking”? The choice is yours. The former saps our spirit while the latter is uplifting at any age.