Old age should be the most complete, productive and creative time of life. It is the opportunity to do what you’ve always wanted.
Medical advisor Carlos Moncada, geriatrician
Population changes, advances in medicine and the natural evolution of society have all led to greater life expectancies. We now have a population that lives longer and is healthier than ever. People that use to work until they were 65 or even until nearing the time of their death, now have at least another 20 or 30 years ahead of them after they retire.
A lot of people wonder about how to fill this time. Greater priority has therefore been given to addressing concepts such as the one developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) called “active aging,” a process of, “…optimizing the opportunities for health, participation and security to improve the quality of life as individuals age.”
We often picture aging as a something complicated and not as an opportunity: a chance to study again, do what you always wanted, learn that language you never had time for, make new friends, fall in love…
Leave the myths behind
One of the myths of aging revolves around the idea that it is too late to adopt a healthy lifestyle. As geriatrician Dr. Carlos Moncada encourages, however, in addition to being the longest phase of life, it is also the period in which people have accumulated all the knowledge, skills and habits they have learned and developed throughout life. It is a period in which each individual has established their own culture that represents how their life has evolved. Old age should therefore represent a time in which people can feel most complete.
While you can never turn back the hands of time, aging is an inherent part of time passing, biological age can vary depending on each person’s physical and mental condition, and their wellbeing. The body of the 70-year-old who stays in shape may be similar to that of a 30-year-old who is physically inactive and has poor eating habits.
Beyond being just a vacant period of time, this open period is actually a phase when you can live without attachments, without worrying about social or work pressures, or about that thing that little by little, life imposed upon us… In the words of Moncada, it is “the period in life when you can dare to be bold.” Now that you do not have to continue your daily routines, you have the time to create, and your brain is free to think of good ideas. It is the perfect time to awaken your creative work.
So, what is there to do after you retire? The first thing is to fill your time with interesting activities, especially those that you wanted to do in life, but couldn’t because the circumstances didn’t allow it.
“In Colombia, most people who have worked, have taken whatever job has come their way, not what they actually wanted to do, not what they like, but what they have to do,” Dr. Moncada states. As the specialist explains, this is the time for the novelist in you to come out of hiding and attend the storytelling classes you always wanted. Or, why not write your own book? It is the time for the gardener to spend their days taking care of plants and growing their own garden. It is the time to reassert the “self” and let it be seen.
Old age therefore becomes an opportunity to be courageous, try new things, and take advantage of the knowledge acquired from the four previous stages of life to develop your creativity. For this to work, however, there is one requirement: autonomy the ability to continue making decisions and implement the corrections necessary to achieve what you want. “Personal freedom is an achievement that shouldn’t be wasted,” Moncada emphasizes.
After age 60, creative work can be found in areas such as the sciences, ecology, politics, the arts or in more personal spheres such as family, the body itself and in exercising appreciation for the world.
Most people can expect to live at least to age 80. As the WHO explains, increasing life expectancy is not only important to the elderly and their families, but to society as well.
18%is the percentage of the elderly population over age 60 living in Medellín. Medellín is the third city in Latin America with the greatest elderly population.
The value of reconnecting…
1. Staying connected through the internet
The elderly have a wealth of knowledge that should not be lost, and without a doubt, technology is one of the most effective communication tools. Many people that thought they could never use a computer and that it was something exclusive for their children or grandchildren, have become leaders in the virtual world. Creating a blog, or even becoming a youtuber, are ways for the elderly to share what they know so well with the world and for others to learn from them.
2. With or without pay
One option is to continue working. According to Moncada, it can be interesting to explore activities that the person always wanted to do but never could: inventing models of partnership with other friends or professionals, starting business endeavors based on the knowledge gained from working years, or seeking hourly work in something the person is passionate about either as a tour guide, speaker or chef. These are ways to stay cognitively and socially active and even get an income.
3. Learning something new
In addition to stimulating the mind and body, playing an instrument, learning a language or developing a skill such as dancing are potential activities that after age 60 offer vitality, happiness and generate positive sensations. Over the years, our ability to react slows, the speed at which we learn decreases and our memories shrink. It is possible, however, to slow this process down and keep the mind active. Cognitive stimulation significantly reduces the risk of disability and premature death in older adults.
4. A better world
This is the time to meet together with a group of friends or professionals to establish a club or social network that promotes the flow of ideas on world issues and help find effective solutions. This social interaction is also wonderful, as it is almost always unpredictable, so there will always be something new to experience. Social contact is a solid strategy for avoiding loneliness, social isolation and depression, which is very common in this age group.
5. Alternatives in nature
Another beneficial way to spend your time as an older adult is to focus your creativity on something you find pleasurable. You don’t always have to try to change the world or create a new business venture. Happiness is fueled by daily basis sensations that often go by unnoticed and situations that make us feel good such as the environment surrounding us, the highway, flowers, and the landscape. One way to stimulate your creativity in these spaces is to participate in outdoor activities such as joining birdwatching, hiking or traveling clubs.