Keeping Active and Engaged with Life
by Monte Schwartz
“You don’t stop laughing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop laughing.”—George Bernard Shaw.
We recently discussed the importance of seniors staying active and some of the reasons that they don’t. Their need to be active would seem to be self-evident. Unfortunately, we see more than a few elderly who are not engaged in activities and who have little to no opportunities for socialization.
The results of such a lifestyle are fairly predictable. According to an article on the University of Rochester Medical Center website, “staying active . . . can help you maintain good physical and emotional health and cognitive function.”
As with many things, it’s often easier said than done. All of us struggle to find balance in life and to stay physically and socially engaged. All the more so for seniors who, as we’ve mentioned in the past, become increasingly isolated as they age.
Yet it can be done. For those able, there are more than a few groups that would love to tap into your experience and expertise. Volunteer opportunities are a great way to make new friends and build new connections. Churches and other organizations usually have groups specifically geared toward the senior population. Don’t be a stranger!
And don’t be afraid to learn something new. As C.S. Lewis once said, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” Is there something you’ve always wanted to do? Somewhere you’ve always wanted to go? Oftentimes seniors discover talents they didn’t even know they had. It doesn’t have to be something grandiose and you don’t always have to go far.
I’ll never forget a veteran that I knew who attended one of the local adult day programs. He was always talking to me or showing me something that he was working on, either there or at home. Sure he still loved to fish and golf if possible, though in truth those activities became increasingly rare and after a while something he only talked about having done in the past. Instead, he was telling me about his gardening, quilting, and poetry. Yes, poetry. And I’ll never forget the spark in his eyes as he talked to me about it. Apparently there really is life after golf and fishing.
Besides the adult day centers that we are blessed to have in our area, we also have a very active senior center that seems to have something for everyone. Moreover, the local senior living communities do a great job of keeping their residents active. Many of them have one or more full-time activity coordinators. Depending on the community, residents have an opportunity to participate in outings, exercise classes, crafts, games, prayer services, outside entertainment, etc. (Don’t worry. Bingo is always on the activity calendar somewhere!)
Recently, I took a family to tour a memory care unit. The amount of appropriate engagement that we saw on the part of their residents was truly heartwarming. One was enjoying the warmth, smile, and conversation of a caregiver. Another was keeping busy by helping to fold laundry. Another was helping to keep their outside courtyard up to standards. The “outside work” helped to give him a sense of purpose and dignity.
The opportunities and examples are too numerous to mention. The point is that seniors of all ages and abilities, from those living at home to those living in a memory care unit, can enjoy some healthy level of activity and involvement with others. Stay engaged and don’t lose your enthusiasm for life. After all, you might find one day that you have a poem inside of yourself that someone else might enjoy hearing.