Old Age Can Be Enjoyable
ARE you past fifty years of age? Or perhaps even beyond sixty-five years, the retirement age for many persons in the United States? Do you find old age robbing you of the joy of living? Does life seem to be a burden? It need not be so.
When Jehovah God created man he did not purpose for him to grow old and die. The first human pair would still be living today had they kept on obeying God’s commandments. But due to their disobedience all their offspring have been growing old and eventually dying. Today more and more people are growing old. In the United States there are some 22 million who are sixty-five years or older; in the past century their numbers have doubled. But they are not living longer. The seventy- to eighty-year life-span mentioned by the prophet Moses still holds true.—Ps. 90:10.
What do such persons face? Can old age be enjoyed instead of merely being endured? One of the most important factors as to enjoying old age is adjustability. This adjustability primarily has to do with three spheres of activity: physical health, economic sufficiency, and mental and emotional well-being.
Good Health by Exercising
Although not exactly indispensable to enjoying old age, good health can greatly contribute thereto. To enjoy good health in old age simply means to adjust by giving more thought to it than one has been accustomed to doing. But that does not mean being a hypochondriac (suffering from imaginary ills)!
The matter of getting sufficient exercise is important. A ten-year study of 8,500 middle-aged folks showed that sedentary workers had three times as many heart attacks as did manual workers. Yes, often physical exercise makes the difference between enjoying life at seventy and being burdened by aches, pains and boredom at the same age. No matter what your age, you can improve your health by exercising. There are many kinds, such as walking and swimming, which can be more or less enjoyable. But whether enjoyable to you or not, adjust to exercising more—doing so, of course, gradually.
Getting Proper Nutrition
If you would enjoy old age, you must also give thought to nutrition, both as to quality and as to quantity. The more common heart diseases are largely blamed on a faulty diet, usually a matter of eating too much, especially fats and sugars, accompanied by insufficient exercise. Two out of three persons over fifty in the United States are overweight. And, no question about it, overweight does shorten life!
Studies show that old persons tend to get more starch and sugars than they need but not enough protein, vitamins and minerals. There may be several reasons for this. Foods containing these important elements cost more than do other foods. These foods also are likely to require more preparation, and old folks often do not like to bother preparing meals just for themselves. Then again, they may have poor teeth, which interferes with their chewing certain foods.
Old folks need to adjust their diet, for since they are less active they need less carbohydrates and more vitamins and minerals than before. Highly recommended therefore are such things as unpolished rice and whole wheat for their vitamin and mineral content; yogurt, partly because of the body’s need for milk and partly because it is so easily digested; wheat germ for its vitamin E content, brewer’s yeast for its vitamin B, and molasses because of its copper and iron. Taking added vitamins is recommended by some but not by others. So why not experiment? If you find they help you, keep taking them.
Also it is good counsel to avoid eating and drinking foods that are either too hot or ice cold. Let foods return to room temperature before eating them if you had them in the refrigerator. You may also find a little wine an aid to digestion.
Rest and Sleep
To enjoy good health in old age also requires giving thought to sufficient rest and sleep. While you may be getting enough rest, you may not be getting enough sleep. In fact, old folks often are light sleepers. For long it was thought that old folks need less sleep than do young persons, but there seems to be some evidence that it may be the other way around.
Of course, not all persons need the same amount of sleep. Such factors as hormones, nervous temperament and the nature of one’s activities have a bearing on how much sleep one needs. If you are having difficulty getting sufficient sleep, you might ask yourself the following questions:
‘Am I tense all day long?’ If so, you will likely have trouble sleeping. Learn to relax during the day. ‘Do I keep active right up to bedtime?’ If so, you will have trouble unwinding and getting sound sleep. Slow down after supper. ‘Do I drink strong tea, coffee or cola drinks?’ Such drinks do interfere with the sleep of many persons. ‘Do I eat large meals late at night or things hard to digest, such as French fried potatoes or freshly baked bread?’ Such things can be a burden to your stomach and may keep you awake. ‘Do I worry about not being able to sleep?’ There is no surer way of staying awake than that. Do not chafe over the problems of the day but count your blessings. ‘Do I get irritated easily?’ A disturbed frame of mind could well make you wakeful. Try to be less sensitive. By making such adjustments you will enjoy better sleep, better health.
Among the positive things you can do to induce sleep is to take a warm or hot bath before retiring, or a drink of warm milk or herb tea; some find a glass of beer or wine to be helpful in inducing sleep. Others find that a massage given them by another member of the family helps them to sleep. According to heart specialist White, taking a long brisk walk in the evening will help more than sleeping pills. Sound sleep helps you to enjoy both your nights and your days more.
To enjoy old age you must also learn to make adjustments in financial matters. Usually there is less money coming in. Today many businesses retire their employees at the age of sixty-five. Finding a new job is not easy, especially in these days. Even when not retired there is often a reduction in income because of being less productive. At times there is no pension, because of having moved from job to job or because an employer went out of business.
So in a situation like this, one must learn to adjust to more modest living habits, as to shelter, food, clothing and entertainment. Especially is it a problem when it comes to food—to be economical and at the same time get sufficient protein, vitamins and minerals. Coleslaw contains much vitamin C and may be more economical than oranges. Peanuts, soybeans, cheese and eggs are economical sources of protein, and do not overlook oatmeal. In its awareness of this problem, the United States Department of Agriculture has published a booklet, Food Guide for Older Folks, which shows how essential foods can be bought at low cost.
Mental and Emotional Factors
Among the most serious obstacles to enjoying old age are unwise mental attitudes and negative emotional patterns. The introvert may well have a harder time of it—even as he did all his life—than will the extrovert. Pertinent here are the principles found in the Word of God, the Bible: “Do not be misled: God is not one to be mocked. For whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap.” It also counsels the young man to remember his Creator in the days of his youth before the days come when he will say: “I have no delight in them.”—Gal. 6:7; Eccl. 12:1.
Those who have exercised self-control and discipline and learned wisdom will find it comparatively easy to make the adjustments that old age requires. However, those who have pampered and indulged themselves will most likely be physically, mentally and emotionally ill-equipped to adjust to the restrictions that old age brings with it, and to enjoy it. Now in their old age they will have to begin to learn courage, wisdom and humility.
The restrictions that old age brings do present problems, especially to those who do not want to face the facts. Some reject the idea that they are growing old and try to carry on as fully as they did when young. Others let themselves become discouraged, depressed, filled with self-pity or even bitterness. Still others may put themselves on a pedestal and make demands because of their being old. All such attitudes are most unwise. Appreciation of daily blessings will help you to stay clear of such pitfalls. Look forward to the blessings of each day and learn to find joy in little things. Take pleasure in a sunny day, or the beautiful clean snow, or the refreshing rain.
Each period of life has its own blessings. The mere fact that in old age you cannot enjoy many of the things you enjoyed in youth is no reason for self-pity or discontent. Thus a poet once said:
“For age is opportunity no less
Than youth itself, though in a different dress.
And as the evening twilight fades away,
The sky is filled with stars invisible by day.”
Old age does have its own blessings. “Gray-headedness is a crown of beauty when it is found in the way of righteousness.” (Prov. 16:31) Old age has a beauty of its own. One has had opportunity to learn, to experience a great deal and to reach a vantage point by reason of what one has both suffered and enjoyed. Youth is impetuous, impatient, overeager, romantic, has illusions, is often impractical. But with age one learns to be more patient, to be more realistic, to see things as they really are, to be practical. Old age can have a mellowing effect, enabling one to have more empathy.
Appreciate such blessings as you have. Be grateful for life itself, for the measure of health and strength that you have. Mere freedom from pain is grounds for gratitude. And be content with having the needed material things to sustain life.—1 Tim. 6:6-8.
Helpful also is having a sense of humor. Readiness to laugh is good for the body itself as well as for the mind and heart. In fact, one noted physician said that laughter “is the best exercise of all” because of what it does for the internal organs.
In particular will having something useful to do help you to enjoy old age. Remember, “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” You can get happiness from being helpful to acquaintances, friends or relatives.—Acts 20:35.
The Christian’s Advantages
The mature dedicated Christian has decided advantages when it comes to enjoying old age. He has many aids to filling his days with happiness. He can always have fellowship with God. As one aged maiden Christian put it: “Really, my moments alone are among some of the most precious. I can commune with Jehovah in prayer. I can enjoy meditation and personal study without distraction.” Then, too, there are Christian meetings where one can enjoy fine Christian companionship. And there are opportunities to share the Christian hope with others. Days filled with praise to God are bound to be happy ones.
At the headquarters of Jehovah’s witnesses in Brooklyn, New York, there are a dozen workers who, though averaging more than eighty years of age, are happily serving from three to eight hours a day in the factories and offices of the Watch Tower Society. Likewise dedicated Christian widows in their seventies, living in their own homes and alone, are among the happiest persons you have ever met. Those who avoid extremes, neither pampering themselves by lazily yielding to every inclination, nor overdoing so as to exhaust themselves, find enjoyment in life. In particular do they find enjoyment in seeking to bring comfort to others by telling them the good news of God’s kingdom so near at hand.—Matt. 24:14.
One aged and blind Christian put it this way: “Keeping conscious of my relationship with Jehovah provides me with needed strength. I never lose sight of the fact that God’s name rests upon me and that what I do will reflect either favorably or unfavorably on it.”
Old age can be enjoyable. It can be a time of peace of mind, of contentment and happiness. Old age should bring with it wisdom and learning to adjust in matters of physical health and financial matters; mental and emotional attitudes will also help to that end. And, above all, faith in God and his Word, and trying to live up to its wise counsel, can aid you to enjoy old age.