7 points to age healthily and happily

Oct. 1 is the International Day of the Elderly, and the Oct. 1-7 week has been declared as the Week of the Filipino Elderly. This annual celebration is held to recognize the past, present and future contributions of our senior citizens for the progress of our country and society.
In the Philippines today, there are more than 7.5 million citizens who are over the age of 60 years. They constitute approximately 7.5 percent of our total population.
In my work with the elderly, as a member of the board of trustees of Coalition of Services for the Elderly, I have always asked our ever-productive, ever-energetic and ever-healthy elderly their secrets on how they keep themselves forever young, well and happy.
Well, here are their tips to aging healthily and happily.
Expand your knowledge continuously. Make love for learning a lifetime passion. Always challenge your mind by taking on any of the following: learn a new language; go into painting, pottery or sculpture; play a new musical instrument you’ve never played before; learn new songs and sing them joyously. Sharpen your intellectual skills by regularly searching for anything new to learn.
Take good care of your health. Live a clean life. Give up vices like smoking, alcohol, dangerous drugs and gambling. Find time for leisurely activities such as dancing, singing, watching comedy movies.
Do regular exercises. Brisk walk for 20 minutes at least three times a week; then manage to do it daily. Perform slow stretching exercises. Learn tai chi or chi gong.
Always keep a smile. Read and listen to jokes to laugh heartily every now and then. Have a nice sleep. Go for your annual complete physical and medical examination.
For women, include regular breast self-examination, pap smear and consider hormone replacement therapy with calcium supplements. For men, include digital rectal examination for prostate and colon health screening.
Maintain appropriate weight for your height. Eat nutritiously by never missing a meal with fruits and vegetables daily. Drink 10 to 12 glasses of water a day.
Take minimally coffee or shift to green tea, herbal and fruit teas. Keep a diet that is high in fiber and low in animal fat; rich in herbs but low in salt; and for dessert, low in sweets and refined sugar.
Mingle with children and young people. Babysit your grandchildren. Hold regular dialogues with them. Exchange stories and tell them often about your family history or the development of your hometown through the years.
Join them in some of their activities. Elder people can also be a big asset in providing support to children and young people by helping them organize to protect their rights and welfare and exercise their responsibilities.
It is a great undertaking to initiate mutual help and understanding between and among generations.
Maintain friendships. Keep a regular circle of friends that take you for what you are and give you respect. Write to friends or if unable to, ask somebody to write on your behalf. Through your grandchildren, send text messages, e-mails or fax. Call long lost friends and keep in touch.
Keep your spirits high and your spiritual life vibrant daily. Give time for prayers of thanksgiving and praise. Find a few minutes for meditative silence, quiet moments and reflections. Always do a good deed to someone. Lend a helping hand. Offer your shoulder to cry on. Do community volunteer work. Say something nice to your homebody and workmate every day. Discover God in every person. Maintain and nurture inner peace. Prepare yourself for forgiveness to anybody who may have caused you pain, sorrow or disappointment. Be ready also to ask for forgiveness when needed.
Above all, love and allow yourself to be loved. Keep the fire of love burning in your heart, mind, body, and soul. Embrace and hug your loved ones, children and grandchildren regularly. Express your love in a variety of ways: a touch, a tap, a tug, hold hands, give a flower or any gift, a greeting card and a kiss. Most of all, say “I love you.”
A healthy and happy elderly person is always a welcome inspiration in my life. Let us give a place in our lives for the elderly. Senior people are our guides and models for personal and national growth and development. The elderly in our midst is the best celebration of life! Cheers!

By Jaime Z. Galvez Tan, MD MPH

The author is chairman and founder of Health Futures Foundation, Inc., a civil society organization working to create communities of wellness in marginalized communities nationwide.