August 13, 2013

Growing Old Gracefully. ~ Jagdish Kohli

Our complete life cycle includes old age as well as childhood, youth and maturity.

At the end of life, when we exhale the last breath, the life energy moves on to a new journey leaving the physical body on planet earth. As life moves from one phase to the next it brings a new set of challenges and opportunities.

Here we analyze the challenges of living a life of dignity and grace in the later years before leaving the world stage.

Getting old does not necessarily mean that we are automatically going to have poor health and that we will be confined to a wheel chair. A lot of elderly individuals actually enjoy their vigorous health because they try to live a healthy lifestyle despite their old age.

However, in some folks old age may bring a lack of concentration, forgetfulness, inability to speak, to hear, to see, etc. So the individual gets used to sitting in a chair being pensive, vegetating, and saying nothing.

Because of physical wear and tear of the body tissue, some old people get serious illnesses such as coronary heart problems, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and different levels of cognitive disorders. Dealing with these life situations offers many challenges for the patients as well as their caretakers.

And when one of the partners of an elderly couple passes away it creates a harder situation for the surviving person to adjust to handling day to day living.

Old Age Planning

Conscious planning is a prerequisite to achieve a high quality of daily living in later years of life. Youth and mature years is the best time to create a blueprint for the old age. Our thoughts, emotions and actions are the seeds of life sowed in early years.

These seeds create a big harvest in old age. The seeds of love and happiness bring forth a life full of grace and dignity. The seeds of anger, hate, jealousy, greed and attachment bring forth pain and suffering in old age. We should pay attention to these five aspects of life while we are still young and strong:

1. Creating a financial safety net for old age;

2. Developing a daily exercise habit and adjusting to a balanced diet based on body need;

3. Learning to relax in every life situation and allowing the natural flow of life energy;

4. Building meaningful relationships with family and friends; and

5. Enjoying every aspect of life without getting attached to it.

Caring for an elderly individual can be stressful and demanding at times. Gaining basic knowledge about what we can do, and staying as calm and relaxed as possible, we will be able to handle each and every situation. Thus a training program is required for all caretakers—including family, friends and professional people in different settings. Similar training is also needed for the elderly.

Responsibility of the Caretakers

Preserve Their Dignity. Do not sharply rebuke an older person, but be respectful and treat him/her as a father/mother role model.

Listen Carefully. Be swift about hearing, slow about speaking, slow about wrath.

Show Empathy. Be like-minded, showing fellow feeling and having brotherly affection. Be tenderly compassionate, humble in mind and do not pay back injury for injury, or revenge for revenge.

Include Them in Our Activities. Follow the course of hospitality. Include them in planning daily meals and other family discussions.

Responsibility of the Elderly

Be Flexible. Old people should be flexible in accepting appropriate meals based on their body health. Cooperation with the caretaker can create a harmonious living experience.

Show Respect. An elderly person must show due respect for the caretaker and offer gratitude and blessings for the service.

Be Creative. In old age there is plenty of time at hand. Creative use of time can keep the mind occupied. One can reflect on life, create satisfying group activities, and get involved with yoga, meditation, etc.

Society’s Responsibility

Collectively we are all responsible for the current quality-of-life for all the citizens of the world. Societal institutions have a major responsibility to improve the quality of human living experience on planet earth.

The number of old people needing care will be growing in the coming decades. By 2050, the number of people ages 65+ will total about 1.5 billion—that’s 16 percent of the global total. In 1950, it was only 5 percent.

The growth trajectory of old people will challenge the limitations of current social systems such as retirement financing, healthcare facilities, nursing homes and in home care. Transformation is badly needed in the current ways of doing business. Thinking minds of the world need to address this growing elderly care problem looming on the horizon.

Growing old with grace provides a beautiful living experience. Grace is a higher dimension of life and if invoked in young age stays with us all the way till the end. This heightened awareness allows young as well as old people to live a healthy and balanced life every day.

Public policy institutions all around the globe need to address the growing elderly care problem in a meaningful way. The design of more durable social systems will improve the quality of life for everyone.


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Assistant Ed: Ben Neal/Ed: Bryonie Wise

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Jagdish Kohli, Ph.D.