By Celeste van der Walt.
According to SA census statistics: in 2001 there were 3,28milion people older than 60 in SA
In 2011 there were [4,151 760] close on 4,2milion people older than 60 and that despite the fact that life expectancy in SA is only 53, compared to life expectancy worldwide being 78
The number of centenarians in South Africa also increases every year.
Knowing that an ageing population is an ever-increasing group because seniors live so much longer, means that we have to examine our old belief systems about ageing and purposefully change our mindset. We need to focus on
“…all the benefits of our current age and turn them to our advantage; focus on the flowers, not the weeds” – Dr John Dermatini
The ageing population is growing. BUT…
Sadly, although we live longer, we age sooner. More and more people in their 40’s and 50’s are being diagnosed with so-called ‘old people’s illnesses.’ Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, cataracts, arthritis in all its forms, and other ailments are common among the 40 to 60-year-old.
Having more and more retired people within societies, causes immense pressure on medical aid schemes, government health services and pension plans, placing a huge burden on communities and societies worldwide. If these senior citizens are not contributing in any way, it could implode our financial and social structures.
The other reality is that seniors are not always prepared for the long drawn out retirement period. Retirement is seen as a time to relax, doing very little. But it is also about being old with no sense of purpose, eventually becoming confused and forgetful, suffering from hearing loss, weak muscles, aches and pains.
According to Dr Joseph Murphy “You grow old when you lose interest in life when you cease to dream, to hunger after new truths, and to search for new worlds to conquer”
Dr Murphy also believes that “The neurotic fear of the effects of time may well be the cause of premature ageing”
Awareness can help us realise that retirement is “the dawn of wisdom”. A time to understand that our minds should never retire but remain open and receptive to new ideas. Without awareness of the changing landscape of ageing and where we are heading, we can suffer emotional and mental breakdowns.
“Growing old we can deal with; Being old is the problem” – The late Rabi Albert Lewis
We as Seniors need to know that our retirement years should be meaningful. In fact, our retirement years should be about significance. We need to be aware that “growing old is the opposite of what we might think; it is rejecting preconceived ideas and becoming lighter” [Michael Serres, French Philosopher]
“You know what really gives you satisfaction?” …… offering others what you have to give. I don’t mean money. I mean your time, your concern, your storytelling” – Morrie in Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
“Age happens. There is nothing you can do about the WHY but you can definitely do something about the HOW and the WHEN” – Dr Hannetjie Van Zyl-Edeling
According to the Danish Twin Study, only 10% of the length of our life is dictated by our genes.
The other 90% is determined by our lifestyle.
We can do something about our ageing process, about the quality of our life during our senior years. It is a matter of choice….our choice.
“If you make brain smart decisions…you can definitely slow down and …in many cases reverse the ageing process” – Dr Daniel Amen
In an article written by Daleen Totten, she shares the ‘secrets’ of communities where people grow as old as 100 or 110. They live long healthy and meaningful lives. In these communities, nobody retires. They do slow down but they do not stop. They become more involved in the community, sharing their time, their knowledge, and their experience with others.
Remaining active and productive, she says, is the secret.
Dr John Dermatini believes “To be alive is to serve and reward others and yourself. As long as you can breathe and move a muscle, you can contribute to the world in some small or significant way”
Creating awareness of this situation all around is not even debatable, but creating awareness is not enough.
“Information without application or action is worthless” – Angelique du Toit
Dr Daniel Amen’s research and studies have proved that, if we want to live a long, happy life, remaining active and productive, the first place to start is by having a better brain.
Patrick Holford has found plenty of evidence that keeping both your mind and body active will help prevent a decline in mental function. He advises us to keep moving and learning throughout life.
Looking at the many research studies done and still being done, we find many practical ways to remain alert and youthful, active and productive. It is most certainly worth our while looking into the different ways to do just that.
It will be a sad day if senior citizens are mainly seen as an ever-increasing group of people becoming a threat, a burden and a liability, to society. We have to change that. We have to ensure that we are aware of what can be done and what is needed to ensure youthful and positive ageing and to apply what we know.
We should therefore follow the advice of the writer and philosopher, Seneca, who says:
“Let us cherish and love old age, for it is full of pleasure if you know how to use it”
Albom, Mitch: 2008 “Tuesdays with Morrie” Sphere, GB
Amen D 1998 “Change your Brain, Change your Life” Random House, New York
Amen D 2012 “Use your Brain to Change your Age” Crown Archetype, New York
Buchholz, K. 2021. “There are now more than half a million people aged 100 or older around the world”. Available at: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/02/living-to-one-hundred-life-expectancy/. (Accessed on 27 May 2022)
De Jager M 2011 “The Twinkle in My Wrinkle” Mind Moves Institute, Johannesburg
Murphy J 2000, 2006 “The Power of the Sub-Conscious Mind” Pocket Books UK Ltd
Petras K & R 2002 “Age does not matter unless you are a cheese” Thomas Allen & Son Ltd, Canada
Van Zyl-Edeling 2013 “Over the Moon” Porcupine Press, Pinegrove, SA