Aging Is Defined
A definition of the term aging is necessary to facilitate a meaningful discussion of the above subject. I submit that aging is a person’s advance in years with a certainty of deteriorating, especially in physical appearance and vitality. Dictionary Com defines it so much to the point as:
The process of growing old or developing the appearance and characteristics of old age.1
Aging can be a source of joy, respect and calm, but it can also be a challenge and cause of panic, depending on how one handles real and imagined needs. This makes it necessary for every ageing person to have a realistic perspective of his/her needs and problems.
A few years ago a friend of mine who was abroad entrusted me with the responsibility of looking after his father who was a widower in his eighties. I was to do all I could to make the old man feel cared for. I accordingly scheduled regular visits to check on him and to deliver appropriate supplies.
The interesting thing about the old man was the humor that characterized his dialogue with me whenever I visited. On greeting him, “How are you these days?” He would give a down-to-earth answer with a smile: “As expected, getting older, and weaker and more vulnerable. There is not a time you will hear me say that I have been able to reverse the course of aging. No, at my age, my physical health and that of my other faculties only deteriorate. It is a natural thing to be expected.” “What occupies you during the much time you have since you are not able to do much work?” I once asked him. “Well,” he said, “I make sure I do the little work I am still able to do. When I am free I listen to the radio, and when I am tired of that, I pass my time in remembering my achievements and thanking God for them. These are many, for instance there is my teaching career which I consider to have been a success, I am also proud of my having been able to educate my children. And there are other good things. I have lived a long life and I have a lot of good memories,” he said, and then laughed triumphantly.
The old man’s attitude to aging was one of acceptance of reality. It was fundamentally good because it gave him peace and stability and made him think straight as he approached his inevitable end of life.
In addition to a positive attitude, the diet and the behaviors of an aging person break him or preserve him. In a World Health Organization article about ageing, it is argued in the same way:
The rate of decline is determined, at least in part, by our behaviors and exposures across the whole life course. These include what we eat, how physically active we are and our exposure to health risks such as those caused by smoking, harmful consumption of alcohol, or exposure to toxic substances 2
I would add that to control the rate of decline, an aging person must also have self-control with regard to entertainment, including sex. If, for example, an old person tries to maintain the same sexual urge or libido as when he/she was young, the consequences might be newsworthy like in the case of a Kampala man who remarried at ninety. His bride was as young as a granddaughter. No wonder a few days into the honey moon he was admitted and hospitalized for severe backache and headache.
An article on agecare gives an analytical advice concerning how to control aging symptoms. It underscores the absence of a known substance that can halt aging or extend life, but gives the following as “some useful tips for improving the chances of living a long time and staying healthy.”
Eat a balanced diet, including five helpings of fruits and vegetables a day. Exercise regularly (check with a doctor before starting an exercise program). Get regular health check-ups. Don’t smoke (it’s never too late to quit). Practice safety habits at home to prevent falls and fractures. Always wear your seat-belt in a car. Stay in contact with family and friends. Stay active through work, play, and community. Avoid overexposure to the sun and the cold. If you drink, moderation is the key. When you drink, let someone else drive. Keep personal and financial records in order to simplify budgeting and investing. Plan long-term housing and money needs. Keep a positive attitude toward life. Do things that make you happy.3
Faith in God
Last but not least, an aging person should be advised to believe in God his Creator and keep in touch with Him.