Dealing with new social dynamics

For this generation of the elderly, perhaps one of the biggest challenges is the drastic change in social structures. For generations, the norm especially in South Asian societies has been that a senior family member’s importance within the extended family structure was protected. Elders presided over all important familial and religious activities. They were consulted over key matters, and more often than not, their decisions prevailed. Suddenly though for many of today’s elders, the rug appears to have been pulled from under their feet.  Just when it’s their turn to take over the reins, they realize that new social dynamics require for them to reinvent themselves to remain relevant. Many have been able to easily move with the flow, but there are just as many others who have been left bewildered.

The biggest shift today is the move towards a more individualistic society, which is predominantly centered on nuclear families. Said Ranjini, “It’s different with children of today. You cannot tell them what to do. I had a very strict mother-in-law and I was so scared to displease her. We had to ask for her approval on everything from daily meals to when I wanted to go out. She even decided on the names of my children.” She adds with a twinkle in her eye, “Of course I dare not insist on any such thing with my daughter-in-law. What to do?” Ranjini and her husband, who are in their seventies, refuse to live with their children. “They are very concerned and have often suggested that we live with them, but I know that this will be a disaster. Nowadays we have to adjust to the young one’s lifestyles, and I know I can’t do that. It’s better to have your own independence.”

For Suresh, it’s the lack of time the younger generation have that he finds difficult to deal with. “They are always rushing. Even when they are with you they are constantly thinking of things they need to do or are always checking their phones,” he laments. “Even my grandchildren have no time to sit and chat. It’s either classes or homework or practices. I feel sorry for the little ones. I wonder how they will turn out when they become adults.” Another area of discomfort for Suresh, as with many other elders, is grappling with technology. “When I ask my children about anything they say, ‘Google it’. Their main means of communication seems to be by sending me videos and pictures on WhatsApp and other such strange methods. What happened to having a nice chat over a cup of tea I think. On birthdays or special occasions I’m given a new gadget, which I graciously accept, but shudder at the thought of figuring out yet another new invention. Click once, click twice and the thing always ‘crashes’. Then my grandchildren come along – and apparently do the same thing in seconds that I spent half the day trying to do –  the gadgets miraculously work beautifully.”

21st century

Some elders though are more philosophical about these changes and are happy to try to integrate in to modern society.  Chaya, a grandmother, wants to check out the latest apps, has several WhatsApp groups and has caught up with long lost pals on Facebook. She even listens to her favorite songs on You Tube and proudly displays any new bargain she has found on the net.  She says she doesn’t get it right every time, but her daughters help and a ‘sweet little boy’ next door drops in every now and then to sort things out.

Another segment, though not comfortable with modern gadgetry, still refuse to feel abandoned and instead see this phase of life as an opportunity to discover more about themselves or pursue their passions. Ranjit has thrown himself in to gardening and is happy to share his passion for home grown organic food with anyone who cares. Amila found joy in writing and hopes to publish a book of short stories for children. When I commented on how she has bloomed in her retirement, she retorted, “darling who told you that I retired?”

(The names of many in this article have been changed at their request.)

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I am having a Senior Moment…Naah

think cloud

Brains of older people are slow because they know so much. People do not decline mentally with age, it just takes them longer to recall facts because they have more information in their brains, scientists believe. Much like a computer struggles as the hard drives gets full, so do humans take longer to access information when their brains are full.

Researchers say this slowing down process is not the same as cognitive decline. The human brain works slower in old age, said Dr. Michael Ramscar, but only because we have stored more information over time. The brains of older people do not get weak. On the contrary, they simply know more.

Also, older people often go to another room to get something and when they get there, they stand there wondering what they came for. It is NOT a memory problem, it is nature’s way of making older people do more exercise.

SO THERE!

Now when I reach for a word or a name, I won’t excuse myself by saying “I’m having a senior moment”. Now, I’ll say, “My disk is full!”

I have more friends I should send this to, but right now I can’t remember their names. So, please forward this to your friends; they may be my friends, too.

-Source Unknown

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Friday morning fun and games

If you are 50 and above, and have some extra time on your hands, then wonder over to St. Paul’s Milagiriya to spend a fun-filled Friday morning. A group of enthusiastic seniors gather in the auditorium, within the St. Paul’s Milagiriya Church grounds, for some interesting conversation and to play a range of games including scrabble, bridge, carom, and 304.

These weekly gatherings are organized by the Sri Lanka Association of Senior Citizens and membership is open to anyone who is above 50. There is a nominal fee of Rs. 1000 per year, which allows members to visit each Friday between 9 and 12 a.m.; partake in the games; and enjoy a cup of tea and some biscuits. The club also organizes tournaments which the members wholeheartedly participate in. There are celebrations organized for Christmas and Avurudu, as well as trips and outings which are held twice a year. Githagani Fernando, who is the President of the Association said, “We have over a hundred members. They really look forward to these Friday morning sessions because it gives them an opportunity to get away from their daily routine. They get to make new friends and the games they play are fun as well as intellectually stimulating. We welcome all seniors to join us. If you are interested, then you can pay a day fee of Rs. 25 and spend a Friday morning with us before you decide to join.” Ms. Fernando is supported by a dedicated committee of seven members who take care of all the administrative aspects of the group.

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Ms. Geethangani Fernando, President of the Sri Lanka Association of Senior Citizens

 

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It’s all about attitude

This article is dedicated to my grandmother. Bed ridden though she was, with acute arthritis, she radiated enthusiasm. She always greeted us with a smile, hug and a sharp-witted dig. Perhaps it was her undying zest for life that kept her loved, alert, and otherwise well until 87.

You may have noticed that while some of our elders seem happy and active way into their senior years, others find it difficult to emotionally cope with failing health and diminishing faculties. As much as this difference can be attributed to genetic disposition, positive thinking as one grows older plays a significant role in our general health as well. Aging is inevitable; however, it is easier to deal with, if we have a positive attitude. A study done by the Yale School of Health shows aging stereotypes with positive thinking are more likely to recover from disability and illnesses than those with a negative attitude.

Positive attitude = Health + happiness

This equation says it all.  Various studies and published articles by health organizations such as the Mayo Clinic highlight the benefits of having a positive attitude:

  • Increasing life span
  • Lower levels of distress
  • Lower rate of depression
  • Greater resistance to common colds
  • Improved psychological and physical well-being
  • Reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases
  • Improved capacity to deal with hardship and stress.

The prescription for positive attitude

 A measure of acceptance – It begins with accepting aging gracefully and understanding your physical and mental changes. Aging need not be a handicap and should not stop you from having fun. In fact, in your golden years you will have more time to engage in activities that you may have postponed when you were younger, and busy working or running your family.  For example, you could learn ballroom dancing or start on that hobby which you did not continue because you were otherwise busy – Gardening, sewing, cooking, or anything that makes you happy and gives you positive vibes is a great way to spice up your life.

A strong dose of positive thinkingOne way to pull yourself out of a state of despair is to practice to have positive thinking, by actively eliminating negative thoughts. Whenever you think, “I can’t do that, it is too much of a hassle”, you must stop right there and will yourself to think, “I can do it and I will feel be better if I do it?”.

A spoonful of laughter -You may have heard of the saying ‘laughter is the best medicine.’ Well there is an element of truth to it. Give yourself permission to smile or laugh, especially during difficult times. If you can laugh at life, all your cares will seem so much more less wearisome.

A daily regime of keeping fit and looking good – It is very important to be active in your senior years. This will keep your mind ticking and more importantly eliminate boredom and loneliness. An individual who makes an effort to exercise on a frequent basis – even if it’s a simple daily stroll will be healthier and happier.

Sometimes as one gets older one tends to get careless about appearances. Spend some time on grooming and personal care. Simple efforts to dress nicely will make you feel good about yourself and lift your spirits.

Regular exposure to joyful company Friends are a big part of our lives.  However, spending time with people who have a positive, can-do attitude towards life will make a huge difference to your mental well-being as well. Friends with a positive attitude will advice you well, give constructive feedback and are supportive. Even spending time with young children can add a much-needed sparkle to your day. Young energy can be very encouraging and infectious.

A quiet moment of spirituality – When you are distressed, it helps to look to a spiritual source for some peace of mind. It will give you time to reflect on the situation and face your challenges with optimism. After all faith fuels hope, and hope fuels a positive attitude.

A generous amount of community work – It is not always only about making yourself feel good. Helping others does wonders for your soul. Whether you provide those in need with your time or financial support, your thoughtfulness and service will make you feel better about your life.

Removal of emotional baggage – Don’t dwell upon something that happened years ago. Deal with it and set it aside. Choose what you want to change and take action. Harping on the past only keeps negative emotions like anger, regret, guilt, shame and worthlessness alive. It is time to cast those feelings out, and face the future with hope and cheer.

There are many ways to improve your life with confidence and positive energy. However, it is up to you to make it happen. This is not always easy to do, but with a little bit of effort and practice you can bring some sunshine in to your life and the lives of those around you.

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Who we are…

Our seniors’ golden years should be celebrated. It is a moment to look back with pride at all that they have achieved and use this opportunity to make the best of all they have to offer…

We are two friends who often despaired that so little was available for our elders in terms of information, facilities and most importantly activities. Often we’d encounter problems which we couldn’t find ready solutions to and there seemed to be precious few places that we could turn to for advice or assistance.

What was missing, we felt, was a common platform or meeting space for seniors, their families, and caregivers to share experiences and receive information about the issues and challenges facing our senior citizens today. And from this need evolved the idea of ‘The Senior Station’ – an online space dedicated to seniors and their caregivers where we could talk about all that’s out there from health and well being to entertainment, and everything in between.

So, if you consider yourself a ‘senior’, or if you have an elderly person in your care, then please join us at ‘The Senior Station’. If you have any information, advice or practical tips that you feel would be useful to others like you, then we urge you to share them via this page. If you are an individual or part of an organization that is already providing services or facilities for elders, then The Senior Station is the place where these can be shared, promoted or advertised for our members to benefit from, enjoy or be entertained.

Finally, if you have ideas in the area of elder care that you would like to see implemented then please do send us a message. We are always on the lookout for resources that could help implement good suggestions. And if you would like to volunteer or join us, please don’t hesitate to contact us because we believe that this is a truly worthwhile cause that will require a great many to contribute their effort, time and resources to.

So do tune into ‘The Senior Station’. A space specially dedicated all the amazing seniors amongst us.