Advances in medicine and medical technology have led to a continuous rise in life expectancy. Due to the expansion of the lifespan, the population segment of older adults grows fastest. Worldwide, the proportion of people age 60 and above is growing faster than any other age group. In 2025, there will be a total of 1.2 billion, and by 2050, there will be about 2 billion people over the age of 60 (World Health Organization).
This global phenomenon of population aging raises important questions regarding aging well. In the last decades, aging well was conceptualized by different theoretical frameworks as active aging, as well as healthy, positive, optimal successful, and meaningful aging. These different indicators of positive aging highlight different indicators of positive psychological functioning such as quality of life, social engagement, meaning in life, positive emotions, and life satisfaction. The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore older adults’ own experiences of their actual aging, their perceived resources that enable them to cope with their concerns and challenges in their day-to-day living.
Challenges and well-being in old age
The aging process comprises a key transitional phase in one’s life, at which age-related challenges and the relative proximity of death involves recurrent experiences of loss and decline in central aspects of life, such as family, friends, life transitions, capacities, and physical condition. These experiences press existential issues, such as fear of death, existential vacuum, and social isolation, and contribute to an overall sense of loneliness.
There are many ways to keep the old age life fruitful:
Keep your brain alert, active and flexible: Carrying out tasks that give your brain a workout is vital to keep your thinking sharp. It could be as simple as reading books, solving a crossword, learning new skills or playing chess. Choose games you have fun playing, as you will be more likely to play them more often without getting frustrated. If you never liked chess, then do not start because someone suggested you should.
Intermittently change the types of activities to keep your interest, balance, and flow: Always believe and practice that you can keep learning and remembering, whatever your age. Our brain can reshape its parts according to demands on it — scientists call this neuroplasticity
High levels of stress can cause damage to your psychological and physical self. Chronic stress can pull down your immunity and make you more prone to illnesses.
Create environments where you can feel safe, stay in control, and make choices: Stop overthinking and worrying your head off. Learn how to practice mindfulness and let life happen. Accept your limitations; do not take up any bit more than you can handle.
Stay active and do regular exercise: Physical exercise is a proven way to increase your productivity and health in your golden years, and drive away your old-age blues.
Exercise keeps your mind active and fresh, increases your mobility and balance, brings a more optimistic outlook toward life, and, of course, reduces the risks of several illnesses. Strength training can help maintain muscle mass, which can then reverse frailty and delay dependency on caregivers.
Don’t let go your social connection: Don’t isolate yourself. Maintain your contact with others by joining clubs or going to places where those of your age gather, such as community parks, for morning or evening walks.
Keep in touch with your family and people who care about you. Even if you feel they have abandoned you because they got too busy, maintain contact with your family. Build meaningful relationships that nurture you.
Seek regular medical check-ups: Keep a diary of your medical check-ups and doctor appointments. Set up reminders so as not to miss them. Stop any unhealthy habits or addictions you might have, like smoking or drinking.
Ask for psychological help whenever you feel you are unable to cope with a situation with peace of mind. Never miss your medical check-ups and doctor visits.
Ensure that you are financially self-reliant: The big shift after the rise of nuclear families is that people are increasingly becoming self-dependent. While you can always count on your kids, avoid a situation where you have to fall back upon them. Parents and children prefer their own space and the trend is more towards parents living independently post retirement. It is desirable that you and your spouse continue to be independent post retirement. Let your finances be planned in such a way that the financial needs and aspirations of the two of you do not suffer. Your financial planning, property planning and expense planning need to take care of that.
It has created a new challenge—taking care of the elderly for their housing needs to healthcare demands.
At the social level, we need a dedicated program for positive aging. At the individual level, the solution is to age positively, successfully, and gracefully.