A hundred years ago, the average life expectancy in Ireland was around 50. Today, it hovers somewhere between 77 and 82, depending on your sex. Life expectancy at the age of 65 is rising faster here than anywhere else in the EU. The attitudes and actions of individuals are as important as those of governments and other agencies in helping people to grow old in a positive way. So how can we find and maintain our source of joy? We’ve done a lot of listening and put together some helpful strategies to help. Read on to find out more.
Laughter Is the Best Tonic to Bring Joy
Mark Twain once said, “Age is a matter of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” He had a point but getting to a stage when you don’t mind lies at the heart of growing old with joy. A good place to start is with laughter, and that’s not a joke. There is plenty of scientific evidence to show that laughter regularly improves our mental and physical well-being. Getting a daily giggle fix improves your intake of oxygen-rich air. It stimulates the heart, lungs and muscles. It also releases endorphins, the hormones that trigger positive feelings. Laughter is a stress-buster and helps us to relax. If you live alone, make a point of finding a way to at least crack a smile every day.
You could do this by:
- Finding a favourite comedy podcast
- Reading a book that’s full of laughs
- Watching a TV series that appeals to your sense of humour
The digital age has made access to all types of media so quick and easy. Take advantage of it!
Keep Moving to Bring Joy into your Life!
It can be challenging but taking any kind of exercise is going to help you feel happier and lift your mood. It can help improve sleep and reduce arthritic pain too. The good news is you don’t need to go to the gym!
You could make an indoor exercise regime. Chair-based exercises, stretching, walking, carrying or moving groceries and gardening all count: so do dancing and playing bowls.
Find something manageable that you enjoy doing and build it into your daily routine.
There are plenty of free apps that can help including 7-minute workout, Daily Yoga and the website, Kokuhealth.com.
Taking regular exercise can also have a positive impact on a number of diseases and conditions. These include:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease and strokes
- Diabetes and osteoporosis
Like laughter, exercise releases happiness hormones. There are several common factors that keep us from exercising in later life. It’s really important to manage our physical well-being so that we are able to exercise to our full potential. That means:
Looking after Your Feet!
Wash them daily and dry them well. Always apply a moisturising foot cream. Keep toenails nicely trimmed. Keep your feet warm by wearing warm socks and stockings. Wear well-fitting shoes made from breathable and stretchable materials with adjustable fastenings.
Keeping Your Eyes Healthy
Avoid smoking as it damages the eyes and increases the likelihood of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. Protect your eyes from the sun by wearing sunglasses. Get regular eye tests!
Maintaining Good Oral Hygiene
This will let you eat, speak and socialise without discomfort or embarrassment. Reduce the number of sugary foods and drinks you consume, especially before bedtime. Brush your teeth at least twice a day, using fluoride toothpaste. Avoid excess alcohol consumption and do not smoke as this increases the risk of mouth cancer.
Embrace New Interests That Will Bring You Joy
It’s never too late to start something new, so they say. Finding a new hobby or interest that you know you will enjoy pursuing is another proven mood-lifter. It gives us meaning and direction in our lives. The key is finding something that appeals to you and that you know you are going to stick with. Interests stimulate the brain and help us to feel happier. You could, for example, start learning a new language. There are plenty of apps such as Duolingo that can help. Lots of people now learn with the help of a remote online tutor. It can be relatively inexpensive, and effective. It also creates some easy, regular social interaction. Anything is possible from jigsaws, puzzles, knitting and mindfulness to painting, cooking, taking care of plants or even learning a new musical instrument. Try these apps: Jigsaw Puzzles, Smiling Mind, Planta and Sketchbook.
A study carried out by Comfort Keepers found that connecting with family, loved ones and friends delivered one of the greatest sources of joy. Social contact can also be one of the toughest actions to achieve. Whereas declines in physical, sensory and cognitive function are common as we grow old, there are constant and continual benefits from social interaction throughout most of our entire lives. Social media gets a lot of bad press at times but used wisely it is a really good way to get connected. Rather than posting and commenting, use the messaging services on offer to stay in touch with friends and family. If mobility and transport create problems, use virtual ways to stay in touch. Make a point of finding someone you can connect with regularly. This could be an old friend or faraway relative that you send a friendly emoji to each morning, for example.
Make a Plan of Action for Joy
There’s no time like the present so here’s our recommended 5 point plan:
- Stay active or start to get more active
- Find something to make you laugh each day
- Keep on top of your health with eye, ear & dental tests and vaccinations
- Set up regular chats with friends and family
- Eat well, keep warm and take up a new interest or hobby
Keep Well and Happy
We’re always looking for new ways that can help keep us happy and joyful. If you have any tips you’d like to share, do get in touch with us through our Facebook page or speak to a member of the home care team.
We have plenty more articles for elderly people who may be receiving home care. Find more helpful tips and advice here in our CK News section.