January 28, 2021

Productive Aging: Promoting Elderly Wellness for a Better Aged Society

Written by: Iris Tabangcora, M.D.
Reviewed by: Mubashar Rehman, PHD

Largely through medical advancements, we have witnessed an unprecedented growth of the United States' older population. The number of people aged 65 and above will double in the next 40 years and may comprise a quarter of the total population. This shift poses both opportunities and challenges in different sectors, particularly in health, social, and economics.

The older population is an important asset of society as they can be mentors, teaching from the years of experience and gained wisdom. Therefore, it is a public health challenge to maintain the elderly in a healthy condition despite their physiological limitations. In reality, for the elderly population to make purposeful and meaningful contributions, we have to realize sustainable activities for them.

This is what productive aging is all about, devising activities to engage the elderly to promote their quality of life and improve overall life satisfaction. Productive aging calls for a better aging society, where the elderly’s social participation and contribution are promoted instead of being neglected. 

The growing population of the elderly deserves to lead lives with dignity. To this aim, there should be a thorough understanding of how and what dictates overall satisfaction in this population. Bearing this in mind, here are some things to do with older people. 

 

Things To Do With Older Peaple

 

Maintaining Paid Work 

Employment status should not end when older people reach the age of 65.

Multiple studies have shown that maintaining just part-time employment raises the levels of happiness and overall life satisfaction in older men and women. Many older people can work and, altering the activities to some extent for the elderly, can enable them to do these jobs. This facilitates a sense of purpose and meaningful contribution in their field of interest.

Many activities for older people should be anchored around their passion, hobbies, and interests. For example, hobbies for older men and women which involve music can be a resource for mentoring young music enthusiasts. The mentorship does not require physical efforts as the music is a deep-seated memory imprinted in the brain. Other paid activities include fundamental administrative or clerical work, crafts, cooking, and even teaching. 

 

Volunteerism

Charity and volunteer organizations are also a way to get older people actively involved with causes they feel strongly about.

Volunteering in these organizations involves basic and simple tasks that are suitable to keep older people up and about.

It is also an ideal avenue to share their life stories and experiences with those who need it the most. Some activities to engage older people in this aspect may include preparing and distributing food, general labor like cleaning up beaches, fundraising, and mentoring.

Volunteerism for the elderly enables them to immerse themselves in their local community and indirectly promotes inclusivity and belongingness.

 

Fitness and Exercise

Overall health and wellness are directly related to productivity and overall satisfaction in the elderly population. Light to moderate exercises, when done correctly, keep the circulation moving and strengthen older people’s bones and muscles.

Studies show that older people report subjective ill-feeling when prevented from staying active.

Exercise, as simple as daily walks, can light up parts of the brain that improve mood and quality of sleep. This is vital because sleep and mood problems become increasingly common as people age. It’s high time to consider fitness as a hobby for older men and women to take up. Some of this include yoga, aerobics, biking, and leisure walks. 

 

Leisure and Travel 

The elderly generally have a lot of time in their hands. For some, this might be the perfect start to explore places in the community and even outside of it. Primarily, this activity for the elderly fosters optimum emotional and social health by promoting social interactions with people of different ages, backgrounds, and cultures.

This promotes stronger ties and better communication with loved ones. Leisure and travel can also reduce the risk of cardiovascular and mood disorders among older men and women.

Taking up on some hobbies for older men and women like drawing, reading books, and hiking can also be beneficial. 

 

Advocacy and Political Action 

When we listen to older men and women, they feel seen and understood. The involvement of older people in processes that promote their human rights will boost life satisfaction. There are no better people to represent their concerns and interests other than themselves.

Engagement of the elderly will help us shape appropriate policies to address age discrimination and other age-related issues the elderly population often face.

Taking part and being included in society is a fundamental right of the people yet it is challenging for the elderly. Therefore, the provision of fundamental rights to senior citizens should be a core feature of a democratic society. 

 

Communication with the Elderly

The elderly population is regarded as a special group because they have their unique needs and challenges. All the activities designed for the elderly mentioned above will be useless if they are not communicated properly.

Active listening, which is fully concentrating and remembering what they said, is the main communication strategy for communication with the elderly. Using simple sentences in conversation and maintaining an appropriate volume is also integral to effective communication.

Sometimes, it may be helpful to repeat since the elderly have an age-related decline in hearing and vision. Knowing and understanding the age-related challenges will promote engagement in conversations and communication. 

So, what do older people like? The answer lies in the concept of productive aging incorporated into society. Emphasis on the aspects mentioned above is proven to improve overall satisfaction among the elderly. Age is not a limiting factor in the capabilities. The older people need not be sheltered, isolated, and left unheard. Instead, they should be facilitated to be productive citizens capable of making meaningful contributions and insights into society. 

References:

  1. https://www.prb.org/aging-unitedstates-fact-sheet/
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0002822398003277
  3. Quality of life in older adults: Benefits from the productive engagement in physical activity (nih.gov)
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22188494/
Article written by Iris Tabangcora, M.D.
Iris is a Philippine-based physician currently training in Emergency Medicine. She has been writing for various health websites for the last 10 years. Also a Nursing degree holder, she has spent her energy in educating nursing students on Research and Pharmacology. Her interests lie in medical education, research, and public health.

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