What is Mindful Aging & Why it is Important

What is Mindful Aging & Why is it Important for Seniors?

A Smiling Peaceful-looking white-haired elderly lady
                                   Picture Created by Dream.ai

Aging is a natural part of life, and as we age, our minds and bodies go through various changes.

For many of us, the thought of aging is scary and overwhelming.

However, the way we approach aging can greatly impact our overall well-being and quality of life. 

Let's talk about me. 

There are days when I am unable to fall asleep. 

Thoughts well up...

  • What if I end up being alone when I'm old?
  • Will my savings be enough for me to live comfortably as I grow older?
  • Will my son go on to have a good career and life?
  • And God Forbid...What if I become so ill as to be unable to take care of myself? And if I am mentally, fully aware of my sorry state....the Worst Situation😨😱.

Bleak, Bleaker, and Bleakest of scenarios keep unfolding to my consternation and worry. 

Sleep continues to elude me.

Let us take a view of my present life rationally, and logically. 

I am a healthy Senior.

I am retired but pursuing some hobbies which keep me fairly busy.

I have my family, a large extended family, and friends' circle. 

So Why are these depressing stressful thoughts coming up??

When I was a few years younger in my fifties...I would worry about my parents' failing health

Or worry about my child's college grades and career prospects.

Or about completing the project at the office or getting the next promotion. 

Of course, a few of the above worries cannot happen now 

My beloved parents who were my lifeline are sadly no more.

I am retired and there is no job to worry about. 

As parents, we never stop worrying about our children, but now having become officially 'old'  it appears that I worry more often and more intensely than before about my son.

A case of an Idle Mind is the Devil's Workshop🤔🤔?

Mindful Aging will help us move away from this cycle of negative depressive thinking and the resulting anxiety, distress, sleeplessness, and lack of motivation.

So What is Mindful Aging?? 

Aging is an inevitable process that we all go through. Mindful Aging is the practice of being present and aware of one's thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations as we age. 

It is about:

- approaching aging with awareness and acceptance, and finding joy and fulfillment in the later years of life. 

-living in the present moment, being fully engaged in our lives, and recognizing that every stage of life has its own unique beauty and value

accepting the changes that come with aging while maintaining a positive outlook and taking steps to promote physical, mental, and emotional health

Mindful Aging is therefore a process of approaching aging in a positive and healthy way. 

How can we practice Mindful Aging? 

The following are the 4 main pillars of Mindful Ageing :

1. Acceptance - Mindful Aging involves accepting the changes that come with aging such as physical limitations and challenges in appearance. This does not mean giving up on one's goals or ambitions, but rather recognizing and accepting the reality of aging

We live in an age when appearance is given a lot of importance. 

You and I also pride ourselves on dressing well, remaining fit, taking care of our skin, and being attractive. 

Nothing wrong with that 

In fact, it is good👍.

What may not be healthy is

- when we remain obsessed with wrinkle-free skin, leaner body, and 'looking young'. 

I  am not against taking steps to continue to have better, more supple, young skin. Coconut oil and anti-aging creams are stuff I use. 
However, I personally would draw the line at invasive procedures like Botox Injections or Skin Peeling
A high percentage of seniors color their hair.  I color mine. But I try to not be obsessed with it. 

Sometimes due to circumstances, I may not be able to color it for a longer than usual time and end up having a grey head. Some years back I would never go out with visible strands of grey, but now I am more relaxed about it.

- When we refuse to accept the inevitable changes that come with age. 

I have an elderly relative who has postponed wearing glasses for a long time. She strains to read the newspaper with its small print but does not want to go for an eye check-up and wear glasses. 
The natural slowing down of our body and the physical limitations it imposes can be frustrating. 
I can no longer lift half a bucket of water. Only a quarter is what I can do
I can no longer run up the stairs

And the worst sitting on the floor is very difficult. And getting up from the floor after sitting down without some help, is becoming impossible

This does not mean giving up one's goals or ambitions but rather recognizing and accepting the reality of aging. 

Skin will wrinkle, and hair will thin. You cannot lift too heavy weights, you cannot climb many flights of stairs, you cannot run at top speed. You cannot eat too much, and sleep does not come easily.

It is important to realize and accept what you can do and what you cannot.

And more importantly to do what is required to stay fit and as healthy as possible.

Exercise, Yoga, Walking, and Dietary changes all can contribute to keeping your body fit and healthy even in your senior years. 

Let's consciously try to not get bogged down by what we cannot do, but focus on what needs to be done and do it religiously!

Awareness: Mindful aging involves being aware of one's thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations. This includes being aware of how these experiences change as we age and how they may impact our well-being.

We are all blessed uniquely.

Some of us may be in great health and some may be battling lifestyle ailments like diabetes and hypertension. 

In my school batch of about 80 students,11 are no more here in this world. Most of them who passed away were victims of breast cancer. And among the remaining 69, about half a dozen are cancer survivors. 

Some may be financially very sound and leading a life of luxury. Some may not be very well off. 

Some may be living with their married children and their families, and some may have children who are yet to settle down in life. For some all their children may have settled abroad and some may not have any children.

Life and especially the senior years is about being aware of your present state, accepting it, making the required changes for you to continue to live comfortably and peacefully.

For instance, moving into senior homes was taboo, a few decades ago. But now seniors are choosing to move to senior housing, senior community living groups, and assisted living facilities. 

Likewise, it is common for seniors living in their own independent houses to move into flats in gated communities. They have become aware that they can no longer maintain independent house by themselves, And it makes sense to move to a gated community where the building cleanliness, maintenance, and security is taken care of by the community jointly, and they would only have to pay for it.

Gratitude: Mindful aging involves cultivating a sense of gratitude for the experiences and relationships we have had throughout our lives. This can help us maintain a positive outlook and find joy in the present moment. 

Whatever may be your present circumstances you will have plenty to cherish and be thankful for. 

Loving Parents, a Happy marriage, and children you adore. a career you have much to be proud of, a talent that has given you recognition and joy. 

In our senior years too we can be grateful for our health, our home, our pets, our plants, our family etc. There is indeed so much which gives us happiness. A visit to the beach, or to the temple can be a happy pastime to be grateful for.

Exult in what you have and don't linger over what has been lost. 

Be grateful for the Love, the Joy, and the triumphs in your life. Cherish it  

Self-compassion: Mindful Aging involves treating oneself with kindness and compassion. This means recognizing that aging can be challenging and being gentle with oneself as we navigate these challenges.

Don't compare yourself with others. It is important at any age and especially if you are in your senior years. 

Some of your peers would have accomplished much more than you. And some less.

Some have traveled more, and some have traveled less

Some are more well off or less well off,

Some have maintained their bodies better, and some have let go more than others.

Some have more than their share of health issues some are in good health

Some have had more than their share of grief and loss and some have less

Don't Berate Yourself, Don't Stress about your perceived lack of achievements, or lack of anything for that matter, as compared to your peers. 

You Did your Best under Your circumstances. Now it's time to just sit back, and in peace, and not fret over what cannot be changed. 

There are Several Benefits to Practicing Mindful Aging:

Improved physical health: Mindful aging involves taking steps to maintain physical health, such as exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet. These behaviors can help reduce the risk of chronic health conditions and improve overall well-being

Improved mental health: Mindful aging can also improve mental health by reducing stress and anxiety. Mindfulness practices such as meditation and yoga have been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety

Increased social connections: Mindful aging can also help improve social connections, which are important for overall well-being. By cultivating gratitude and compassion, we may be more likely to connect with others and maintain meaningful relations

Increased resilience: Mindful aging can help us build resilience, or the ability to bounce back from difficult situations. By cultivating acceptance, awareness, gratitude, and self-compassion, we may be better equipped to handle the challenges that come with aging

How can we practice Mindful Aging? Here are a few tips:

Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment. This can be done through meditation, yoga, or simply taking a few moments to focus on your breath. By practicing mindfulness regularly, we can become more aware of our thoughts and feelings, and better equipped to respond to them in a positive way

Cultivate gratitude: Take time each day to reflect on the things you are grateful for. This could be as simple as taking a few moments to appreciate a beautiful sunset or expressing gratitude for the people in your life. By cultivating a sense of gratitude, we can maintain a positive outlook and find joy in the present moment

Stay active: Regular exercise is important for physical and mental health. Try to find an activity you enjoy, such as walking, swimming, or yoga. This can help reduce the risk of chronic health conditions and improve overall well-being.

Connect with others: Maintaining social connections is important for overall well-being. Make an effort to reach out to friends and family members, or join a group or club that aligns with your interests

Be kind to yourself: Aging can be challenging, and it's important to treat yourself with kindness and compassion. Take time to do things that make you happy, and don't be too hard on yourself if you experience setbacks or challenges

Mindful Aging is an approach to life for peaceful and stress-free senior years. 

It is not withdrawal from life but acceptance.

It is not looking at life with rose-tinted glasses but looking at it with a clear lens and accepting it. 

Let us try to age mindfully, focusing on the here and now. Let us not get burdened by the baggage of the years behind us Or the mystery of the future years. 

Cheers to that!

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