Thursday, July 30, 2009

Mind, body, and soul: keys for optimal senior living

By:Alberto Vargas
July 27, 1:36 PM

Aging – a topic often left untouched by most of us. We don’t want to accept that it’s inevitable. From time to time, when we’re conscious of our surroundings for a brief moment and not just centered on ourselves, we’ll see elderly people slowly pushing their grocery cart through the supermarket parking lot. Cars are zooming by, employees are busy collecting carts under the heat of the sun, young couples too busy chasing their children around, all the while the elderly realize they’re out there to fend for themselves.

They do so, however, with dignity. They know the sacrifices they’ve made throughout their lifetimes and what they have contributed to society. After all, they have laid the foundations on which we, the generations that have followed, stand on today. Their contributions are priceless and most of them are aware of this, though rarely ask for recognition.

As such, they often refuse to ask for assistance. They push themselves as hard as they can, proving that they are not a burden on society. They can get the job done on their own. Often times, they’ll react with astonishment, disbelief, perhaps a bit of skepticism when someone does finally offer to help.
We’ve all heard of those who target senior citizens in robberies, financial scams, and random acts of violence. It’s a sad and unfortunate facet of society.

Contrary to popular belief, however, senior citizens aren’t just dragging around town, driving 40 mph on the freeway, and slobbering all over themselves. Especially here in San Diego, many find ways to stay active, maintain optimal health, engage in important mental exercise, and, perhaps, most importantly, maintain an active spiritual life. It’s the Mind, Body, and Soul approach.

Although a recent study conducted by multiple entities, including the California Health Interview survey, state hospitals, and the San Diego County Emergency Medical Services agency has estimated that 50% of county seniors are overweight, 30% were found to continue to moderately exercise.
According to recent statistics, by 2030, the number of people 65 years of age or older will double the amount from that in 2000. The number will jump from 313,750 to 741,362. Those numbers reflect the population here in San Diego County alone.

Dianne Jacob, chairwoman of the county board of supervisors emphasizes that “It makes it even more important for us to educate our senior citizens about living a healthy lifestyle and to make sure there is an emphasis on keeping active.”

As most of us know, there are plenty of parks and beaches here, locally, where seniors – alone or accompanied by friends or relatives – can safely engage in moderate exercise like walking, bike-riding, and swimming. Mission Bay, Balboa Park, and Old Town are just a few examples.

As important as physical activity is, remaining mentally engaged like reading the newspaper, books, magazines, listening to talk-radio, and crossword puzzles is also crucial. These types of activities help to keep the mind sharp and also decrease the amount of time potentially spent depressed or feeling alone or isolated. Calling in and voicing opinions on local radio talk-shows, (sports, politics, or whatever else) is a great way of staying active in the community, often helping to shape public opinion on vital social issues. Your voice matters immensely, especially today.

Lastly and for many, most importantly, senior citizens can more gracefully accept the inevitable progression of the human experience by maintaining a fruitful and rich spiritual life. Going to church, meditating, reading the bible, or simply taking precious moments out of the day to actively communicate with your God, is essential in the pursuit of a well-balanced, fruitful, senior life.

The formula is simple, Mind, Body, and Soul, but the actual application may prove to be a challenge. It is a challenge, however, worth taking on, considering the alternative: senility, atrophy, and isolation. There’s at least a senior or two in all of our families so it is imperative that we communicate this to them, encourage them, and better yet, join in the plight to take on aging with grace, enthusiasm, and positivism.

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