We celebrated my brother’s 60th birthday with Takaro Trails three-day self-guided cycling tour of the Hawkes Bay in New Zealand. There were four of us over 60, and one young man of 59, my husband Steven. While laughing, riding and celebrating life “active, balanced and connected” became my mantra for healthy ageing.
Riding through the Takaro Trails I contemplated the opportunities in my life to remain active.
Keeping my mind active will be easy, I hope. I love to read, listen to podcasts, write and play computer games. Social injustice still fires me up and I’m curious about the world. I delight in talking to young people and discovering their views. Even though my adult kids roll around the floor laughing at me, I enjoy learning new technology and embrace social media. I still work part-time as a psychologist and I remain committed to my professional development. I’m inspired by the hopes and dreams of colleagues and clients.
Keeping my body active will be more of a challenge. Despite this bike trip, and that I also rode the Otago Rail Trail, I’ve never particularly enjoyed exercise, yet I know how essential it is. I do enjoy an easy cycle at the weekends and have sometimes regularly ridden my bike to work. I dabble in a bit of yoga, and I particularly like Yoga with Adrienne’ videos. Some mornings I manage to get myself out for a walk. My most active engagement in group exercise was through NIA dance and exercise classes. I kept that up for two years and will probably return to the welcoming group. Pottering in the garden brings me great pleasure and is another of my active pastimes. I purposefully increase my incidental exercise too, often parking in spots further away than necessary, so I walk more, and when working, I take a short walk every lunchtime.
A tasting plate of exercise
I’ve realised that a variety of activities works better for me than a commitment to one type of regular exercise. I envy those that are motivated through routine and discipline but I can create my own tasting plate of exercise.
Seeing myself still wandering the world when I am older, sharing time with younger people, doing the things I love and maintaining my independence creates an image of vitality that inspires and motivates me.
Balanced means not letting my body fall over. As we age, our muscles can weaken and our eyes falter, putting us at risk of falls. Older people who fall, then restrict their activity for fear of falling again… and so the downward spiral of inactivity begins.
Cycling, of course, helps with balance so I’ll continue to do that. I’ve already started doing a few squats when I pop something in the microwave (sometimes) and a friend encouraged me to brush my teeth standing on one leg. Yoga, dancing, gardening and walking all help too. Perhaps I could enroll in a dance or Tai Chi course. I’d like to do some bushwalking. If I fall over, I plan to get up and keep going!
Regular eye checks will be essential – I don’t want to fall over something I can’t see.
Balanced can also mean participating in a diverse range of activities. As I contemplate retirement I see a life full of visits to art galleries, theater, board games, live music, travel, volunteering, family, and friends. Steven would include sporting events, but I won’t be attending those with him. Whatever you like to do, plan it into your life.
I want that wonderful web of relationships that I’ve made through my life to continue to sustain me. Loneliness is a curse when you are older, and I don’t want it shortening my life or undermining my mental health. Being alone is different than being lonely. You can live alone and not be lonely, or you can live in a busy household and be lonely. It’s about being connected and having companionship.
To be sustained by relationships I’ll need real human contact, not just the occasional post on social media. I’ll need to pick up the phone, video call, invite people over and go visiting. I’ll need to keep making new friends and hope to maintain friendships with all ages. I see myself surrounded by vibrancy and wisdom. I want to reminisce but I also want to hear dreams of the future.
Challenged to remain Active, Balanced and Connected
Since writing this I fell off my bike and broke the scaphoid bone in my wrist, but that’s a story for another day. The time incapacitated certainly challenged me to remain Active, Balanced and Connected.
How will you remain Active, Balanced and Connected?