The (old) Elephant in the Room

14 Jan 2019

The (old) Elephant in the Room

Celebration V Commiseration

I have recently turned sixty and chose celebration over commiseration. A positive mindset, good genes and determined effort to enjoy life made my Diamond Jubilee (as someone wrote in my birthday card) something to look forward to. I chose to go to Africa to celebrate.

I’m not suggesting we all travel to Africa for a ‘Big Birthday’. What I am suggesting is that we embrace, plan and celebrate our age – whether that be one or one hundred years. Birthdays can be costly in terms of money, self-esteem and health so if you find yourself low on all three as you grow older, take note from the following cultures:

How other cultures do it

  • Eastern cultures are still based on filial piety, where children are expected (legally and morally) to care for their parents and elderly relatives.
  • Western cultures are based on youth-centric principles where if you are too old to be of any use, tough! This has resulted in isolation with loneliness emerging as a tragic trend.
  • Although considered a Western country, France introduced a decree back in 2004 that children were to keep in touch with their parents. This was a response to the fact that France suffered from a heatwave that killed 15,000 people, most of them elderly with many of them not being discovered until weeks later.
  • The Mediterranean culture appeals to me most where families all muck in together. The elderly look after the youngest whilst those able to work, do so to support the others. This gives everyone a purpose and value well into advancing years.
  • The lifespan of an elephant in the wild is between sixty and seventy years. Being an elderly elephant means you’re on your last set of molars and when they go, you have to move (and possibly leave the family unit) to where the food is easier to chew. Poachers reduce the life span of African elephants drastically as both male and females have tusks which are prized. Which culture are you under and which is the set of values you prefer? If they differ, you need to act now to make sure your advancing years are happy and balanced. You can’t change how others view getting older, but you can sure change how you view it.

8 ways to improve your self-esteem and mental health as you grow older

  • Retirement can take its toll on your self-esteem. You’ve probably put financial plans into place, so put social plans into place at the same time. Join clubs, societies and set up get-togethers before you retire.
  • Get out of the house at least once a day. If you can only make it to the end of the front path and back, do it. Your horizon is your horizon, so go for it.
  • Let people know you are approachable and would like to take part in activities. Assuming people will come to you is unrealistic. Others can’t see behind a closed front door.
  • So you can’t do what you used to do. Find a way of doing it differently. A way that suits your current abilities, not your past abilities.
  • Keep in touch with the very young ones (yours or other people’s). They have a fresh outlook on life that is lost with age and imaginations that can take you anywhere.
  • Take care and pride in your physical health and appearance. Both take effort and will deteriorate if neglected. Value the person you are, not the person you once were.
  • Keep a ‘what’s good and new’ diary (available on request). Looking for these things everyday will help keep a positive mindset.
  • Balance everything. Sad day>Happy day. Cake day>Fruit day. Quiet day> Social day. Active day>Rest day.

Embrace the years### Embrace the years### Embrace the years### Embrace the years

Our families and close friends may be further away that we’d like but there is a world out there that is waiting for us to contribute towards making it a happier, balanced place to live in. Take the bull by the horns or perhaps, more appropriately, the elephant by the tusks, and tell yourself that you may be older, more grey and wrinkly than you used to be and that you can still have fun rolling around in mud, make your voice heard without fear of retribution and be a valid member of the species and society.