Active Ageing

UKMSA Trustee Chris Lee has just qualified for a free bus pass. He reflects on what active ageing means to him...

I was once interviewed about Men’s Sheds on radio and used the phrase ‘old fogey’ (I was quoting someone describing himself). The interviewer asked me how old you need to be to qualify as an old fogey and I suggested it was a state of mind rather than a particular age. I know a 40-year old who I’d describe as an old fogey but, of course, I don’t.     

So, what’s my prescription for avoiding ‘fogeyism’? Apart from the obvious routes to better health and wellbeing – getting enough sleep, eating and drinking in moderation, getting regular exercise, and connecting with people and nature as much as possible – here are four more recommendations for happier and healthier living.

Don’t use your age as an excuse

My day-job is mentoring unemployed people. Some (mainly men) are approaching retirement age and sadly see a job as just a way to make more money than they get in benefits before they get to retirement, when they feel they can ‘legitimately’ do nothing. A worrying number think that being 66 entitles them to use age as an excuse for slowing down from their already sedentary lifestyles – not healthy for brain or body as I subtly try to tell them. I point out that reaching retirement age may be only the start of the final third of their lives, and that thinking positively can make later life so much better.

If you’re looking for websites targeting ‘seniors’ – as they call them in the USA, click here https://www.wizcase.com/blog/best-websites-for-seniors For a UK site for the over 50s, click here https://restless.co.uk

Never stop learning

There’s a famous Gandhi quote along the lines of “Live like you’re going to die tomorrow, learn like you’re going to live forever”. It’s a great reminder that learning – developing new skills, acquiring more knowledge – is a great way to keep your mind active. That thirst for learning and a willingness to try something new (to take yourself out of the proverbial comfort zone perhaps) can add years to your life and life to your years.    

Fill your days with purposeful activity

The longer I work with unemployed people and watch friends and family transition into retirement, the more I believe the secret to health and happiness is seeking out meaningful activity. This can be anything from cooking healthy meals for yourself and others, volunteering your time to support community groups and charities, to using your free bus pass to discover Britain in the slow lane, while meeting fellow travellers along the way.  

Live adventurously

This year – as an extension of my lockdown survival strategy – I’ve been giving myself a series of monthly challenges. I say ‘challenges’ but that’s probably a bit strong – nothing has been too demanding so far. These ‘try anything once’ activities reflect my views on ways to age well – from giving up alcohol, running Royston’s roads (inspired by a fellow UKMSA Trustee) to discovering podcasts, and posting hand-written letters to 25 people. Learning the ukulele, abandoning my watch, and what may be the most challenging of all – listening more and talking less – are still to come. I also plan to explore Britain on foot by slow ways (https://beta.slowways.org)  To find out how I’ve got on so far with my challenges, go to  https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/category/try-anything-once