How to stay forever young > The answer it seems is to throw away your slippers and clean your teeth standing on one leg (though not necessarily at the same time). These are two of the ideas in yet another self-help book preaching that getting older need not mean going downhill.
In fact, we are told it can be the start of a whole new adventure. That is if you are prepared for a major rethink about how you can make your later years some of your happiest.
The story of ageing has changed dramatically in the past decade because life expectancy has been increasing. Annoyingly, advances in medical and public health mean that we now have to work longer to pay for our pensions. Work longer to live longer is a real Catch 22!
The medical journal The Lancet, predicts more than half of British babies born in 2007 will live to the age of 103. This means that it is possible that if you are a 50 year old now, you could only be halfway through your life. So keep peddling.
For those already retired you need a business plan for achieving longevity. The secret, according to author Louise Ansari, is to imagine and plan for the best that lies ahead. She advocates carrying your shopping home and digging the garden. (Suddenly longevity seems less appealing!). Her logic is that with such simple exercises, you can not only manage conditions like arthritis, but reduce your risk of falling and keep your independence for longer.
Also, if you can maintain your ability to grip with your hands, get up out of a chair and support your body when you bathe and go to the toilet, you will be able to stay independent longer.
There is nothing new in such banal advice. Does she really think that people who have lived to retirement age have not heard all this guff before? . Even the Chief Medical Officer recommends 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise, sitting down less and doing at least two sessions of strength and balance exercises a week.
The problem is that as we know all this and yet have failed to act on it, then this book unlikely to get you out of your armchair.
But while sitting there at least take off your slippers. Louise claims they encourage a shuffle and increase your risk of falling. Instead, choose something with a supported arch and straps or laces to keep your feet firmly in place.
Another recommendation in this book* is that your world must be accessible within 20 minutes. Thus, can you reach friends, family, shops, pubs or whatever else gives life meaning within a short timeframe by walking, cycling, driving or public transport?
Future proofing your home while you are still active is also recommended, including decluttering, installing a walk-in shower and considering access problems when your mobility ultimately decreases.
If all this sounds a tad tame, teach yourself Swahili *. The logic is that it is a myth that doing Sudoku, crossword or any puzzle keeps dementia at bay. While they may help maintain memory, there is no proof they stop dementia developing in the long run.
Instead, the secret of longevity is learning a new skill or language, as practising it regularly will increase your brain power and reverse the signs of ageing. In fact, according to cognitive neuroscientists, you will see an improvement in cognitive health even after a week of learning.
It is thought this is due to increasing synaptic density, potentially increasing the amount of white matter and connections in the brain. The more of this you have, the healthier your brain is, for longer.
If languages are not your thing – don’t fret as taking up anything new will have a similar effect.
Dr Bak goes on to recommend a relationship MoT, plus stopping smoking, drinking and eating processed foods. Fortunately she does not mention giving up sex, but heh – when you’re a pensioner maybe this is more of an aspiration than a limitation.
“The problem with all this preaching is that it is so self righteous,” says a Tonic forever young therapist. “This woman seems hell bent on sucking the fun out of life. And having reached the age of retirement, can we really tolerate yet another do-gooder telling us how to lead our lives? Life is like an old car in that its age is not so important as the mileage. So live life to the full and go down with all guns blazing”.
Footnote > If you really want to read this book, it is called ‘When We’re 64: Your Guide To A Great Later Life’, published by Green Tree. Reading it will certainly make your life seem longer! Much better to check out Ecclesiastes 9:7-10.
*If you are successful, please do not use when phoning Tonic as we have no Swahili speakers. Sorry!